Start of a New Year and 2012 General Assembly
As the new Democratic Leader in the House of Delegates, my responsibilities have increased dramatically. When the session convened on January 11, 2012, I began to focus on a number of critical themes for the session. You can view the video of my opening day floor speech here.
First, in response to the advocacy of the House Democrats, changes were made in the House Rules that will improve the budget process. Legislators will now receive the budget conference report earlier, and will receive more information with that report. This includes a list of all non-state agencies included in the budget, as well as any language that represents legislation that was defeated by either chamber. This tracks many of the changes I requested in my 2010 bill, HB62, and were some of the measures the House Democrats proposed in our December 12 press release on Government Transparency.
Second, support continues to build for the creation of the Virginia Health Marketplace, a system that would allow consumers and small businesses to have access to better information about healthcare plans and their costs, thereby increasing competition and driving down costs. Legislation authored by Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), and co-patroned by me, would accomplish this goal. It is important to do this now because federal monies are available to help Virginia, and if we do not establish such a marketplace, it is possible that the federal government would impose its own system on the Commonwealth. The House Democrats issued a press release on January 10, 2012, on establishing the Virginia Healthcare Marketplace.
Finally, I remain active in developing approaches to the Governor’s proposed budget. I am very concerned that the Governor’s proposal to take monies from the General Fund that would otherwise go for education, public safety, and health services, and use them for transportation. Transportation is important, but it should not be purchased at the expense of teacher salaries and resources in the classroom.
I am also concerned about the deep cuts in human services in the second year of the Governor’s proposed budget, particularly, the Governor’s proposal to reduce funding for free clinics around the Commonwealth.
Thank you for this opportunity to serve you in Richmond. Your input is important to me and I invite you to share your thoughts and concerns with me on all matters before the Commonwealth. I look forward to hearing from you.