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Update from Richmond: Budget Week

Greetings from Richmond! This was a busy and stressful week, but one bright spot was the many wonderful young people visiting the Capitol. I enjoyed chatting with the Student Leadership Council from the Human Rights Commission, Cub Pack 108 from Dale City, and students from Beville Middle School. I also caught one of our Recess Moms in committee, as she was there advocating for more recess for our children in elementary school.

On Thursday, both the House of Delegates and the Senate voted on their respective budget proposals. For the first time in many years, the House version of the budget includes Medicaid expansion. Yet, the Senate version does not.  By not moving forward with Medicaid expansion, the Senate version had to fill a gap of over $100 million for services that we pay for today. My colleague, Senator Howell, a respected member of the Finance committee, offered a floor amendment to expand Medicaid and accept federal funds to expand access to healthcare for nearly 400,000 working Virginians. Unfortunately, this failed on a party line vote. I am highly disappointed that my colleagues in the Senate have yet to embrace the benefits that Medicaid expansion could bring to our Commonwealth. This is a true missed opportunity and for this reason I voted against the budget. There are 9,200 persons in the 29th Senate District that will not have access to health insurance if this is not worked out in the budget. That being said, I am still cautiously optimistic that a compromise can be reached in conference committee, where a small group of Senators and Delegates will iron out discrepancies between the two versions of the budget. For further information, please reference this handy comparison from the Commonwealth Institute.

Additional bills that Passed This Week:

Here is a quick roundup of my bills that have passed from the House of Delegates and are off to the Governor’s desk for his signature:

  • SB 663 - This bill brings transparency to pricing when a person decides the use air ambulance transport in non-emergency situations. In a non-emergency situation citizens deserve all the facts to make the best decisions about their own care.
  • SB 943 - This bill will help increase the efficiency of the Medicaid renewal process, giving recipients better continuity of care.
  • SB 868 and SB 867 - These bills strengthen the Commonwealths programs dealing with stroke patients. SB 868 addresses how we collect and analyze data relating to stroke victims to better inform our regional efforts to improve stroke outcomes across the Commonwealth.

The General Assembly is in session until mid-March, so please feel free to contact my Richmond office at (804) 698-7529 or via email in the coming weeks. It is my privilege to serve you in Senate of Virginia. Please use  this link to read and track my legislative initiatives this year. There are many issues that the General Assembly will consider in the coming weeks, and I will continue to update you on their progress. Please also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for real time updates from Richmond.