2018 General Assembly Session - Update 7 - Budget Update

Last week, the Senate and House each passed their proposed amendments to the Biennial Budget introduced by the Governor.  
The key difference between the two budgets is Medicaid expansion. The House budget extends health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who need it by expanding Medicaid and accepting more than $3 billion in federal funding to do so. The House budget also directs the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to apply to the federal government for a waiver that imposes work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients. 
Unfortunately, the Senate budget does not include Medicaid expansion.  As a result, the Senate budget also cuts over $400 million from the introduced budget.  Specifically, the budget eliminates $49.4 million from the introduced budget to provide a two percent base salary increase for state employees and state supported local employees.  You can see my floor remarks against this amendment here.

In the area of Education, the Senate budget:
  • Eliminates $51.3 million in funding for the state share of a 2 percent salary increase for teachers and other school positions effective December 1, 2019;
  • Eliminates $1 million in additional funding for positive behavior intervention and support services to help school divisions better address behavioral issues without resorting to suspension;
  • Eliminates $7.7 million in funding to ensure that every elementary school has one full-time principal starting in fiscal; year 2020;  
  • Eliminates $100,000 in new funding proposed for Praxis assistance for teachers to subsidize test  fees and the cost of tutoring provisionally licensed teachers in order to address the teacher shortage;
  • Uses lottery fund estimates to decrease general fund support for public education (known as "supplanting") by a total of $97.9 million; and  
  • Reduces by half ($22.8 million) funding provided in the introduced budget increasing need-based financial aid for in-state undergraduate students.
In the area of mental health, the Senate budget reverses important steps made by the General Assembly last year to address the Commonwealth's mental health needs by:
  • Eliminates $4.5 million in funding contained in the introduced budget for an initiative to fund two assisted living facilities and associated support teams to help address the capacity issues facing state mental health facilities; and
  • Reduces by $7.5 million funding provided in the introduced budget for primary care outpatient screening services for at Community Service Boards.

These cuts represent just a few of the missed opportunities resulting from the Senate's failure to use federal funding to address our Medicaid needs, freeing up our General fund to address these and other important budget priorities.  For these reasons, I voted no on the Senate budget.  

I also spoke against a floor amendment that would have denied Medicaid funding for abortions in the case of gross fetal abnormalities.  Fortunately this amendment failed.  You can see my remarks against the amendment here.

I am hopeful that over the next two weeks the budget conferences can find a way to bridge both the $600 million gap between their budgets and the insurance gap facing so many Virginians and their families.
You can see the amendments the House and Senate adopted here.  The Commonwealth Institute did a helpful side-by-side comparison of the introduced, House and Senate budgets, which you can view here.

MLK Commission Honors Dr. King's Legacy in a Series of Community Conversations

Fifty years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Virginia General Assembly's Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission will remember his legacy and his influence in Virginia in a series of Community Conversations held in each of the locations across the state that Dr. King visited. The Commission will join community leaders, religious leaders, historians, educators, and members of the community to reexamine Dr. King's time in the Commonwealth, reflect on his vision of a "Beloved Community" in that locality today, and ask, as Dr. King did in his final book, "Where do we go from here?" All events are free and open to the public. 

Join us tomorrow, March 1, for our first Beloved Community Conversation, where I will moderate a panel discussion that includes: 
  • Virginia Union graduate student Jamar A. Boyd II, 
  • Delegate Delores McQuinn (70th District), 
  • Ben Ragsdale,   
  • Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville, Richmond's First Baptist Church,  
  • Virginia Union Vice President Dr. Corey Walker, and 
  • Rev. Janie Walker , Richmond Hill 
You can view the event flyer here
The roundtables are part of the Commission's King in Virginia project, which is working to research, compile, and exhibit information on Dr. King's visits to Virginia. The dozens of visits Dr. King made to the state include significant time in Richmond, where he often spoke at Virginia Union University and lead a march on the Virginia State Capitol to urge the reopening of public schools that had closed in resistance to desegregation. Working with historians and researchers, as well as community members who have witnessed Dr. King's influence in Virginia firsthand, the King in Virginia project is assembling an archive, to be made publicly and permanently accessible online, that will document Dr. King's time in Virginia. 


My Legislation
Last week, three of my bills passed the House and now await action by the Governor:
  • SB 287 requiring the Commissioner of Health to share information in the Statewide Trauma Registry with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to allow DARS to develop programs for persons suffering from spinal cord injuries; 
  • SB 906 creating a master barber license to grandfather those barbers who were trained and licensed to provide out-of-scope services before the barber licensing requirements were changed; and 
  • SB 908 authorizing localities, higher ed institutions, community colleges, and state parks to locate/operate a retail fee-based electric vehicle charging stations.
Three of my bills reported out of House committees unanimously and will be voted on by the full House next week:
  • SB 291 codifying electronic services that DMV created under 1991 budget authority to provide simple, fast, efficient, and secure titling and registration of vehicles for customers and lien holders; 
  • SB 356 amending the City of Richmond charter to establish the Office of the Inspector General; and
  • SB 359 allowing the DMV Commissioner to authorize retired local law enforcement personnel with the proper training and qualifications to teach driver education. Current law only allows the Commissioner to allow retired Virginia State Police officers to teach drivers education.
Despite passing the Senate 35-4, SB 293authorizing a limited pharmacy license for nonprofit clinics to dispense contraception and STD treatment drugs onsite was defeated on a party-line vote in a House Health, Welfare, and Institutions subcommittee.

Finally, SB 290 providing more flexibility to all localities in adopting Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinances was carried over to the 2019 Session by a House Counties, Cities, and Towns subcommittee.  The Committee intends to refer the issue to the Housing Commission.  In the meantime, I plan to convene a working group with relevant stakeholders over the year on how to increase available affordable housing units to address the shortage facing over 188,000 households that did not have access to affordable housing in 2017.  A recent analysis conducted by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition outlines this affordable housing gap, which you can read here.

I am eager to hear from you on issues you care about. To share your views on legislation, contact my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov. You can also stop by my office in the Pocahontas Building at 900 East Main Street. My offices are located in E512.
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by following me on Twitterliking my Facebook page, and following me on Instagram.
Jennifer L. McClellan
Senate of Virginia, 9th District