The 2017 Virginia General Assembly is approaching its final days, and Delegates and Senators are currently working through differences in the House and Senate budgets to produce a final package, which will be voted on next week before the session ends.
Conference staff is hard at work lobbying budget conferees to include the Hyde Amendment restrictions against abortion funding in the final budget, as well as funding for key social safety net programs, including Medicaid waivers for Virginians with disabilities, housing for the mentally ill and increased TANF funding. We are also urging the budget conferees to strip the budget of Gov. McAuliffe’s proposed contraception pilot program aimed at low-income women and girls.
Here’s a look at how Conference priorities fared this week:
Defunding the Abortion Industry: A bill HB 2264 (Del. Cline) that would direct tax dollars away from the abortion industry passed the Senate on Tuesday in a 20-19 vote. A top priority for the Conference, the bill will now go to Gov. McAuliffe’s desk. This measure passed the General Assembly last year, but the governor vetoed it in a ceremony at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Religious Liberty: In a 21-19 vote, the full Senate approved HB 2025 (Delegate Freitas) to protect the right of religious organizations, including charities and schools, to follow the teaching that marriage is the union of a man and a woman without being penalized by the state. The bill – among the Conference’s top priorities – is the same as SB 1324 (Senator Carrico), which also passed the Senate by the same vote earlier this month.
Immigrant Communities: Along with other faith groups, the Conference saw a major victory in the defeat of HB 2000 (Del. Poindexter), which would have effectively forced local law enforcement in the Commonwealth to bear responsibility for enforcing federal immigration law. We stand with the Commonwealth’s police chiefs in opposing this bill, understanding that it would strain local law enforcement agencies’ budgets, jeopardize their relationships with the communities they serve and make those same communities less safe. Though this bill passed the House last week, it stalled in the Senate Committee on Local Government in a 6-6-1 vote, thanks to Sen. Hanger’s abstention!
Refugee Resettlement: HB 2002 (Del. Poindexter) has passed the Senate in a 21-19 vote. It attempts to place redundant regulations on refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, to report statistical information about their ministries’ activities to the state. Much of this information is already regularly provided to both the Commonwealth and to the federal government. This law adds additional red tape to the resettlement process while doing nothing to address fears related to national security. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk.
Education Opportunities for At-Risk Children: In a 10-12 vote, the House Finance Committee defeated Conference-supported SB 1427 (Sen. Stanley), which would have made low-income pre-K students eligible for the Education Improvement Scholarships tax credit program.
Special thanks to all those in our network who have been taking action on our alerts. We had some key victories by very close votes. Your advocacy matters and makes a big difference!