The 70s and today Computers, ERA and casinos

Published 1:09 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This week, as I was preparing for the two pieces of legislation that are needed for the Amazon headquarters to come, I thought back to the early seventies and how much has changed since then. Back then, few knew much about computers. What we did know was that they were massive; a computer filled up a room. Today, one desktop or one smartphone has many times the power of those IBM mainframe computers. Each year brings new and more powerful systems that affect our lives.

In the last week, Microsoft announced an expansion of its data center in Mecklenburg County; making it one of the largest data centers in the world. Additionally, the Amazon east coast center in Northern Virginia will make Virginia a major force in attracting talented people to our state. Amazon has committed to hiring a minimum of 25,000 new employees over the next decade, paying $3.75 billion in payroll every year, and possibly hiring as many as 37,500, totaling over $5 billion in payroll. These employees would add $200-250 million in income taxes a year to Virginia to pay for education and other services all over the state.

In the early seventies, few of us even considered going to college for computer and technology related courses. Today, they are the skills most sought by the business world. My legislation that passed the Education Committee Thursday has already attracted matching funding for Virginia Tech and, as was announced Friday, a private investment of $120 million at the University of Virginia.

Also in the early seventies, Congress proposed a new amendment to the Constitution that promised equal rights to women. However, much has occurred since those days. Most of the goals have been met by passage of legislation or court rulings. However, for political reasons, the effort for passage has flared up the last few years despite the fact that the deadline for passage ended in 1982.

The reality is that everyone agrees that once women were not treated equally and yet those days are in the past. Passing the ERA would, at this point, create more problems than it would serve. In our society that believes going to court is the answer to everything, these are some of the reasons that passage could harm women more than help.

ERA could be interpreted as a right to taxpayer funded abortions. Under ERA there would be no difference between abortions and medically necessary procedures sought by men, leading to state funded abortions under Medicaid. Auto and life insurance for women would increase. Regardless of the statistical evidence showing that women live longer than men or that women have better driving records, women would likely have to pay the same rates as men.

ERA would permit males and females to compete for inclusion on the same sports teams, as evidenced by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court which invalidated sex segregated sports policies, including contact sports, citing that state’s ERA. Traditional bathrooms, locker rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes, etc. would be nullified because, under ERA, women and men must be treated as indistinguishable. This would place our young children at risk and jeopardize privacy. Male and female prisons will become integrated according to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This could result in harsher discipline for females since they would be required to be treated in the same way as men.

Casinos in the early seventies existed only in Las Vegas; most had mafia connections. Forty years ago, they were allowed in Atlantic City, New Jersey to revive their failing economy. Many other states allow them; some have been successful, others have been failures. Today, there are proposals to locate casinos in at least four locations in Virginia. Friday I held a public hearing on those proposals as well as other gambling issues. By the end of this session, we will know if Virginia is ready for them.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.