Richmond Report: Ninth Week
Today is Day 60 of the legislative session which is when the Virginia General Assembly traditionally adjourns sine die (which is Latin for "without day" meaning that a legislative body adjourns without appointing another day on which to assemble again).
Unlike many other years, however, today, the House adjourned sine die but agreed to reconvene a special session of the General Assembly.
The reason for this continuation is due to one and only one reason: stalemate over whether or not to include the expansion of Medicaid in the budget.
As I described in my email from a couple of weeks ago, expanding Medicaid is the biggest issue in this legislative session, and for me, the most important one.
Throughout this session, we've had extensive debate over the need to provide healthcare coverage to roughly 400,000 Virginians who are too poor to afford it on their own.
I don't believe there is any one on either side of the aisle who thinks it is not important to fill the healthcare coverage gap. What we disagree on is how to solve the problem.
For Democrats, the most economical and simplest way to address this is to take advantage of a provision in the federal Affordable Care Act that allows states to expand their Medicaid program by using billions of federal funds that would be returned to states that participate.
For Republicans, accepting Medicaid expansion means accepting "Obamacare," which is a politically difficult position as they continue to attack this law. Many Republicans have therefore argued that Virginia shouldn't take federal funds because the federal government cannot be trusted to continue this program into the future.
Practically, this means that we have a political gridlock in Richmond today.
The House with 68 Republicans out of 100 members insists on passing a budget without Medicaid language, while the Democratic-controlled Senate — with three Republicans joining them — insists on expanding Medicaid now.
And Governor Terry McAuliffe has been traveling throughout the Commonwealth to encourage stakeholders to weigh in with their legislators in support of expanding Medicaid.
We will continue this debate on March 24, when we return to Richmond for about three days of deliberations. I am hopeful that we will be able to make progress on this issue then.
In the meantime, my staff and I will be back in our district office beginning on Monday, returning all the emails, letters and phone calls that we have not yet been able to respond to during session.
If you are interested in knowing which bills passed this session, you can review all the activities by visiting the Legislative Information Service website at lis.virginia.gov or send me any questions you might have about any of the issues.
In particular, you can check which way I voted on any of the hundreds of bills and amendments we dealt with during this session by going to this page and pulling up my name (this is a new transparency feature on the General Assembly website that a colleague and I worked to create in our first year in office): http://services.dlas.virginia.gov/webservices/frmLISVotIng1.aspx
Thank you and look forward to seeing you soon!
P.S. Will you share this email with your friends so they can receive regular updates from me? And don't forget to check out our website at www.MarkKeam.com and follow us on Twitter (@MarkKeam) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DelegateMarkKeam).