This week at the 2018 Virginia General Assembly: Week 7
With the second half of the 2018 General Assembly session in full-swing legislators are considering legislation from the other side of the Capitol as well as ironing out the state’s budget. It made for another busy week in Richmond.
Here’s how our issues fared this week:
Ensuring Virginia conforms to federal Hyde Amendment: On Thursday, the House voted on a party line 50-49 vote to keep the Hyde Amendment (LaRock) in its budget. On a non-recorded vote, the Senate failed to add the Hyde Amendment to its budget (introduced, Black). Federal policy for 40 years which is followed by the majority of states, the Hyde Amendment limits government funding of abortion to cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger. Virginia goes beyond this, also funding abortions in cases where the child may be born with certain disabilities. We will continue urging budget conferees to include Hyde in the final budget as they reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget.
Defunding Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives: The Conference opposed language in both the House and Senate budgets which included millions of dollars for a pilot program that promotes long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women and teens, without parental involvement. The House rejected an attempt (LaRock) to remove this funding from the budget. Much of this money will go to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, unless an amendment is made by budget conferees. The Conference also opposed a bill (SB 293, McClellan) that would have given organizations like Planned Parenthood special exceptions to enable them to obtain a license at a reduced fee to dispense controlled substances (including LARCs) more easily. Though legally a nonprofit, Planned Parenthood takes in enormous revenues: $1.46 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, netting $98.5 million over expenses. Nearly $544 million, or 37% of total revenue, is from taxpayers’ dollars. That bill was defeated 6-4 in a subcommittee.
Health care access: Medicaid expansion remains in the balance. On Thursday, the House voted 69-31 to use federal funds to provide private health insurance for low-income Virginians who are up to 138% of the poverty level and do not qualify for Medicaid. Some 20 Republicans and 49 Democrats came together in a bipartisan effort. The Senate, however, failed to provide this coverage, by a party-line 21-19 vote. Now the House and Senate versions of the budget will go to negotiations. Be on the lookout for action next week to support closing the health coverage gap.
Student discipline: The Conference supports efforts to reform public school suspension policies in favor of discipline geared toward restorative justice and rehabilitation. HB 1600 (Bourne) would limit the length of long-term suspensions to 45 days, unless aggravating circumstances exist. Having already passed the House, the bill has now passed the Senate Education and Health Committee in a 13-1 vote.
Immigration: Two Conference-supported proposals that did not receive consideration in House committees were offered as amendments to the state budget on the House floor. Item 4-.01 #1h (Lopez) would have clarified that all tax-paying Virginians who are permanent residents are eligible for in-state tuition, including Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children. It was defeated in a 51-48 vote. Item 442 #1h (Boysko) sought to implement a Department of Motor Vehicles plan, carrying no fiscal impact, to issue temporary driving privilege cards to Virginia residents regardless of immigration status. It was also narrowly rejected, 51-48.
Meanwhile, as the Conference focused on issues in Richmond, it is also working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to encourage Catholics to participate in a critical national call-in day to Congress on Monday, Feb. 26. Some 1.8 million young people who were brought to this country by adults when they were only children – and for whom the U.S. is the only country they know – could face deportation in early March. We urge Virginians to take a few minutes on Monday to call their U.S. representatives and senators and urge them to find a bi-partisan, just and humane solution to the problem facing these young Dreamers. See talking points and phone numbers here.