Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Veto Session and House Budget

Today is the reconvened session of the General Assembly where the House and the Senate meet to take up bills that have vetoed by the Governor and bills where the Governor made recommendations to the bills. This year the VEA had no veto requests. That is huge change. Last year we asked that the Governor veto six different pieces of legislation. Elections matter! We were able to kill all the really bad bills during session. That made today's veto session anti-climactic, but we will take that!

While today feels like a victory, not having to ask for vetoes is not the war we are trying to win. It is a battle for sure, but we have work to do. We need not only stop the bad stuff, but pass the really important bills and secure the funding necessary to meet our school's needs. So we celebrate today, but we get back to work tomorrow.

Here's why we need to work. Yesterday the House of Delegates passed biennial budget that expands Medicaid and invests in our public schools. They did this during the Special Session that is also going on- yes, two kinds of session at one time, fun.  The Senate has yet to take action on a any budget during Special Session. They are going to start that work this afternoon when the Senate Fiance Committee meets. The rumor is that we won't have a budget until mid-May. Of course, if the Governor makes any changes to that budget, they General Assembly would have to come back to take up those changes. The state government is funded through June 30, so they have "time" until we would have shut down the state government. A shut down won't happen at the state level. We will have a budget by then , but we will have to see if the bodies can agree on Medicaid. If they do, our public schools would receive an additional $169 million, so this is a big deal.

Time will tell.

Friday, April 13, 2018

House of Delegates Continues Pursuit of Medicaid Expansion

This morning the House of Delegates took the first steps in the new budget battle. The House Appropriations Committee took up HB5001 and HB5002 which are Governor Northam's proposed budget bills (HB5001 is the Caboose budget to wrap up FY2018, HB5002 is the Biennial Budget).

The House Appropriations Committee voted 16-5 to report the budget bill with amendments. The important thing here is that the House has reported a budget bill that includes Medicaid expansion. That means we will see a floor vote in the House next week on their budget with a likely outcome that they will forward the Senate a budget with Medicaid expansion. Interestingly three members of the House Appropriations Committee changed their vote from the Medicaid expansion budget bill they considered in Committee during regular session. None of these flips ended up voting in favor of the budget on the floor, so these aren't lost votes, but still interesting in an otherwise uninteresting committee meeting.

Delegates Landes, Robinson, and Rush voted IN FAVOR of the House budget during session but against the new budget. All three were no votes on the final vote on the floor, so they clearly do not support Medicaid expansion. In the land of wonder and intrigue where my brain, sadly, goes during session, I am guessing they got some heat from their constituents on their inconsistency of position on expansion. I also think that there may have been some effort by at least one of these members to try to fence sit and appeal to both sides of the Medicaid fight with their split vote last time. Who knows. Regardless the House will, once again, consider a budget that expands Medicaid and INVESTS in VA!

Here is the vote from today's House Appropriations Committee. A "YES" vote was to expand Medicaid:
YEAS--Jones, S.C., Ingram, Peace, Knight, Garrett, Stolle, Pillion, Torian, Sickles, James, Carr, McQuinn, Aird, Tyler, Krizek, Bell, John J.--16.
NAYS--Landes, Poindexter, Rush, Robinson, Head--5.
NOT VOTING--Hayes--1.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

They're Back- 2018 Special Session

The General Assembly convened today for the Special Session called for by Governor Northam. They adjourned on March 10 without a budget, so the Governor has called them back to complete their work. If you follow this blog you know that the Governor's proposed budget (which is now Northam's) included an expansion of Medicaid. During the regular session the House also adopted a budget that included Medicaid expansion; the VA Senate did not.

The resulting chasm between the House and Senate budgets was over $600 million. The budget conferees could not come to a compromise on that budget, so they adjourned without one. Since the regular session adjourned without taking action on the budget, as if right now, neither the House nor the Senate has a budget. They have to start over. A few weeks ago Governor Northam introduced his budget and, today, the House will take up that budget.

For you wonky procedural folks, the interesting thing with the Governor's budget is that during the regular session, the General Assembly was actually considering Governor McAuliffe's budget that he announced in December 2017 before Governor Northam's inauguration. Since they adjourned without a budget during the regular session, all of the budget bills were dead and the process had to start over. That allowed Governor Northam to introduce a budget last month. His budget was almost identical to Governor McAuliffe's budget with some minor changes.

The House will start working on the budget on Friday when the House Appropriations Committee meets to take up members' amendments to Northam's budget. They will reconvene on Tuesday, April 17 to vote on their budget.

The rumor is that the Senate is not going to take up the Governor's budget, and they will wait to take up whatever budget the House sends to them. If that is the case, and it certainly appears to be, the earliest the Senate will get the budget is April 17 and then they will have to start their committee work and floor action. It seems that there is still no agreement on the budgets, so they Senate will take a few days to go through their budget process and then budget conferees will be named. With that timeline it seems unlikely there will be an adopted budget before May 1.There is a whole lot of gamemanship going on here at the Capitol.

As you may have seen, there does seem to be some breaks in the Senate Republican Caucus on Medicaid expansion. Senator Frank Wagner and Senator Emmett Hanger have both stated their willingness to move Virginia to some form of expansion. There only needs to be one who breaks from the caucus on this, but no one has yet seemed willing to step completely out on his own. We will see as the budget battle continues.