The 2017 General Assembly session is officially over! In January and February we passed 1,773 bills and resolutions, including the budget. Governor McAuliffe reviewed them all and sent us 83 amendments to bills, 27 amendments to the budget, and 40 vetoes. Unlike Congress, the Virginia General Assembly works efficiently!
Our Governor stuck with his -- and my -- principles on both the budget and laws.
BUDGET: The most important budget amendment was yet another attempt to expand healthcare coverage for adult, mostly working, Virginians. The Governor had right on his side --- not only would 400,000 Virginians get healthcare but we would add 30,000 good paying jobs, strengthen our hospitals, draw down $6,600,000 a day from the federal government, and significantly reduce costs to our state government. Virginia hospitals have agreed to pay the state share of expansion. Despite having no rational reason to reject the federal funds, the majority party turned it down.
Looking ahead to resolving the impasse, the House and Senate agreed to set up a joint subcommittee to find a way forward. Four Senators and four Delegates were appointed ----and I am one of them. I am determined to find a path to healthcare coverage for all Virginians. If you agree and would like to take action, I suggest you contact Governor McAuliffe at 804-786-2211 and ask him to call a special session of the legislature to vote on a plan this fall.
VETOES: The Governor broke the record for the most vetoed bills during his administration. One hundred eleven bills were vetoed during his term and the General Assembly sustained them all. I gladly supported all his vetoes this year and believe he represented the values of most people in the 32nd District. This session he vetoed toxic bills in various categories:
Anti-Immigrant Bills: Three bills promoting anti-immigrant sentiments were vetoed. One was a bill prohibiting "sanctuary cities" that would have forced local governments to enforce all federal immigration laws. Another would have required the Department of Social Services to publish refugee information. The third would have required localities to hold undocumented immigrants in jails until ICE agreed to their release or transfer. There is so much fear and despair currently in our immigrant communities that we certainly do not need the state to exacerbate their worries.
Education Bills: Governor McAuliffe vetoed bills that would have established religious charter schools, parental choice savings accounts, and a statewide virtual school. He also vetoed another Tebow bill that would have let home schooled students compete on public school teams.
Firearms Bills: Several bills that expanded access to concealed weapons permits were vetoed. A particularly dangerous bill that would have encouraged abused women to arm themselves was also defeated.
Anti-LGBTQ Bill: The same anti-transgender bill that has led to public condemnation of North Carolina passed again here in Virginia. Fortunately, it was vetoed.
Voter Suppression Bills: Bills designed to discourage and inconvenience voters were also vetoed. One particularly inconvenient one would have required absentee voters to provide photo IDs.
AMENDMENTS: Several bills were improved by the Governor's amendments. One of the most important dealt with four coal ash ponds that Dominion wants to close. The amendment delayed the closure for a year so more assessment and enforcement can take place. The Governor also tried to give Alexandria more time to modernize their sewage system which overflows millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac. The argument was over a reasonable timeframe. The Governor's amendment failed after long and impassioned debate.
LOOKING FORWARD, I expect to drive to Richmond two or three times a week for committee and commission meetings. Just because the session is over does not mean the work stops! The legislature always oversees state government functions and studies how to improve services to you. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them.
My aide, Karol Straub, and I love solving problems constituents are having with state government. Do not hesitate to contact us at 703-709-8283 or at email@example.com. Also, I welcome hearing about issues of importance to you -- and any solutions you might offer.