The 2014 Virginia General Assembly Session began on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, when 100 delegates were sworn in and Gov. McDonnell gave his final “State of the Commonwealth” address. The outgoing Governor gave a deeply personal speech, apologizing for his transgressions over the last year and celebrating what he considered to be a number of singular achievements. He praised the bipartisan transportation bill passed last year, which would never have passed without the substantial support of the Democrats in the House. One of the highlights of the speech was when he welcomed back Senator Creigh Deeds with a simple, “Welcome back, Creigh; we love you.” This brought a standing ovation among the Assembly, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, and the gallery.
Another highlight of the first week involved the unveiling of the bipartisan conceptual agreement on ethics reform. This is described in greater detail in an op-ed piece that I co-authored with Majority Leader Kirk Cox. You can read it here.
Little business was transacted in the first week, but challenges await. Paramount among these is the passage of a two-year budget and the questions of whether we will accept federal monies to insure 400,000 additional Virginians who are not presently covered. Gov. McAuliffe and I strongly support this; the House Republican Caucus strongly opposes it. If we are to pass changes in Medicaid, we will have to find a “Virginia Way” to do it. We need to find a way to cover those additional 400,000 Virginians, lessen the fiscal impact on hospitals and emergency rooms, keep Virginia taxpayer dollars in the Commonwealth rather than having them being sent to other places who have accepted Medicaid expansion, create 30,000 new jobs, and ensure that rural hospitals can remain open as engines of the economic activity and providers of critical health services. Hospital Associations says we are losing $5 million a day by not accepting the federal monies.
The highlight of the first week was undoubtedly the inauguration of Terry McAuliffe as the 72nd Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northern as the Lieutenant Governor, and Mark Herring as the Attorney General. They will make a great team. Governor McAuliffe struck a conciliatory tone in his inaugural address by stressing our common values and the need to work together to bring greater economic opportunity throughout the Commonwealth. He has been working very hard reaching out to Republicans to find common ground on a wide variety of issues. Whether they will allow some success is not yet clear. But I will be there fighting for the Governor’s legislative agenda.
We will shortly publish the results of our constituent’s survey. Thanks to those who took it.
You do not need to participate in the survey to provide us input on what you think is important for us to consider in Richmond. Please call my Richmond office at (804) 698-1057 or email me at DelDToscano@house.virginia.gov.
It is a pleasure serving you in the General Assembly.