Special Session Packed with Important Issues
The Virginia General Assembly returned to Richmond last week for a one-day Special Session to consider several important issues. The House of Delegates took up: Medicaid Expansion; Budget Adjustment; Defending Virginia Laws; and some Judicial Positions.
First was the consideration of Medicaid expansion bills. Speaker Howell had asked that there be discussion of ideas and bills brought forth related to healthcare coverage before we reconvened.
While there were two healthcare bills introduced by Republican delegates, there were no Medicaid expansion bills introduced by House Democrats. The one healthcare bill that came to the Floor was HB 5008 Virginia Healthcare Independence Act that failed by 64 (N) - 33 (Y) on the House side, so it did not move to the Senate. It was a plan for government to assist with payment of health insurance premiums for some low-income adults. Evaluating costs and long-term sustainability with rising rates were issues that needed to be resolved.
No Senate bills dealing with healthcare came to the House side for a vote. Some were introduced and sent to committees on the Senate side.
Another very important issue was addressing the state revenue shortfall reported for the first half of the year. In order to keep the state's promise to pay the bills of the Commonwealth, we passedHB 5010A (Y-93 N-4) and Senate vote (Y-35 N-2).
The General Assembly passed this legislation to close Virginia's $2.4 billion revenue shortfall, to provide certainty for our economy and to send a clear signal to the bond rating agencies that Virginia is and will always remain a Triple-A investment. The bill uses some Rainy Day funds, but those are automatically restored proportionally as more revenue comes in.
The House took solid action in HR566 to accomplish three purposes: To uphold the Virginia Constitution Marriage Amendment, to protect Virginia as a right to work state and to prohibit the Governor from attempting to expand Medicaid without action of the General Assembly. This resolution authorizes the Speaker of the House to employ legal council to represent the House of Delegates to halt any or all of these actions. It passed (Y65-N32).
In part this resolution states:
WHEREAS, the House of Delegates and the Commonwealth of Virginia have a strong and independent interest in defending the constitutionality of Virginia's laws as well as preserving the separation of powers required by the Constitution of Virginia; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, That the Speaker of the House of Delegates hereby be authorized to employ legal counsel to represent the House of Delegates in state courts, and be authorized to remove Attorney General Mark Herring from his improper role in challenging Virginia's marriage laws, and be authorized to take all steps for the House of Delegates to present the position of the Commonwealth in pending litigation involving the challenge to the constitutionality of Virginia's marriage laws; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Speaker of the House of Delegates hereby be authorized to employ legal counsel to represent the House of Delegates in addressing any unconstitutional or illegal attempt to undermine the Commonwealth's right to work laws, contrary to the duly enacted laws of the General Assembly; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Speaker of the House of Delegates hereby be authorized to employ legal counsel to represent the House of Delegates in addressing any unconstitutional or illegal attempt by the Governor to expand Medicaid without the authorization of the General Assembly, which authorization has been explicitly withheld from the Governor; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Speaker of the House of Delegates hereby be authorized to employ legal counsel to represent the House of Delegates in any proceeding in which a provision of the Constitution of Virginia is contested or is at issue or in which the constitutionality, legality, or application of a law established under legislative authority is at issue and the Governor and Attorney General choose not to defend the provision or law in such proceeding, or in which it is necessary to defend the responsibilities, authority, and prerogatives of the House of Delegates;
And finally, we dealt with the election or re-election of 45 Virginia judges, including Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judges. While we have one opening in the 22nd Judicial District due to the retirement of Judge Lee Stilwell of Danville, that position has not been filled and may come up in a Special Session in late October. Our local delegation is responsible for bringing a nomination before the Courts of Justice Committees.