Sunday, January 16, 2005

Rise of the Democratic Blogosphere

"I've elected to withdraw HB 1677 from consideration by the General Assembly this year. The language is just too confusing," Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake. ('>Augusta Free Press)

The Virginia blogosphere achieved its first concrete victory this week when it convinced Del. John Cosgrove to withdraw HB'>HB 1677, a bill requiring mothers to report fetal deaths to the police within 12 hours of delivery or face misdemeanor charges. Much of the credit should go to Maura, a poster on the Democracy for Virginia website, who began the firestorm by writing a detailed and passionate description of her opposition to the bill.

News of the proposed legislation spread quickly, generating over 40,000 hits on the DFV website and reaching over 1,000 blogs. Del. Cosgrove found himself buried beneath a deluge of e-mails from many who feared that his bill would require a physically and psychologically injured mother to report a miscarriage to the police within 12 hours.

Cosgrove responded by pointing out that the legislation was intended to prevent abandoned-baby incidents, which have apparently become disturbingly prevalent. It did not, he asserted, even mention the word "miscarriage" and was never intended for such situations. Bloggers fired back by pointing out that the Code of Virginia defines a miscarriage, but not the death of a newborn, as a "fetal death."

Therefore, it would seem, Cosgrov'ss legislation did in fact apply to miscarriages. Finally conceding that his bill's language "was just too confusing," Cosgrove withdrew it from consideration.

The Virginia Pilot commented'>commented on the story and made this observation: "A lot of the bloggers are morons, but a lot are savvy, dedicated, and on target."

For the first time in the history of Virginia politics, bloggers have made a substantial impact on public policy. There is now a committed corps of Democratic bloggers in the Commonwealth dedicated to voicing their beliefs and shaping the public debate.

Those bloggers are beginning to recognize their collective power and will undoubtedly seek to exercise that power in the upcoming elections.

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