Richmond Report: Special Session
It's been two weeks since the Virginia General Assembly adjourned its regular legislative session.
However, as I explained in my last email, although we ended all legislative work for the year, we were unable to pass a budget before the deadline due to the impasse over expanding Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage to needy Virginians.
Governor Terry McAuliffe called a special session which began this Monday, with the limited agenda consisting of these three bills:
House Bill 5001, which funds the government until June 30 of this year (these are commonly referred to as "Caboose bills" because they provide funding to meet adjustments that are necessary during the remaining period of the current fiscal year, based on incorrect budget projections that were made two years earlier).
House Bill 5002, which funds all Virginia government programs and services from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016. This is nearly identical to House Bill 30, which the House passed during regular session on a 74 to 25 mostly-party line vote. While this bill includes many good items of importance to me, it does not include Medicaid expansion, which is the most important policy issue facing us in this session. Because HB 30 failed during the regular session, the House Republican majority introduced HB 5002 as the new starting point for the budget discussion.
House Bill 5003, which also funds Virginia government for fiscal years 2014-16. This bill was introduced by Governor McAuliffe to provide an alternative to the budget drafted by the House Republicans. Among other differences, the most significant is the inclusion of Medicaid expansion, on a two year pilot basis.
On Monday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee took up all three bills, but, predictably, the Republicans passed HB 5001 and 5002, and killed HB 5003, along mostly party-line vote.
The two bills then came to the House floor on Monday, and HB 5001 passed on an 82-13 vote while consideration on HB 5002 was pushed back to Tuesday.
Last night, the House convened at an unusual evening time of 7:30 p.m.
The first vote on the floor was on the Governor's bill, the text of which was offered as a substitute to the Republican budget. After a lengthy debate, this amendment was defeated on a 68-31 vote with only one Democrat and one Republican voting with the other side. I voted for this amendment.
With no substantial amendments, House Bill 5002 was then voted out on a 68-31 vote. As I did during regular session, I voted against this bill because it failed to include Medicaid expansion.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to be rejected in favor of the Governor's budget. Remember that the Senate consists of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats with a Democratic Lieutenant Governor breaking any ties.
With no further business immediately pending, the House recessed late last night to await action from the Senate. Assuming the Senate sends us a different budget bill, we will return to Richmond to act on it, and then authorize a conference committee to negotiate between the two bills.
I continue to be hopeful that members on both sides of the aisle will find a way to work with the Governor to fund the government in time and also to provide much-needed healthcare coverage for the most vulnerable Virginians this year.
I will keep you updated on any progress on these issues. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions regarding this or any other issue.
Thank you for your interest in my work!
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