- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

RICHMOND — Virginia has set aside days to give children a smile, to tout tornado preparedness and to celebrate Greek independence.

So what’s the big deal about setting aside a day to honor former President Ronald Reagan?

“From what I remember about Ronald Reagan, the last thing he would want is for 50 states to expend resources and time generating pretty proclamations that have no practical impact,” said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat.

But Grover G. Norquist, a frequent critic of the governor, says proclaiming Feb. 6 — Mr. Reagan’s birthday — as “Ronald Reagan Day” is the least Mr. Kaine can do.

Mr. Norquist, president of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, said the governor refusing to sign the proclamation amounts to “partisan pettiness.” He noted that Democrats and Republicans alike have designated the day for Mr. Reagan.

Mr. Hall said the proclamation was “considered and declined” by the governor’s Office of Constituent Services, which routinely handles a multitude of such requests. He noted that Mr. Kaine “respects the service of all our presidents.”

Since Mr. Kaine took office in January, he has issued 26 proclamations declaring, among other things, “Celebrate Marriage Week” and “Christian Heritage Week.”

So far, civil rights leader Martin Luther King is the only person honored in a proclamation issued by Mr. Kaine.

Some lawmakers — who publicly support Mr. Reagan — privately denounced Mr. Norquist’s claim as “silly” and said his complaint seemed more partisan than Mr. Kaine’s action. They noted that Virginia already honors presidents on the federal Presidents Day holiday.

“Generations of Americans will remember the Reagan legacy, and it’s a shame that Virginia now stands as one of the few states against him,” Mr. Norquist said. “We are disappointed at this completely political move.”

The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project — run by Mr. Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform group — sent letters to 50 states seeking proclamations.

Maryland proclaims Feb. 6 as Ronald Reagan Day. However, Virginia is one of nine states that did not oblige the request.

Mr. Norquist said the other states that rejected the request were Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The group did not ask D.C. officials.

Mr. Reagan, who died June 5, 2004, has a special place of honor in Virginia.

During the 2005 session, the General Assembly overwhelmingly authorized designating a portion of the Route 234 Bypass in Prince William County in honor of Mr. Reagan.

Some objected because the 40th president had no local ties to the area, but Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, ultimately signed the bill.

This year, the House overwhelmingly approved a measure designating May 1 as “Cold War Victory Day.” The measure is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

The House Rules Committee amended the initial resolution to include a one-sentence mention of Mr. Reagan, saying he “waged the Cold War so aggressively that the threat of nuclear annihilation was abated, and ending the Cold War was among his greatest achievements.”

Proclamations have ruffled some feathers over the years.

Southern heritage buffs criticized Mr. Warner for refusing to issue a proclamation for Confederate History Month. The month has not been recognized since 1999, when Republican James S. Gilmore III was governor.

In 2000, Mr. Gilmore replaced the resolution with a broader one commemorating both sides of the Civil War.

Since then, groups have tried to get approval for a Confederate History and Heritage Month. The most recent attempt was in 2004, but the Senate rejected the measure.

Mr. Norquist said that next year, the group will work with state lawmakers to pass Ronald Reagan Day.

In the meantime, nearly every day in Virginia is special for someone.

Today is Future Farmers of America Day. Residents also can mark their calendars for April 21-23, when the state will recognize 4-H Global Youth Service Day.

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