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.