Showing posts with label Virginia general assembly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia general assembly. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Virginia General Assembly Adjorns, Passes Budget

Virginia's House and Senate unanimously passed amendments to the state's $80 billion budget Sunday, ending the 2011 General Assembly one day late.

The compromise government spending blueprint through June 2012 offers more aid for public schools, for the profoundly disabled and for state and local government pensioners. It also provides state aid to brake the meteoric rise in tuition at state-supported colleges and universities.

However, Gov. Bob McDonnell ended up with only about a fifth of the $150 million he asked for in December for transportation from last year's general fund budget and reductions he sought for school funding were reversed. Plums he proposed for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and a 2012 sailing regatta were rejected by House and Senate members.

McDonnell said he was strongly considering restoring some of the funding for transportation when he sends the budget bill back to legislators for the April 6 veto session.

The House and Senate did give the Democratic governor a victory by passing the transportation funding package he proposed, including about $3 billion in debt. It represents the biggest state cash infusion for Virginia highway upkeep and construction in 25 years.

It passed on a 97-0 vote in the House and a 40-0 vote in the Senate, the first time in years that it cleared without dissent. Before they left, legislators reconvened in a special session and recessed until April 4, the day they return to begin redrawing the state's House and Senate districts.

The budget does some deferred state fiscal housekeeping, depositing $114 million into the "rainy day" reserves depleted by a three-year economic downturn. That was $64 million more than McDonnell sought.

It also gives a break to most of the state's merchants by ending the accelerated sales tax. That means that only the largest retailers still have to send the state two checks -- for June and July sales tax collections -- instead of one. The sales-tax speedup was enacted at the depth of the recession to help cover a budget shortfall.

Public schools receive about $75 million more than the $5.5 billion that McDonnell had proposed while the House wanted to cut McDonnell's proposal by about $93 million.

Also included in the sweetened sum is about $16 million that prevents continued losses among the state's smallest and poorest school districts.

Public television's state support was cut by about $400,000, or one-tenth, but it survived the elimination of all state aid the House had proposed.

Teachers and state employees hired before last July 1 avoid a 2 percent net pay cut they would have taken under McDonnell's budget. The new budget places on employees the responsibility for paying a 5 percent share of their retirement into the Virginia Retirement System. But it provides $7 million to offset the burden by providing a 5 percent public employee raise, their first since 2007. McDonnell's budget provided only a 3 percent raise.

To slow recent state college tuition spikes, the budget allocates more than $100 million for financial aid and to increase the number of slots for in-state students at flagship state universities such as Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia.

Also addressed was a scathing Justice Department report on major deficiencies in the outmoded hospital-style institutions where the intellectually disabled are warehoused. The budget provided at least $30 million more in emergency funding.

The money goes into a new Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Trust Fund that McDonnell proposed to take urgent steps to head off a federal lawsuit alleging Virginia has flaunted the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It also provides nearly $47 million to help the disabled and mentally ill move into community care facilities supported under Medicaid.

The budget restores more than $64 million for reimbursements to Medicaid providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and dentists, who were facing reductions on July 1.

Businesses get some breaks. About $6 million in fees are eliminated, including fees the Health Department imposes for inspections that are as high as $285 for restaurants and $100 for other businesses.

There are about $10 million worth of tax incentives for Virginia vineyards and ports and for research and development.

But McDonnell got only about half of the $3 million increase he wanted in a discretionary fund his administration could use to romance Hollywood into filming blockbusters in Virginia.

Lawmakers rejected McDonnell's proposal to spend nearly $70 million to keep up with explosive growth in the state's civil commitment program for sexually violent predators. Instead, they authorized the double-bunking of up to 150 of the more than 200 sex offenders being held at a Burkeville psychiatric facility for treatment after their prison sentences have ended.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Judge Tyler Retires -- Now We Have NO Judge

Circuit court Judge Glen Tyler officially retired as of Friday. Tyler has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. As of now, there's no replacement in sight for the 20 year veteran judge. The General Assembly has not included funds for new judges in it's proposed 2011 budget.

Judges from Virginia Beach will try to cover the needs of the Eastern Shore unless Delegate Lynn Lewis and Senator Ralph Northam can convince the legislature to appoint a successor. Citing the travel distance from Virginia Beach, the uniqueness of the Eastern Shore and the need to have a judge who is familiar with the community,Lewis and Northam hope the General Assembly will make an exception and fill this particular vacancy.

There are several candidates for the posititon. The local Bar Association has recommended Accomac Attorney W.Revell Lewis.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday- Virginia General Assembly

Virginia Becomes First State in Union to Ban Federally Mandated Health Insurance

Virginia's General Assembly became the first in the nation Wednesday to approve legislation that bucks any attempt by President Barack Obama and Congress to implement a national health care overhaul in individual states.

The Republican-ruled House of Delegates, with wide Democratic support, voted 80-17 without debate for the largely symbolic step aimed at the Democratic-backed reforms pushed by Obama and stalled in Congress. The vote sends the measure to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell who intends to sign it.

Thirty-four other state legislatures have either filed or proposed similar measures statutes or constitutional amendments rejecting health insurance mandates, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Obama carried Virginia in his historic ride to the presidency in 2008, the first Democrat to do so in a presidential race in 44 years. But since then, the tide has turned. Virginia's Republicans routed Democrats in last year's gubernatorial and legislative elections, partly because of public distrust of Democrats' proposed health care reforms.

GOP lawmakers expedited the bill and three others like it as a legislative statement reflecting broad voter discontent over the proposed reforms. Virginia's legislative session is, on average, the nation's briefest, and the bill passed four days ahead of Saturday's scheduled adjournment.

The legality of bills like Virginia's is questionable because courts generally rule that federal laws supersede those of the states.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, and other supporters advocated the measure as a defiant statement to an overreaching federal government. They say it falls under the Constitution's 10th Amendment that deals with state sovereignty. Marshall said he expects the law to be challenged and ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"There are limited powers the federal government has. Simply because of the supremacy clause, it doesn't mean anything that the Congress does, in fact, must be enforced at all levels of government in the United States," Marshall said in an interview after his bill won passage.

"It gives the state of Virginia the right to intervene on behalf of individuals should they decide not to pay for insurance and they refuse to pay the fine or they refuse to pay the fee or the tax or whatever you call it," he said.

Separate bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate would impose a penalty on people who don't have health insurance except in cases of financial hardship. The intent of the mandate is to expand the pool of people who are insured and paying premiums and thus offset the increased costs of insuring those with preexisting conditions or other risks.

More distressing for Virginia Democrats was that 21 of their 39 delegates in the 100-member House sided with the GOP in defying the initiative that is their party's national priority.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Radar Detector Bill Advances in the General Assembly

Seems that Virginia's radar ban that was enacted in the 1970's may be on the way out

On Thursday a bill advanced, with an 11-8 vote in the General Assembly. Virginia is the last state that still bans the use of detectors in vehicles. Many opponets say that allowing radar detectors in vehicles will encourabe drivers to speed up.

Now I don't know how they can possibly go any faster on any road down here. But it sure will give drivers a heads up on getting busted for speeding! At the rate of speed some of these drivers are going I'm not quite sure they'll be able to slow down.

And don't think you're fooling anyone. If an officer sees a radar detector or any part of one in your car he will stop you. And it's quite possible he will ticket you.