- With only one more week left in the 2014 session, we are beginning to get closure on some legislation. However, there are still a couple hundred bills in the House and Senate that must be taken care of before adjournment on March 8th.
- Budget conferees have been appointed and are busy trying to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate versions of the budget. Virginia is required by law to maintain a balanced budget so I am certain there will be many long hours and late nights for the conferees during this process.
- Medicaid expansion continues to dominate the session. I understand the importance and significance of Medicaid in my rural district, especially for indigent care in the rural hospitals. However, I believe that we must be careful as we proceed and do so with thoughtful consideration. I support a JLARC audit of Medicaid to insure that any waste is eliminated and I believe that, should Medicaid be expanded, all who sign up should be required to sign a waiver that the program is subject to cancellation in the event that Federal funding be eliminated and that it IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM but rather a health-care program.
I DO NOT SUPPORT the program being funded with Virginia dollars, although a dollar is a dollar is a dollar no matter where it comes from! It does bother me that Virginians are paying into a program that they may not receive any benefit from, and it is my hope that a compromise will be reached as the budget goes into conference. Most of all, I hope that the rest of the State budget won't be held up by political wrangling.
- There has been a lot of discussion about the federal government's mandate that state run training centers be closed and patients be placed in community facilities. SB627 says that if training centers are closed, then the level of care at any other facility MUST be the same as that of the training centers. I have supported this bill but the main point is that the individuals needing care continue to receive that care. WE MUST CONTINUE TO CARE FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT CARE FOR THEMSELVES!
- Another bill has passed that has the potential of impacting many in our district. HB 771, the so-called "Mature Driver" bill will require drivers to renew their licenses in person and take a vision test beginning at age 75, rather than 80. It also reduces the term of the license from the current eight to five years.
- The issue of fox penning has been decided for this year. Senator Dave Marsden's SB 42 has passed. This bill puts a limit of 40 years on existing penning operations, prevents any new operations from starting up and prohibits the sale of the operation and bequeathing it to heirs. Unfortunately, Northern Virginia legislators are now making decisions that affect rural Virginia's long-held traditions. About the only good thing that came out of this is that the Humane Society has stated, in writing, that they will agree not to pursue further action on foxhound training preserves with the passage of this bill. You can read the entire text of the bill by clicking on this link: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?141+ful+SB42H1+pdf
- With the special election for District 100 on the Eastern Shore, Rob Bloxom has joined the Republican ranks in the House of Delegates. This makes a total of 68 Republican delegates out of 100. This is the largest majority in the House of Delegates since Democrats held 75 seats in 1981.
- Another bill that may have some impact on our district is HB 975. This bill eliminates Virginia's $64.00 annual fee on hybrid vehicles. Governor McAuliffe has signed the legislation.
OF LOCAL INTEREST:
- The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) has announced its list of "six things for history buffs to do and see in 2014" in Virginia and the Moton Museum has made that list. VTC understands the national significance of Prince Edward County's Civil Rights story and sees the potential for additional tourism with the promotion of this landmark. Congratulations to Lacy Ward and his hard-working staff!
- Scholarship applications for the Tobacco Commission will be open on March 4th. The Tobacco Region Scholarship Program provides assistance with tuition and academic fees for eligible students who live in one of the Southwest or Southside localities and who are enrolled in a Bachelor's Degree program at an accredited 4-year college or university, whether public or private, in-state or out-of-state. If you would like additional information on this program, please go to their website https://tobacco.swcenter.edu/.
- Visitors were few this week since the session is almost over. However I did enjoy seeing R. B. Clark, Gary Walker, Susan Adams and John Marsden from Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties, respectively.
- Remember, any legislation can be read in full on the Virginia General Assembly website, http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/. A wealth of additional information on the legislative process can also be found on this site. In addition, you can actually watch video for the House here.
Quote of the Day:
"The Farmer asked his son to work hard everyday at the farm. His friend said to him, "you don't have to make your child work so hard...the crops will grow just as well." The farmer replied, "I am not cultivating my crops, but my child!"