There are only two weeks remaining in the 2018 Session of the General Assembly. The remaining time will be spent, like the past week, on the budget. On Thursday of this week, the House and Senate passed versions of the budget. The next two weeks will be dominated by reconciling the differences between the two proposals. While there is much common ground between the two budgets, there is about a $621 million gap between the two largely due to the House’s adoption of Medicaid expansion. [Read more…]
Crossover came and went the day before Valentine’s Day. It was notable for lots of things, both done and undone. The biggest enchilada remains Medicaid expansion.
The energy for expansion is coming from the House of Delegates. Invigorated by the results of the 2017 election, the increased Democratic minority is absolutely committed to expanding Medicaid. The reduced Republican majority seems resigned to it and apparently wants to put the issue behind them, so it will not control the flow of another election cycle. In the Senate, which was last on the ballot in 2015, the discussion does not appear to be that dramatic. But behind the scenes, the pressure is building. [Read more…]
We are now ending the last full week of the 2018 Session prior to crossover. As explained last week, the Senate and House will have to finish work on bills originating in their own chambers by Tuesday. This has been a week full of contention.
One of the most contentious issues of the session relates to rate setting for utility companies. In 2015, Dominion Power pushed a bill through the legislature which essentially froze part of their rates, disabled the State Corporation Commission from rate-setting reviews for a period of years, and locked in Dominion’s revenues. Dominion argued that action was needed because of the expected financial impacts of adoption of the federal Clean Power Plan. I voted against that bill because I thought it was a bad deal for the ratepayers. Interestingly, one of the “concessions” that Dominion made in that deal to get the Governor’s support and that of some environmentally-minded Democrats was a commitment to produce 500 megawatts of solar energy by 2020. That goal was attained in 2017. As anyone who watches the markets knows, the cost of solar energy is going down and the demand is going up. Hindsight being 20-20, we now know that the “concession” made in 2015 was a low bar. [Read more…]
We continue to hurtle toward crossover of the 2018 Session of the General Assembly. Crossover is basically the mid-point, though it typically occurs a little past the 30th day of the 60 day session.
While the Constitution of Virginia sets forth the requirements for how a bill becomes a law, such as passing both houses in exactly the same form and being read three times before a vote is taken, there are certain rules the legislature adopts each session to govern the conduct of business. One function of those rules is to set forth exactly how much time each body has to consider its own bills, including its version of the budget. The crossover, when the Senate and House have to finalize action on bills that originated in their own chamber, is February 13. With the budget bill, a few more days are granted. We will not vote on our respective versions of the budget until February 22.
This session has brought some uncertainty, for a couple of important reasons. [Read more…]
The old saying “the days go slow, but the years go fast” reminds us that time passes relatively quickly. My belief is that we have to live with urgency because life is short and we only get so many days in which to make a difference. With legislative sessions, the days are long and full, but it is hard to believe we are already over two and a half weeks into the 2018 Session. Committee meetings occupy most of the mornings and afternoons, and the daily floor sessions are getting longer.
Medicaid expansion remains one of the priority issues this legislative session. In my newsletters in the past, I have outlined many of the benefits and potential concerns about expanding Medicaid. The bottom line is that Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to nearly 400,000 Virginians, seventy-five percent of whom work full-time or live with someone who does. The population we are discussing is the working poor: people who cannot get insurance through their employer and do not make enough to afford private insurance. Virginians are paying for Medicaid expansion through increased taxes contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We are just not receiving the benefits of those taxes, which were not repealed during the first year of the new federal administration. In terms of cost, the federal government pays no less than 90 percent of expansion. In fact they paid 100 percent during the first few years. We lost out on that opportunity. Now it is down to 92.5 percent. We are spending state revenues because of our decision not to expand, so expansion would add nearly $130 million to Virginia’s budget. Expansion would allow us to ease the pain of many rural hospitals struggling to deal with federal cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates. The money we save and the increased access to services would allow us to fulfill much of our vision to improve our mental health system. Medicaid expansion is critically important to me, and I will continue to beat the drum. [Read more…]