The new imperials

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016

As a student, I studied how the first imperials affected Virginians and other Americans. From the appointed governors of the colonies to King George himself, they ruled the various colonies until the Boston Tea Party and Declaration of Independence 240 years ago.

The current incarnation of imperials comes in the form of our president and our governor. Each seems to be confused; thinking the positions in which they were elected gave them autocratic power to do as they wish with little or no regard to the law or the Constitution.

Some of you will think, Ruff, this is sour grapes! However, I suggest you look past the actions that each has taken in which you might agree, and instead look at the process they have used.

On the issue of illegal immigration, the president publicly stated for several years that he did not have authority to ignore the immigration laws. Then, after he got past his last election, he acted as if he was above the law and, simply by an imperial order, told government employees to ignore the law. This was so blatant that the Supreme Court would not approve it.

This is only one example of one of his “imperial orders” that he refers to as “executive orders.” They cover numerous issues that affect every aspect of our life from sun up to sun down and beyond.

Having come of age in an era of immediate gratification, a Virginia Girls State attendee recently said she believed that whatever a president wants, he should get. My response to her was simple: If a president does not have the support in the Congress to get something passed, then the time for it to happen is not now regardless of her, my, or the president’s views.

Not to be outdone, our governor also believes his powers are limitless. In the news immediately after the session ended this spring, the governor announced that he was going to ignore the wording and intent of the Virginia Constitution and restore most of the rights of citizenship to 206,000 felons. 

This would give them not only the right to vote but, as well, to serve on juries. Constitutionally, he has the right to do so on an individual basis after reviewing their lives since they have served their term. He instead tried a shortcut that included some still in prison and 132 who are housed in Nottoway County at the sexual predator center because they are deemed too dangerous to be released onto society.

We, the General Assembly, are in court this month to reign in this unprofessional power grab.

Now comes word, that in another imperial order, he has ordered state agencies to circumvent the General Assembly and specific language regarding the federal “Clean Air Act.” He has ordered them to speed up how Virginia will deal with the issue prior to the act being fully agreed to in Washington.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Charlotte in the Virginia Senate. His email address is