Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) says the 2012 General Assembly's attention to divisive social issues is distracting the commonwealth from more important issues such as the economy - and turning Virginia into the butt of many jokes.
Kaine, former Democratic National Committee chair and a candidate for U.S. Senate, in Northern Virginia for an economic roundtable on Wednesday, says citizens are voicing their concerns as the General Assembly prepares to move forward on bills that give full personhood rights from the moment of fertilization and mandate vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion.
"What I hear from our business leaders and owners is that they are tired of partisan games and distractions causing uncertainty and making it hard to be successful," Kaine told reporters in a conference call.
"This isn't want people want to see," Kaine said. "What is happening in Richmond is bad for Virginia women, bad for Virginia's image and businesses. We did not earn accolades by embracing measures that have become fodder for late night shows and turned Virginia into a laughingstock."
The bills have been fodder for shows such as SNL and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the last few days.
Kaine said he thinks Gov. Bob McDonnell may be listening to the opposition. More than 1,000 people staged a silent protest in at the state capitol in Richmond on Monday. The Virginia House then delayed its vote on HB462 (the ultrasound bill), which could be a sign that McDonnell may be rethinking his stance.
"Virginians have not slept through this," Kaine said. "The legislators did a trick they often do. When there is a big crowd, postpone a day so they can vote after everyone goes home. People went home, but did not stop their letters, emails and calls to make sure legislators are aware how out of step their views are with general public. The General Assembly is now begnning to understand how out of step they are with general public."
Also troubling, Kaine said, is that Personhood legislation, which has not been passed in several other states that have tried, could become a national issue. Among his opponents in the Senate race, Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas), the sponsor of HB1, Virginia's Personhood bill, and former senator and governor George Allen (R), whom Kaine says advocated for federal Personhood rights in a Dec. 7 debate with Kaine. To see that discussion, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTkfRV9bc2U
Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright told reporters that Kaine is looking to “change the subject” from the economy to social issues.
“It’s ironic that Chairman Kaine professes to want to talk about jobs when he’s on a conference call that his own campaign organized discussing issues that are moving through the General Assembly,” Wright said in a email. “He and his allies seem intent on making this race about anything other than solutions to create jobs, addressing our country’s energy issues including surging gas prices and reining in the wasteful excesses of Washington that have made trillion-dollar deficits the norm.”
Kaine says the issues in Virginia are part of a national trend.
"It is clearly part of broader trend when see Personhood popping up in a number of states and members of congress fighting the contraceptive mandate. Personhood could well jeopardize womens' access to FDA-approved birth control," Kaine said, pointing out that the birth control argument has been a surprising - and divisive - issue in the 2012 Presidential race.
"[Mandating] ultrasounds is government over-reach at its worst," he said. "Equally shocking is the attitude it sends 'we know better than you do that we know what is better for you.' It is outrageous. Patients, not politicians, should decide what medical procedures they need."
Meanwhile, Marshall told NBC12 in Richmond, that HB1 has been misunderstood.
"It doesn't abolish abortion," he said. "It doesn't get rid of birth control. It doesn't affect in vitro. The major effect on this is to say that before birth, there's a human being there, and there's a case for a wrongful death."