General Assembly Update (2/16/11)
Major events this and last week in Richmond included the passage of the House and Senate budgets, and the consideration of several immigration bills. As has been the case in the last several years, the House budget, while having some positive features, generally lacks support for many of our community’s priorities.
The House budget cuts about $50 million from from K-12 education. If ultimately approved, this would mean substantial reductions for both the Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville school divisions, and is one reason why I voted against the budget.
Another reason involves the cuts to Medicaid funding for those people most in need and for those people who provide critical medical services. For example, the House budget trims Medicaid reimbursements for hospitals and doctors from 72¢ on the dollar to 60¢ on the dollar. We are already among the worst states in terms of our Medicaid reimbursement formula and this will only exacerbate the problem that we have maintaining the Medicaid provider network. While the budget includes additional Medicaid waivers for Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it caps other community based services like respite hours for families and employees who provide critical services to those most in need.
Finally, the House budget eliminates support for public broadcasting, prohibits Medicaid patients from accessing services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood by prohibiting state reimbursement there, and takes money that could otherwise be used for schools and public safety and transfers it to the transportation fund.
The Senate budget is much more favorable to K-12 education, providing a higher level of funding for both Albemarle and Charlottesville. While it does not attempt to address the VRS funding problems that we have heard a lot about this session in the same fashion as the House budget, it has comparable levels of support for higher education and does not transfer monies from teachers and public safety to the transportation fund. For a complete overview of the differences between the House and Senate budgets, please refer to this study prepared by the Senate Finance Committee (.pdf).
At this point in the process, the two budget documents will be placed before a Committee of Conference composed of House and Senate members, and attempts will be made for each to compromise. I will be attempting to convince conferees of the importance of retaining funding for K-12 education and for critical community based mental health services.
The Senate this week defeated a majority of the immigration measures passed by the House last week. These have been emotional debates and I have heard from many constituents on this issue. If you would like to read more, please see my statement on immigration policy.
Finally, my bills continue to move through the legislative process. My solar energy bill (HB 1686), public infrastructure bill (HB 1872), and a bill to give more flexibility to homeowners seeking to refinance mortgages (HB 1682), all passed the Senate. My bill to lengthen the school year has been incorporated into a study of year-round schooling. Two more bills are still waiting hearing in committee: HB 1868, which pertains to adult adopted-persons better access to their birth parent records and HB 1529, which pertains to the division of assets in divorce proceedings.
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s telephone town hall. Our first attempt was a great success and I will hold other public events like this as well as in-person meetings in the future.
It is an honor to represent the 57th District and I look forward to returning home when session adjourns late next week.
Please feel free to contact my office any time with questions, concerns, or suggestions. My number in Richmond is (804) 698-1057 and you may reach me by email at email@example.com. I look forward to serving you in the coming weeks.