We returned to the special session in Richmond on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, to debate the House Budget. The House budget includes Medicaid Expansion, which accesses federal dollars that are incorporated into our budget so that we can fund critical needs of the Commonwealth while insuring some 400,000 Virginians who do not yet have coverage. The House budget passed with a strong bipartisan majority. It is time to pass Medicaid Expansion in Virginia. [Read more…]
Since the House and Senate could not agree on a budget during the regular General Assembly Session, which adjourned in March, the Governor has called us back for a Special Session to get it done. The Special Session begins April 11, 2018, but no action will occur immediately on the budget. The new budget bill introduced by Governor Northam will have to go through the regular committee process just like the previous one. The House Appropriations Committee will begin its work quickly, and so it’s entirely possible that a House budget will be ready in time for floor debate on Tuesday, April 17 – but this could change depending on scheduling. We expect that the House budget will include Medicaid expansion and the hospital provider assessment, which allows us to expand without use of additional state dollars, much like it did in the regular Session, but we are not sure yet what will be included in the Senate’s budget. Because the Senate initially rejected Medicaid expansion and the provider assessment, its budget cut more than $400 million from education and other services that would have been funded by accepting the federal Medicaid dollars. While there has been some recent media coverage suggesting that Medicaid expansion will be adopted by the Senate, nothing is assured until the green lights go up on the vote board, and there will need to be considerable negotiations before a final budget compromise is reached. The momentum is positive, but Senate Republican leadership is now the main barrier, and we need to keep advocating for expansion. More than 7,000 citizens in our area would benefit from Medicaid expansion and it would certainly help our local hospitals by recapturing some of the money that would otherwise be spent on indigent care. You can watch the online live stream of the special session here. [Read more…]
Democratic plan remains before the Body
The special session on redistricting called by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to redraw congressional lines that had been ruled unconstitutional by the District Court fell apart on Monday, August 17, 2015, largely over a Republican effort to fire a sitting Supreme Court Justice, Jane Marum Roush. Since there is much public confusion about what actually happened, I will try to provide you some background.
On October 7, 2014, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that the 2012 General Assembly redistricting for the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, holding that the 3rd Congressional District was an improper “racial gerrymandering.” The U. S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal of this decision by the House Republicans in March 2015. On June 5, 2015, the Federal District Court reaffirmed its decision and directed the General Assembly to draw new lines by September 1, 2015. In response, on July 16, 2015, Governor McAuliffe called for a special session to commence on August 17, 2015, in order to fix the problem. He then sent a letter to House and Senate Democratic and Republican leadership requesting that they return to Richmond in advance of the special session to develop a bipartisan map that could be passed. The Republican leadership immediately rebuffed the Governor and refused to meet. When this happened, House and Senate Democratic leadership moved independently to produce a map that could pass constitutional scrutiny. After considerable work, Democrats provided a new map and it was introduced as legislation in both the Senate and the House. The bill can be accessed here. An explanation of what the proposal does can be found here.
We believe that our map corrected the constitutional problems with the old map, but it is not likely to be considered by the House Privileges and Elections Committee or by the Senate. After the Senate adjourned on Monday, the House Privileges and Elections Committee, the group that would consider our bill, adjourned as well, interrupting a speaker in mid-presentation and calling a halt to the public hearing on redistricting which had brought citizens from throughout the Commonwealth to testify. The Democratic Plan remains before both the Senate and the House, but will not likely receive a vote. (Republicans in the Senate stated on Monday that they were not going to produce or consider a plan, one of the arguments used by the Senate in supporting its motion to adjourn.) The result will likely be that the federal court will draw new lines for the House of Representatives sometime after September 1, 2015.
The redistricting issue got caught up in the debate over whether to retain Justice Roush on the Virginia Supreme Court. As is the Governor’s prerogative under the Virginia Constitution, he appointed Justice Roush to the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice LeRoy F. Millette, Jr. in April. This appointment occurred after a lengthy and public process conducted by the Governor’s office to vet a number of candidates with Bar Associations across the state. After completing of the vetting process, the Governor announced Justice Roush’s appointment on July 27, 2015, having received the endorsement of Republican Delegate and House Courts of Justice Committee Chair Dave Albo. Once the announcement was made, however, the Republican leadership cried foul, and stated that not only would they choose their own candidate, but that they would not even extend the courtesy of an interview to Justice Roush. If she had been removed, it would have marked the first time in 115 years that a sitting justice was taken off the court in Virginia.
Not once did the Republicans question Justice Roush’s qualifications, preferring instead to focus on the fact that the Governor did not request their approval in advance. They maintained this position throughout the day on Monday, August 17, and tried to push through their own candidate. They were foiled in the Senate, where their candidate failed to obtain a majority vote necessary, due to a 20-20 tie. The Senate, having been informed by the Republicans that no redistricting plan would be offered, then voted to adjourn. As a result, Justice Roush keeps her position until her present appointment expires on September 16, 2015. Republicans claim that the Senate adjournment is unconstitutional, but the Senate has adjourned and shows little interest in returning to Richmond. If the General Assembly is no longer “in session,” the Governor can make another “recess appointment,” and there is much speculation that Gov. McAuliffe will reappoint Justice Roush to the position. This will likely result in a repeat of this debate in January, as she would require confirmation by the House and Senate.
Consequently, when the dust settled Monday late afternoon, we were left with the following:
- Justice Roush retains her appointment as a Justice of the state Supreme Court at least until it expires on September 16, 2015.
- Since the Senate has adjourned, no bills for redistricting can be taken up and passed, even if the House were to produce such a bill.
- Democratic Leadership still has a bill before the body, but it is unlikely that this bill will be considered by the General Assembly prior to September 1, 2015.
- Numerous members of the public were denied the opportunity to speak on redistricting issues or on the Democratic plan that had been proposed, since House Republicans have adjourned the Privileges and Elections Committee.
- The Federal court will likely draw the new congressional lines.
- We will need to work hard to repair the numerous hurt feelings and bring some bipartisan conciliation to the General Assembly.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve the 57th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments on matters before the Commonwealth.
P.S. As many of you know, former UVA professor and civil rights icon Julian Bond, died last Sunday. My floor speech in memory of Julian Bond can be viewed below.
As early as January 2014, House Republicans promised a plan to address the 400,000 Virginians who fall into the health insurance coverage gap because they make too little money to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. The Governor and Democrats have offered, over the last eight months, three separate proposals by which we could access several billion dollars in federal monies to provide coverage. As you may recall, present Medicaid spending is matched, dollar-for-dollar, with federal monies. With the proposed Medicaid expansion, however, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for the first several years, eventually dropping to 90 percent. I believe that this is a good deal for the Commonwealth. We could take monies that we save in the first years and apply it to the later years in the event that the federal government does not live up to its responsibility, a fear cited by House Republicans as a reason not to expand Medicaid, but an unlikely event.
Democratic proposals since January 2014 have included a two-year pilot plan advanced by Gov. McAuliffe; straight Medicaid expansion; and “Marketplace Virginia,” a proposal offered by Senate Democrats and Republicans to use federal monies to buy private health insurance through private companies. All of these plans have been summarily rejected by the House Republicans.
During the budget dispute in the spring, the Republicans promised a “full and fair debate” over Medicaid so long as it was separated from the budget. That occurred, and the Republicans scheduled this so-called full and fair debate for last Thursday, September 18, 2014. The “full and fair debate” consisted of a 15-minute discussion in the Rules Committee about another compromise proposal on Medicaid expansion, and a short debate on the House floor with the result predetermined. The Republican answer was another “No.” If you want to see some of the debate on this issue, click here; for my floor speech on the issue, click here.
Our meeting last Thursday also brought a compromise on addressing our budget shortfall. If you want to see my comments on how we should try to close some tax preferences to make up our budget shortfall, you can click here.
Finally, three new judges were appointed for our district, and they will take their seats on December 1, 2014. Although I continue to believe that the selection of judges is overly-partisan, I offer my congratulations to the three that were appointed, Judge Richard Moore, Deborah Tinsley, and David Barredo. I am confident that they will be very effective judges and will serve this community admirably.
Please feel free to contact me with your concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly.
P.S.: I want to express my thanks and gratitude to the citizens of this community, the local and state police, City Police Chief Tim Longo, and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran for all the work being done to bring Hannah Graham home. I was at JPJ Command Central last Saturday and Sunday and watched the volunteers stream in from around the Commonwealth and nation. I saw the line up of City School buses, UVA buses, and Jaunt buses at 7:30am on Sundayready to take the teams of volunteers out into the field to search for Hannah. The generosity and caring of this community is remarkable.
We met again on Monday, June 23, 2014, to consider the Governor’s eight vetoes to the signed 2014-15 budget. There was no discussion about a government “shutdown,” because the budget is signed and takes effect on July 1. The only issues remaining had to do with whether the eight vetoes would be sustained.
As usual, hot-button issues were vetoes that the Governor made involving Medicaid. In procedural moves that are not unlike what happens in Washington, DC, the House Republicans made it impossible to have votes on several of the Governor’s vetoes, including one which involved Medicaid expansion.
It was my view that we should vote on each one of the vetoes. The body could either vote to overrule (a 2/3 vote) or vote to sustain (a 1/3 vote), but I believe that the Governor has a right to veto and constituents have a right to know where their legislators stand on those vetoes. In taking their actions, the House Republicans denied constituents the ability to assess our votes on Medicaid expansion and hold us accountable for them. This is happening with increasing frequency in Virginia, and it is yet another example of how Washington politics is spreading across the Potomac.
By day’s end the House had overruled one of the Governor’s vetoes, which dealt with funding the Ethics Reform Commission and did not contest five other vetoes, which were relatively uncontroversial.
By the time the vetoes arrived at the Senate, there was only one to consider, the Ethics Advisory Council funding. The Senate sustained that veto, meaning that there is no funding for the Council in the coming year. The Governor has indicated that he will propose a stronger ethics bill and will support funding for the Council in January when we reconvene in regular session.
Technically, we remain in “Special Session” and will hopefully reconvene in Richmond soon to discuss the one remaining issue that we have, the filling of vacant judgeships, including one in our area. I have received many questions about this vacancy, and have told constituents that it would be filled after the budget has been finalized. Well, the budget has now been finalized and it is time for us to fill the vacancy. It will be up to the Republican House to determine when we are called back to discuss judges. Hopefully, it will be soon because the citizens in our region deserve to have a full-time permanent judge sitting in the Charlottesville Circuit Court.
As always, it is a pleasure representing you in the General Assembly and I hope that you will contact me with your views and comments about issues affecting the region and the Commonwealth either at my legislative office, 434.220.1660, or at my law office at Buck, Toscano and Tereskerz, 434.977.7977.