Elected Officials are Not Above the Law

Elected Officials are Not Above the Law

Statement on FOIA Violations by Speaker Filler-Corn

A few weeks ago, I posted about how the Speaker of the House paid over $80,000 to have statues removed from the Capitol – in the middle of the night – without notifying the public.

In an attempt to get this more information about the removal of these statues, a private citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Speaker’s office to obtain more details.

The Speaker ignored this request. She lied to Mr. Webster and said the documents she was seeking didn’t exist.

This prompted Mr. Webster to take the matter to court. In court, the judge ruled that there were, in fact, documents related to the removal of the Confederate statues and fined the Speaker.

The court document specifically says, “The Defendant’s response was intended to be interpreted by a reasonable person that the documents do not exist, which would lead a reasonable person to stop inquiring. That deliberate attempt to obstruct the fact-finding mission of the Plaintiff is grounds for an award of attorney fees and an imposition of a civil penalty against the Speaker pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”

FOIA is sacred. It is one of the ways citizens are able to keep their elected officials and government bodies accountable and transparent. A public apology from the Speaker’s office is deserved.

We should be scared if our leaders at the top are ignoring our laws that are meant to keep the government accountable and transparent to the people they represent.

Michael Webert is a Virginia farmer who represents the 18th district, an area that covers all of Rappahannock, and portions of Fauquier, Warren, and Culpeper counties in the Virginia House of Delegates.

You can read the court opinion here: https://www.wric.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/74/2020/10/Motion-to-Award-Attorney-Fees-Webster.pdf

Give Our Communities a Chance to Stay in the Game

Give Our Communities a Chance to Stay in the Game

By Coach Mark James

As a Coach, it challenges me to see someone in authority command a player on the field to do something they don’t have the capability to do. A good coach knows you only ask what you know the player has the means to achieve. Otherwise, you set your team up for failure. Coaches that ask their players to achieve things they are not capable of show how out of touch they are with the players they’re serving. So it sickens me that this is what many school districts are doing to parents across Virginia.

Too many school districts are denying parents any in-person education – and the “coaching” they’re giving these parents is, “you can educate them at home.” This may be possible for a wealthy, middle-class family that has a 2,500 square foot home, multiple living spaces, and quality internet and technologies. But that’s not what Virginians in the communities I serve – like Gilpen Court in Richmond – are working with.

For the mom working a full-time job, living in a home with less than 800 square feet with multiple kids, how, exactly does the school district expect her to afford taking time off from work to get adequate space and technology to have an effective learning experience in the home? This is why this mom has taxes taken out of her paycheck – but now she’s being robbed of the education she has paid for her children to receive.  If school districts are not going to fulfill their duties, parents should be entitled to their share of education dollars so they can carry out the duty themselves.

The demands these school districts are placing on parents who rely on public education to provide their child with an effective learning environment is completely inconsistent with the capabilities of Virginians who rely on public education. I’ve talked to moms, and the message is, “I can’t do what they’re demanding.”

Nationwide polling found that only 50 percent of parents had a good experience with distance learning in the spring. Parents polled reported spending an average of 10.2 hours a week supporting their child’s education and spent about $200 on school supplies.  This is not good enough for any family, especially the family living in small quarters with limited technology and internet access.  If these numbers were applied to coaching, it would be unacceptable.  School districts need to answer the call of their customers: the parents, the students, and community which they serve.     

Parents are have been abandoned on the field. They lack the equipment and tools they need to bring their kids a win. I’m calling on the members of the General Assembly to support HB 5011. This bill will grant parents a voucher to find an alternative in-person education option when their public school district has left them with no other choice.

Children and families cannot wait. Heart + Mind Strategies polling from June found that 40 percent of parents now believe their children are behind academically.  That number will only continue to grow if parents are left without the resources and tools necessary to educate at home to combat and correct this learning loss.

This is policy, not politics as usual. What undermines a child’s education is when you demand parents who work full-time and live in very confined spaces with bad internet to do the job they don’t have the resources to do! We need to come together to help these parents and their kids by passing HB 5011.

Coach James is a dedicated leadership professional with 20 years of experience working with and coaching students. He is the founder of The Urban Trauma Healing Institute and concentrates on addressing the critical needs in education by exposing the pain caused by systematic thinking.

Delegate Webert Makes Statement on Introduction of Education Equality Act

Delegate Webert Makes Statement on Introduction of Education Equality Act

Fauquier, VA – Today, Delegate Michael J. Webert announced that he introduced the Education Equality Act, HB 5011, for the upcoming 2020 special session that is slated to start next Tuesday, August 18, 2020.    

“It is fundamentally wrong for the state to withhold our taxpayer money while not adequately meeting the needs of all students across the Commonwealth.  

The Virginia Constitution is clear, ‘The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.’ Article 8, Section 1, is clear on what is expected of the state when it comes to public education. 

We have faced significant challenges over the past few months with the public school system, and how we will educate our children this coming Fall. Most of us were expecting a return to a new normal, but with in-classroom instruction for our children.  

That turned out not to be the case. 

Many localities have opted for a virtual-only option for their schools. While I understand what they are trying to accomplish, a one-size-fits-all approach is not a practical solution for all families. Parents must have the opportunity to educate their children.  

This is why I introduced HB 5011, the Education Equality Act. This bill will provide parents with the ability to choose how they educate their children and provide them with an education voucher that they can use to cover the expenses of in-person instruction. This would allow any parent to receive state funds that were previously appropriated for public school purposes.   

To put it in the most simple terms, this bill gives parents the opportunity to choose, with their taxpayer money, how their children will be educated.   

Our family is just like yours. We have two kids in public school, and my wife and I are both working parents. We, too, are struggling with the difficult decisions surrounding the best way to educate our children.

This bill is not a magic bullet for our current situation. However, it does allow for a degree of flexibility that parents have been begging for over the past few months. It is time to allow us to choose which path is best for our children, not the government.  

To echo the words of Minority Leader Gilbert, children of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status will fall behind during this period of distance learning. We need to level the playing field, give options to the parents, and ensure our children receive the educational tools they need.”   

Northam’s Threats Must End

Northam’s Threats Must End

Our businesses across the Commonwealth have been destroyed by the Governor’s response to the COVID-19 virus. Many have had to shut their doors forever, and even more are struggling to survive in this current environment.

What has our Governor’s response been to this? Burdensome rules that have prevented our businesses from reopening. Delayed assistance to out of work Virginians.

While people can riot in the streets, tear down statues, and destroy personal property without fear of punishment, the Governor has a message for business owners: you better enforce the damn mask mandate. If you don’t, we will pull your business license.

Earlier this week, Governor Northam said as much at his weekly press conference, “If you own a restaurant or business, and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line, and we will not hesitate to take action.”

As if times weren’t hard enough, the Governor is now threatening businesses to confront customers about his unconstitutional mandates or face the consequences of the big-government bureaucracy.

This is disgusting.

Also, didn’t we just have a national conversation about over-policing? Is putting business owners at odds with customers over wearing a mask and then threatening to call the cops really what we want?

Instead of sending enforcement officers to do random spot checks at businesses, the Governor should concern himself with the 900,000 plus Virginians who are out of work and facing extremely long wait times before hearing from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).

My office is currently working with the Division of Legislative Services to draft a bill limiting the power and time frame of the Governor’s executive orders. The time of ruling by press conference must come to an end.

Statement on Executive Order 63

Statement on Executive Order 63

Fauquier, VA – Today, Delegate Michael J. Webert made the following statement about Governor Ralph Northam’s most recent Executive Order.

“We are a Republic, not a Dictatorship.”

“Indefinite Executive Orders are not the way to govern our Commonwealth, and the Governor has made a mockery of what it means to govern.”

“The Governor needs to call the General Assembly back into session. The elected representatives of the people deserve to be heard. Ruling the state by way of executive decree has resulted in terrible policy decisions that have irreparably harmed our great Commonwealth.”

“I don’t mind being governed, but I will not be ruled.”

Reopen the Commonwealth

Reopen the Commonwealth

Fauquier, VA – Today, Delegate Michael J. Webert released the following statement regarding the reopening of Virginia. 

“Virginians have waited patiently over the past few weeks for the Governor and his administration to reevaluate the decisions that have been made with regard to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear that this one size fits all approach is not working.”

“The Northam administration has been falling behind in testing, and we rank very low in comparison to other states. In order to open up and still protect our vulnerable citizens, the Northam Administration needs to ramp up testing and work to protect the elderly in long term care facilities. This is where the vast majority of the cases and deaths have occurred.”  

“The economic destruction that has taken place in our state over the past month is beyond devastating. Nearly half a million Virginians have lost their jobs as a result of the shutdown, and the arbitrary definition of essential versus non-essential businesses is disingenuous at best.”

“I will not continue to sit back quietly while the Governor deems ABC stores and abortion clinics as essential while shutting down campgrounds, fitness centers, and a whole host of other businesses.”

“People are struggling to pay their mortgages, parents are having to put off ‘non-essential’ surgeries for their children, businesses with the ability to allow safe social distancing are not being allowed to operate, and the list goes on.”

“There are several industries that possess the technology to operate safely and effectively. The Northam administration needs to listen to the owners of these businesses and allow them to operate while also protecting public health.” 

“Some of our local healthcare systems have been functioning at below optimum levels and furloughed workers. This puts the health of our citizens in jeopardy as many preventive measures have gone by the wayside.”

“It is time for the government to stop picking winners and losers during this epidemic and place all businesses on the same, level playing field.”

“People across the Commonwealth and this nation want to get back to work.”

“It is time to reopen Virginia. Lives depend on it.”

Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update

As you no doubt have seen, there’s a great deal of concern in our community regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus), the respiratory illness that began in Wuhan, China and has now spread around the world. The Governor has issued a state of emergency for our Commonwealth and laid out additional steps Virginia is taking to limit the spread of the virus.

Currently, there are 17 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Virginia. Many colleges and universities have extended spring break, canceled in-person classes, and are switching to online instruction indefinitely.

In the meantime, there are a few common-sense steps to help keep you and your family safe and slow the spread of the virus:

If you are sick, stay home.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Avoid contact with sick people as much as possible.

• Avoid non-essential travel.

• CDC does not recommend that people who are well wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).

• Stay up to date with the latest information. Visit www.VDH.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

My office is monitoring the situation in Virginia closely and will keep you advised as we learn more. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to my office at DelMWebert@house.virginia.gov.

Anti-Corruption Legislation Passes Virginia House and Senate

Anti-Corruption Legislation Passes Virginia House and Senate

Richmond, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) and Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) announced their legislation to improve accountability, transparency, and oversight within the Warren County Economic Development Authority has passed the House and Senate.

“Transparency is a must for good governance,” Webert said, “and with these bills, House Bills 1527 & 1528, we will begin to restore the public faith in these institutions. These bills are a commonsense starting point for ensuring that these officials have a comprehensive understanding of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act and the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, this will require these members to file a Statement of Economic Interest annually. No more operating in the shadows. It’s time for some light and transparency.”

Also speaking to the legislation, Senator Mark Obenshain said, “These bills requiring EDA directors and members to take ethics training and submit an SOEI is a step in the right direction in ensuring government transparency and accountability. We want to do our best to try and prevent what we saw in Warren County from happening again – these bills attempt to do that. Our EDA’s solve complex solutions and bring crucial economic initiatives to our districts. The work they do are much needed shots in the arm to our communities’ economies. The citizens deserve our trust and confidence and these bills help ensure they will have it.”

In short, the Senate and House Bills do the following. They require the executive director and members of each industrial development authority and economic development authority to take training on the provisions of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (COIA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at least once every two years. The bills also require these members to file a Statement of Economic Interests (SOEI) with the clerk of the local governing body as a condition to assuming office and thereafter annually on or before February 1. These provisions will ensure that there is more oversight and more transparency within these boards.

Statement on 2020 Lobby Day

Statement on 2020 Lobby Day

Richmond, VA – Today, Delegate Michael J. Webert released the following statement regarding today’s Second Amendment rally at the Virginia State Capitol.

“Thank you to the tens of thousands of Virginians that came out today to support our Second Amendment rights. It was an amazing sight to see.” 

“Despite Governor Northam’s best efforts to keep everyone away by declaring a state of emergency, we saw the Second Amendment community rally together to petition their Government. No one was arrested, no one was injured, and the crowd even took time to clean up after themselves before they left.”

“I hope the Democrats heard us loud and clear today. The laws they have proposed would have zero effect on criminals. Instead, they would only put more limitations on law-abiding citizens – the same citizens that showed up today to peacefully protest.” 

“Keep the pressure on your elected officials – keep calling their office, keep sending them mail, keep showing up at the Capitol. The fight for keeping our rights has only just begun.” 

Warren County rally for your 2nd Amendment rights

Warren County rally for your 2nd Amendment rights

By Royal Examiner

On a cold, dark and damp Monday night, more than 200 citizens gathered at the Gazebo in downtown Front Royal for a rally on 2nd Amendment rights. Ross McVey, Republican Chairman Steve Kurtz, Vice Chair Amber Morris, Warren County Supervisor Dan Murray, Virginia Delegate Michael Webert, representative from Congressman Ben Cline, Tyler Adams and Commonwealth Attorney elect John Bell all spoke at the rally. Comments were read from Town Councilmen Gary Gillespie and Jake Meza, and Delegate Todd Gilbert all in support of our 2nd Amendment rights. The Royal Examiner was there to capture the event:

In the wake of around one thousand people showing up for the Shenandoah County Board Public Hearing on a Resolution of Support for a municipal declaration as a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Community, the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ Public Hearing has been moved to a Special Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Warren County High School’s auditorium. The board’s regular meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Warren County Government Center.

Note: This article is from the Royal Examiner and originally appeared here on December 9, 2019.