Even as I write this post, I’m having a hard time believing it, but it’s true. The special session is over (Washington Post), and no Virginian will see their taxes go up. Even better, the House Republican leadership changed course at the eleventh hour and replaced their tax-hike-laden bill with an alternative that spared the people of Virginia from higher taxes and actually tied road funding in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to the economic activity generated there.
So we got even more that my best hopes (a train wreck), we got the Democrats voting against a good bill.
So what happened? Well, simply put, we happened. Over the two weeks of recess in the special session, the activists cleared away the fog of last year and made themselves heard. After years of hearing only MSM, Democrats in the executive branch, and some of their own weak-hearted contributors, the Richmond Republicans finally heard from us – and to their credit, they responded.
Odds are we’ll have to fight the same battles over the next sixteen months, so I want to make sure everyone who stepped up to the plate gets the proper accolades (because they’ll be needed again).
Delegate Bob Marshall: Say what you will, but it’s fairly clear Marshall’s near-win at the convention turned some heads. I’m guessing his strength in Northern Virginia in particular (he won more then 60% of the Fairfax County delegation) made abundantly clear that the anger over HB3202 was real. When HB6055 made the transformation from monstrosity to a damn good bill, it was Marshall who made sure of it by ensuring the elected General Assembly – not unelected regional authorities – would make the spending decisions, and nobody stood in his way. More to the point, Marshall’s principled stand against tax increases brought together activists from around the state who demanded that last year’s debacle not be repeated.
Chairman Jeff Frederick: It seemed like the new Chairman had a bad case of the slows during much of the recess, but he turned on the jets with gusto at the end. His appearance before the Washington Times editorial board made clear to every reader of that paper (which included at least every beleaguered Republican in Northern Virginia), that Howell et al were not speaking for the party when they peddled the original version of HB6055. I would also submit he likely pushed the editors toward the scathing editorial they published yesterday.
The Prince William Board of Supervisors: The night before the session opens, the Republican-majority BOS (the only GOP-majority BOS in NoVa) unanimously condemned the old version of HB6055. That had to be a wake-up call to the folks in Richmond.
The grass-roots activists: Last year, as HB3202 wormed its way through the legislature, the GOP activists were divided, confused, and in at least some quarters completely unaware of the danger. This time, those of us who fought the lonely fight last year had plenty of company, from the First District GOP Committee to the Family Foundation to ATR. Of course, the old veterans from last year (TQ, JAB, Jim Parmelee, etc.), were right there once again.
In the blogosphere: When HB3202 was first proposed, I had been a Virginia blogger for less than a month. I knew a few of the players, but hardly all of them. Yet when I went up against the windmill, I wasn’t alone. The aforementioned Jim Bowden not only stood shoulder to shoulder with me, but I was able to use the episode to bend his ear, pick his brain, and get a better lay of the land (without which I would never have been able to do what I did this year, however little that was). Chris Green and Greg L were also in the trenches last year and this.
This time, however, we had many other voices join us, including Crystal Clear Conservative, Mason Conservative, Write Side of My Brain, SWAC Girl, Shaun Kenney, and Brandon Bell. This turned our lonely voices into an ever rising chorus of anger and frustration at the House leadership for trying to saddle us with tax increases. There wasn’t a region in the state where a Republican Delegate could not hear the voice of the low-tax majority asking them to reverse course and steer clear of tax increases.
This was such a near-run thing (as the Brits would say) that I honestly believe the outcome may have been different without one of the four components I listed above. Together, we made our voices heard, and this time, Howell and company listened to us.
There will be other policy battles to fight – including and especially on this issue - in the months to come, but we won this fight. For all of those who helped make it possible (and please, if I forgot somebody, put it in the comments for all to see): thank you, thank you, thank you.