Virginia General Assembly Legislative Report

The 2018 Session was very different from other recent Sessions. Topics included the impact of the 2016 Presidential election of Donald Trump on the 2017 legislative elections, in which Democrats came within a hair’s breadth of capturing control of the House of Delegates, and on the 2018 General Assembly Session. Also discussed are the 2018 federal elections, the 2019 General Assembly Session and the 2019 legislative elections.

In this podcast, and the accompanying PowerPoint (click here), you will learn about issues that came before the 2018 General Assembly including: Medicaid expansion and the proposed work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients; the proposed hospital tax to help pay for Virginia’s share of the cost of expanding Medicaid; efforts to reform the redistricting process and end gerrymandering; bills to protect the integrity of our elections; measures to make the criminal-justice system fairer; and, locally, legislation affecting the City-County Revenue-Sharing Agreement and the relocation of the County’s courthouses. The program occurred on May 9, 2018 and was moderated by SSV board member Terry Cooper.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D) represents the 25th Senate District which includes the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington and Lexington, and the counties of Albemarle (part), Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Nelson and Rockbridge.
Delegate David Toscano (D) represents the 57th House of Delegates District which includes Charlottesville and part of Albemarle County.

Program Summary

The 2018 session was initially scheduled to adjourn on March 10, but due to the inability of the legislature to achieve agreement on a budget, the session was extended and reconvened on April 11. The session still had not concluded by the time of the SSV meeting on May 9 (the budget was not adopted until May 30!).

Delegate Toscano utilized a PowerPoint presentation to help convey the actions taken—and not taken—during the session to date. He began with an enumeration of some of the more whimsical bills that were passed: HB 459 – Designated Pseudotriton Ruber as the official state salamander; HB 239/SB 375 – Removed the prohibition on hunting raccoons on Sundays after 2:00 am.; HB 286 – Allows dogs “inside or on the premises of” a winery, brewery or distillery (other companion animals must still drink at home!)…and more.

On the more serious side, the following actions were also taken: HB 1558/SB 966: Utility Rate Reviews (The Dominion Bill); HB 1600: Limiting length of school suspensions to help address the school-to-prison “pipeline”; HB 1249/SB 565: Additions to DNA database sample collections: specific misdemeanors linked to later violent crimes; Felony larceny threshold increased to $500; SB 698 & SB 699: DEQ stop-work orders authorized to protect against adverse impacts on water quality due to land-disturbing pipeline construction activities.

Failure to achieve agreement on a budget remained the most significant aspect of the session at the time of the SSV May 9 meeting. The primary point of contention was related to Medicaid expansion. House committee members, both Republicans and Democrats, insisted on expansion, but the Senate conferees were divided–Republican members would not agree to expand Medicaid.

House budget highlights include: Medicaid expansion: added health care access for 400,000 Virginians AND freed up state monies for education funding increases, education and economic opportunities in high-demand fields (such as cybersecurity) and raises for teachers/ school personnel, law enforcement, state mental health hospital nurses and staff.

Highlights of the Senate budget include: no Medicaid expansion; funding cuts to education, public safety, and more; funded some high-priority mental health initiatives, but others were cut; studies to evaluate safety of biosolid use funded; and the Rainy Day Fund allocation was twice that of the House budget.

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