In his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night, Governor Bob McDonnell touted his record of restoring rights to those convicted of non-violent felonies and called for a process to automatically restore those rights. From his prepared remarks:
While we have significantly improved and fast-tracked the restoration of civil rights process, it’s still an executive process. As a nation that believes in redemption and second chances, we must provide a clear path for willing individuals to be productive members of society once they have served their sentences and paid their fines and restitution. It is time for Virginia to join most of the other states and make the restoration of civil rights an automatic process for non-violent offenders.
While I commend McDonnell for his actions, I can’t help but be saddened that the governor failed to mention the champion of this issue, Senator Yvonne Miller, who died last July.
For years – I’ve heard that it was 17 years straight – Miller introduced the legislation. I included it in my legislative agenda for the 2008 General Assembly session. The fate that year was the same as the fate every other year: the legislation died.
McDonnell is well aware Miller’s efforts. His speech writers may not have been, but that is no excuse for someone steeped in Virginia history. He’s well aware that rather than his legacy, it is the legacy of Miller. Paying no attention to childish criticism like this, Miller doggedly pursued restoration.
Not mentioning Sen. Yvonne Miller is a disregard of history – a rewriting, if you will – that is far too common these days. And had she still been with us, I doubt the governor would have slighted her to her face.
McDonnell knows better. As many times as he mentioned “The Virginia Way” in his speech, he should know this is far from it.
Or maybe this is the Republican way, because this is the second time in a week that Republicans have thumped their chests about this issue without mentioning Miller.