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FERGUSON: Under a weak governor, Virginians are suffering

Ralph Northam is not in charge — the far left wing of the Virginia Democratic Party is

<p>Under the guidelines of the recently passed legislation, plaintiffs can seek unlimited compensatory and punitive awards for damages in discrimination lawsuits against employers and businesses — even small businesses.&nbsp;</p>

Under the guidelines of the recently passed legislation, plaintiffs can seek unlimited compensatory and punitive awards for damages in discrimination lawsuits against employers and businesses — even small businesses. 

Over a year ago, Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., weathered a scandal that nearly ended his political career. Although he has retained his position as governor, the blackface scandal weakened him politically. Seemingly as a form of repentance, Northam has supported numerous pieces of legislation that indicate a sharp pivot to the left and represent a departure from his mostly moderate stances leading up to the events of January 2019. While the national spotlight has moved onto other issues, Virginians still suffer the consequences of being led by a governor who has lost all of his political capital and serves at the pleasure of the far left of the Virginia Democratic Party. 

Northam has prioritized political expediency and the survival of his personal career over implementing smart and effective policy. Over the past legislative session, Virginia Democrats in the General Assembly and State Senate have worked to erode the personal freedom and dignity of ordinary Virginians. While I hoped that Northam’s moderate tendencies would safeguard the state against the worst of his party, his spineless administration has consistently failed to govern the Commonwealth with integrity. 

Even though Northam campaigned on a progressive platform that won support with Democratic voters in suburban and urban areas, he resisted embracing policies that would damage Virginia’s business-friendly climate — except for his support for an increase of the state minimum wage. Such a measure would hurt small businesses vital to Virginia’s economy, but he has at least shown little interest in raising taxes or repealing Virginia’s right-to-work status. However, state Democrats have snuck anti-business legislation into the Virginia Values Act and Northam signed the bill into law on April 11.

Under the guidelines of the recently passed legislation, plaintiffs can seek unlimited compensatory and punitive awards for damages in discrimination lawsuits against employers and businesses — even small businesses. On the other hand, employers and businesses would not even receive compensation for attorney’s fees should they be found not guilty. While state Democrats have marketed the Virginia Values Act as a righteous statement against discrimination in all forms, the law as it stands could wreak havoc on the business climate in the state. With such an unbalanced approach to compensation, little stands in the way of plaintiffs from bringing dubious cases to court. Even if found not guilty in a discrimination case, companies’ reputations are likely to be damaged regardless. The legislation as it stands fails to take this into consideration, and small businesses — many of which are struggling because of the pandemic — will be further weakened when the Virginia Values Act takes effect.

While the Virginia Values Act purports to build a more just state, the law will likely cause the scales of justice in Virginia to become seriously unbalanced. However, the current law could also incur a significant opportunity cost to the state as well. Such legislation could discourage businesses from expanding in the state or establishing themselves here in the first place for fear of being sued to bankruptcy. While discrimination protections are necessary to build a just society, the climate encouraged by the Virginia Values Act fails to uphold any sense of justice for the accused. 

With so many Virginia communities desperate for economic opportunity and investment, Northam has further jeopardized the livelihoods of many workers dependent upon small business employment. Democratic legislators and Northam have prioritized virtue signaling over smart policy, and struggling communities will pay the price for their indifference. 

Lackluster candidates, poor Republican leadership and apathy have enabled the Democratic takeover in Virginia. The state that has provided our nation with leaders unafraid to question assumptions about governance, articulate the dignity of humankind and revive republican government is now ruled by those who seek to abandon the principles that made America the great nation that it is. As Virginians’ personal freedoms, economic security and dignity are being eroded, Gov. Northam has taken an active role in the transformation of the state from a bastion of freedom and opportunity to one controlled by fear and injustice.

Moderates and conservatives cannot ignore the importance of elections in the future. Every race, from the local to the state level, matters. The same energy that brought thousands of Virginians to city council chambers and the streets of Richmond in January to protest against violations of Second Amendment rights must carry into every election going forward. While the legislative and executive branches have taken full advantage of their opportunity to implement their progressive agenda, Virginians take every opportunity to reinsert balance and sense into their government. Gov. Northam fortunately is barred from running for governor again in 2021, and with a better governor and a Republican legislature, Virginia can correct the wrongs done against it. 

Tom Ferguson is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at t.ferguson@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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