Ostensibly, the Senate convened on 22 May, 2018 to finish the work we could not accomplish during the regular session – to pass a budget. Senator Emmett Hanger, the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been working diligently for weeks, most recently with Delegate Chris Jones, the chair of House Appropriations Committee, and the Governor’s office, to craft a budget compromise. Sen. Hanger aimed to develop a bipartisan plan that could generate the support of a majority in the House and Senate and be signed by the Governor. [Read more…]
We are winding up the 2018 Session of the Virginia General Assembly. This is crunch time. As I’ve told people for years, this is the most dangerous part of the session. Amendments to bills are made on the fly and passed between the House and Senate. Weary legislators often miss the meaning of amendments and votes are miscast. Mistakes are made.
The Constitution of Virginia requires that the House and Senate pass legislation in the exact same form in order for the bill to go on to the Governor and become law. Disagreements between the House and Senate have to be resolved through a conference committee process. The House and Senate each appoint a few members to try to resolve differences in the legislation. If they can reach a resolution, the conference reports then go back to both chambers for approval. If the compromise passes both the House and the Senate, the bill then goes on to the Governor. The Governor then has the opportunity to sign into law, amend or veto the legislation. If a bill passes both chambers and is communicated to the Governor more than seven days before the end of session, the Governor must act on the bill before the legislature adjourns. The remaining bills must be acted on by the Governor within 30 days of adjournment. [Read more…]
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…]
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…]