Gaveled into session on January 10th, the 2018 General Assembly Session is now in full swing. As always on even years, the General Assembly meets for 60 rather than 45 days to consider legislation. Although longer, the even-year session moves just as fast, as legislators plow through many bills and budget amendments.
In light of news in New Orleans, Baltimore, and the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist unpleasantness and murder in Charlottesville, Confederate monuments and their future are even more in the news. In my view, there is only one venue to discuss locally erected monuments and that is in that locality--it is an opportunity for everyone to learn and re-learn our local history. For the most part, that is the law today, although there is ongoing litigation that could change the status quo and prevent the removal of any monument regardless of the context surrounding its erection.
Last month, the widening of the 3.6-mile-long section of Route 1, stretching between Mount Vernon Highway and Telegraph Road was finally completed. This $180 million federally-funded project will not only help eliminate congestion in one of the busiest corridors of the County, but it will also drastically improve public access to Fort Belvoir. The project funding, justified by the addition of the new hospital, was secured by Congressman Jim Moran, adjusting to meet the considerably more complicated rules concerning earmarks.
Last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who serves as Vice Chair of President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, requested extensive election data and confidential voter information from all 50 states. Under the guise of investigating “widespread voter fraud” in the 2016 election, the Commission requested a list of all registered voters, their addresses, date of birth, voting histories, political affiliations, and the last four digits of their social security numbers. On a bi-partisan basis, this request has not been received well.
A major problem facing 43rd district residents is the declining use of Metrorail and the consequent increase in single passenger cars on the road. For all those who depend on Metro for their daily commute, and for those like myself who use Metro several times a week, we have a lot at stake in turning WMATA around.
Medicaid is a federal-state partnership that covers health care for poorer children, the blind, aged and disabled. It has grown because fewer employers provide coverage, increased assistance for the severely disabled, and aging baby boomers--Medicaid covers two-thirds of our nursing home population. In Virginia, Medicaid is a 50-50 match and, at 22 percent, is the second largest spending category in the State budget after K-12 education. Despite this growth, Virginia is ranked 47th in the nation in Medicaid spending.
Today the House of Delegates easily passed amendments to the two-year budget, closing a billion dollar hole caused by slower revenue growth than predicted. The House scraped together some fund balances, eliminated a few Governor McAuliffe initiatives, and borrowed well over $500 million from the rainy day fund. Under Virginia law, the General Assembly can borrow from the fund when certain assumed revenue measures are not realized. The Code section is complicated but there are strict rules about when the money has to be paid back.
Yesterday’s session was relatively short. The day after Crossover tends to be slow because the House committees are just starting to hear the Senate-passed bills. The only real business before the body was the confirmation of gubernatorial appointments. We also put the budget amendments in proper form for debate tomorrow.
School funding and teacher salaries have been a hot topic of discussion over the past couple of years in Fairfax County. As you may know, the Commonwealth distributes K-12 funding through a formula called the Local Composite Index (LCI), a formula based on land value and income that discriminates against “wealthy” areas. The formula is “rebenchmarked” biennially to reflect updated costs and the relative property values and incomes around the Commonwealth.
In the run up to Crossover, floor sessions become lengthy as each body passes judgment on a wide range of legislation. For those of you not familiar with the term, Crossover is the point after which each body of the General Assembly can only consider legislation passed by the other body. Today is that day.