Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Chairman of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and member of the Virginia State Crime Commission, issued the following statement today in response to the Governor’s executive action to automatically restore the civil rights of over 200,000 violent and non-violent convicted felons.
“It is clear that the Governor has overstepped his statutory and constitutional authority by signing this executive action, which automatically restores civil rights to over 200,000 convicted felons. Democrat and Republican Governors dating back more than 30 years have researched this issue and all have concluded that they do not have the sweeping executive authority the Governor has sought to exercise today. Even Governor Kaine reached this conclusion, which his counsel explained in a detailed letter sent to the ACLU on January 15, 2010. As Governor Kaine’s counsel explained, absent an amendment to the Virginia Constitution, a Governor cannot do what this Governor did today. This is the kind of unconstitutional executive overreach that we have seen all too often in Washington. We deserve better from a Governor of Virginia.
“While I do support a streamlined process to restore civil rights, the Governor has gone too far. I cannot endorse the Governor’s sweeping and unconstitutional action today. The Governor restored rights without any regard to the seriousness or violent nature of the crimes committed, whether these individuals have paid their court costs in full, whether they have stayed out of trouble since their release, or most importantly, whether they have paid restitution to the victims. The action today by the Governor fails to respect victims of crime, the rule of law and is clearly unconstitutional.”
Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part). He is the Chairman of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and a member of the Virginia State Crime Commission.