State ISSUES –2015
Action Alert! Where are we in the Legislative Process
February 28th marked the conclusion of the 2015 General Assembly Session -- SALT highlights.
SALT General Assembly Outcomes:
- SALT Victory! Increases TANF benefits by 2.5% passed. The very First TANF increase since 2000 –it took 15 years! The prior increase was in 1985---it took 15 years too!
- Provides a $100 per student back to-school benefit by Sen. Colgan and Del. Lingamfelter defeated.
- Ends lifetime ban on TANF recipiency for people with drug related felonies. Passed by the Senate and then defeated by a most unusual vote to reconsider by Senate.
- SALT Victory! BILL DEFEATED! SALT worked in coalition with VADP and VCC. House rejected bill to keep execution drugs secret! The House of Delegates voted 56-42 to defeat a measure that would have shrouded Virginia's lethal injection process in secrecy.
Medicaid Expansion Legislation
The 2015 General Assembly session may be over, but one big problem remains: lawmakers still refuse to close the health care coverage gap. A favorite smokescreen is the claim that Medicaid needs to be reformed before it can be expanded. However, this claim neglects the fact that recent Medicaid reforms are not only in place in Virginia, but are exceeding expectations. --The Commonwealth Institute
The Virginia Senate Finance Committee and House of Delegates Appropriations Committee chose to exclude Medicaid expansion from the budget and instead, they want to increase state General Fund dollars to free clinics and community health centers. However, we believe Medicaid expansion would enhance the entire health care delivery system in Virginia and is a better solution.
Virginians are already paying for Medicaid expansion through our federal tax dollars. Since our state lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid, we are losing that money. We are disappointed that our lawmakers are ignoring the basic needs of 400,000 people, most of whom are employed taxpayers in the Commonwealth.
Keep advocating for a real solution for those 400,000 Virginians because the people of the Commonwealth deserve better.
Breaking News! VIRGINIA GOVERNOR McAuliffe BANS THE BOX WITH EXECUTIVE ORDER
Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 41, which reforms state hiring practices by removing questions regarding criminal history from employment applications. The Order makes clear that criminal history shall not be a determining factor in employment decisions, unless an individual’s criminal history bears specific relation to the job for which they are being considered. “In a new Virginia economy, people who make mistakes and pay the price should be welcomed back into society and given the opportunity to succeed,” Governor McAuliffe said about the Order.
As you know, “Ban the Box” legislation was a top SALT priority during the 2015 General Assembly session. SALT & VA-CURE partner made a compelling case for “Ban the Box”: "Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison. These new (“Ban the Box”) laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier.”
“Ban the Box”-- SB 1017 Introduced by: Senator Rosalyn Dance
John: SB 1017, like its House twin HB 1680, were both carried over to 2016 so that the identified procedural issues could be addressed by a bit of draftsmanship. We do not really have the ability in our short session to redraft bills in subcommittee, but as the members of the subcommittee advised both Senator Dance and Delegate Carr, we are committed to implement this good curative concept and give it force of law.
Look for these bills to come back in 2016 in an improved and ready-for-approval. Best regards,
J. Randall Minchew Member, 10th District Virginia House of Delegates
John: I was at the civil law subcommittee when they killed SB 1017. You need to know there is a lot of interest in the bill and I think there is a great possibility that it could become law in the next year.
Victory for Immigrant Communities
We can finally report that the in-state tuition bill HB1356 (Rep. Ramadan) that would strip DACA holders of in-state tuition and HB 1328 (Rep. Cole) that would have required public school principals to inquire about and report to the state the immigration status of children, have been left in committee where they have died by not being heard before crossover.
This is a HUGE victory for the immigrant communities of Virginia because it means that the General Assembly is not willing to go on-record in supporting anti-immigrant legislation. In other words, political leaders who used to support anti-immigrant legislation are realizing the importance of immigrant communities in their districts and to their reelection efforts.
We thank everybody who has been advocating against these bills and who have been very active during this year’s General Assembly. Congratulations to our SALT partner --Edgar Aranda-Yanoc
Chair, Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO)
Secretive execution drug bill defeated!
SALT opposed a bill, pursued aggressively by the state Department of Corrections, that would have given special secret status to pharmacies to compound execution drugs from scratch using undisclosed materials. Ironically, this measure was proposed in the wake of recent botched executions in Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma that demonstrate the need for more transparency, not less. Its passage seemed almost certain after being approved 23-14 on the Senate floor and then 12-6 in a House committee. But on the House floor, Delegates LeMunyon and Surovell led a highly effective debate that accentuated many of the bill’s legal and anti-transparency problems. Persuaded by this momentum-shifting debate, legislators on opposite ends of the political spectrum and on both sides of the death penalty issue joined together to defeat the bill in a decisive 56-42 vote.
Here's an update on some of our top issues and bills as of 2-15-15:
- House Health Welfare and Institutions committee passed (21Y-1N); House HHR subcommittee of Appropriations killed HB 1569 the TANF Ban Opt Out to Lift the Federal TANF Ban by Delegate Orrock 2/3/15.
- Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services voted (8Y –7N); Senate Finance HHR subcommittee passed unanimously and Senate Finance voted (2N) SB 819 the TANF Ban Opt Out to Lift the Federal TANF Ban by Senator Favola 2/3/15. SB 819 was killed on reconsideration on the Senate floor 20-18.
- Senate General Laws passed SB 1017 “Ban the Box” by Senator Dance (8Y –7N); The full Senate passed “Ban the Box” (19Y –19N)—with the Lt Governor breaking the tie vote. Yesterday, the bill finally passed 21-17.(Senate SB 1017 & its House twin HB 1680)House: Courts sub: Civil Law - killed our “Ban the Box “ bill SB 1017 & HB 1680 on a voice vote.
- SB 1421 BackPack bill was taken up by the HHR Subcommittee of Senate Finance and reported out by a unanimous vote. 02/03/15 Senate: Reported from Finance with amendment (14-Y 0-N). Senate vote: passed unanimously. House HHR SubC defeated on a voice vote.
- Budget Amendment Item 335 #1s to increase TANF Benefits included in Senate Budget.
- Budget Amendment Item 341 #8s Backpack to equip kids in low income families to learn in Senate Budget
Virginia’s Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee chose to exclude Medicaid expansion from Virginia’s budget. Instead, they want to increase general-fund dollars directed to free clinics and community health centers. This is analogous to having health coverage available to cover a surgical procedure but choosing to pay out of one’s own pocket for all the associated expenses.
Virginians have already paid the taxes for Medicaid expansion. It makes no sense that these tax dollars would not go to overburdened hospitals and health-care facilities in Virginia; doing so could produce about 30,000 new jobs in the commonwealth and lower health-care costs for all Virginians. Not expanding Medicaid is foolish, unnecessarily costs taxpayers and fails to cover the thousands in need of health coverage. Our legislators are not being wise stewards.
Coverage Gap: Del. O'Bannon announced a health care budget proposal from the House that will provide a $124 million health care package for low-income Virginians, including those with serious mental illness. While we are glad the House is recognizing the need to do something, the proposal is only a very small step. The House has the power to address uninsured, low-income Virginians in a very comprehensive way. If they really want to help, the House would Close the Coverage Gap for 400,000 very low income Virginians by using available federal dollars to expand coverage. On Sunday, we will learn more about the details of the House plan, and we will also see what the Senate proposes.
Ban the Box message from legislator: Dear Mr. Horejsi, SB 1017 by Senator Rosalyn Dance, like its House twin HB 1680 by Delegate Betsy Carr, were both carried over to 2016 so that the identified procedural issues could be addressed by a bit of draftsmanship. We do not really have the ability in our short session to redraft bills in subcommittee, but as the members of the subcommittee advised both Senator Dance and Delegate Carr, we are committed to implement this good curative concept and give it force of law. Look for these bills to come back in 2016 in an improved and ready-for-approval. J. Randall Minchew, 10th District Delegate
Ban the Box Message from an advocate: I was at the civil law subcommittee when they killed SB 1017. You need to know there is a lot of interest in the bill and I think there is a great possibility that it could become law in the next year. I would urge you not to act hastily in response to what happened yesterday. Keep your powder dry, as they say.
Please fully support SB 1017! Ban the Box is a top priority for SALT--A compelling case for “Ban the Box”: Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison. These new (“Ban the Box”) laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier to self improvement.
Ban the Box: Businesses are missing out on qualified applicants because they are making assumptions about ex-offenders before interviewing them. Employers have the right to know a potential employee’s criminal background, but should not be allowed to discriminate based on that one factor, especially where the charges are irrelevant to the particular position sought. SB 1017 is about giving people the ability to successfully re-integrate into society by helping them get past the first hurdle in the job application process - by "Banning the Box".
HB 1569 TANF; eligibility, drug-related felonies. Robert D. Orrock, Sr. R-54| Provides that a person who is otherwise eligible to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families assistance shall not be denied assistance solely because he has been convicted of a felony offense of possession of a controlled substance, provided that he complies with all obligations imposed by the court and the Department of Social Services, is actively engaged in or has completed a substance abuse treatment program, and participates in drug screenings. The bill provides that a person who fails or refuses to participate in periodic drug testing or who tests positive for the use of illegal substances shall be ineligible to receive TANF benefits for a period of 12 months; however, the person is given one opportunity during the 12-month period to comply with the testing requirement and be reinstated to eligibility for TANF benefits. 01/22/15 House: Reported from Health, Welfare and Institutions with amendment (21-Y 1-N) 01/27/15 House: Assigned App. sub: Health & Human Resources,02/03/15 House: Subcommittee recommends laying on the table by voice vote
Budget: The House passed its budget bill by a vote of 81-18. Now to Conference.
Everything in Richmond has been on a fast track more than any previous year. See bill summaries below.
We need to keep reminding legislators that cutting human services hurts the kids and adds to the schools burdens!
Until Virginia expands Medicaid, people will suffer needlessly! Success requires the heavy lifting of all of us—to help set things right. Your advocacy support helps us do that! Keep advocating.
Here are SALT priorities updates with the bill numbers and Patrons. SALT will provide Fact Sheets talking points as bills advance.
Salt Legislative Updates
(2014 GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION)
Policies Amended, Effective April 21
Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law amendments to Virginia's Restoration of Rights Policy, which controls the process by which rehabilitated felons can have their voting rights restored. Read more.
May 8, 2014 is our big day! Regulations Limiting use of restraints on pregnant prisoners in Virginia go into effect. This message from Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran:
“I'm glad I was able to move these to the Governor who gave quick approval”.
SALT wants to be sure everyone knows that our coalition got the anti-shackling regulations moving and published in the Virginia Register. Following the comment period, the regulations went into effect May 8th.
Congratulations to Delegate Patrick Hope & Delegate LeMunyon for their leadership and to all partners and advocates. Advocacy works. Keep on advocating. john
Governor Terry McAuliffe Signs Shared Work Bill
Persistence by Virginia Advocates and Legislators Results in Victory for
Employers and Workers
After three years of determined public advocacy and the tireless efforts of patrons in the Virginia General Assembly, short-time compensation was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe on May 23, 2014. Short-time compensation is a layoff aversion program that targets job preservation. It combines a pay check with partial unemployment benefits. Often called shared work or work sharing, short-time compensation allows employers during business slumps to reduce the number of hours of work for all employees or for a work unit rather than totally laying off some workers. It saves jobs during tough times
Bills Abolishing Geriatric Parole for Inmates Who Were Subject to a Protective Order in Favor of the Victim of Their Offense
SALT joined with VA-CURE to urge Gov. McAuliffe to Veto two geriatric parole bills for the reasons outlined in our SALT letter to Gov. McAuliffe. This note from Governors Chief of staff: “ Thanks for your note on this.
We are looking at this issue now. Best, Paul Reagan”
Please thank Governor McAuliffe for doing the right thing by vetoing these bills. Having won this one, means the work has just begun to pass a reasonable and clean bills in the next General Assembly session. Now, let's plan to advocate for it in the 2015 session. – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a pair of bills dealing with parole for geriatric prisoner.
Click here to read SALT Letter to Governor McAuliffe and article from the Daily Press Monday May 26, 2014.
Bills Abolishing Geriatric Parole for Inmates Who Were Subject to a Protective Order in Favor of the Victim of Their Offense
The parole bill would have made prisoners facing a restraining or protective order ineligible for the state’s geriatric parole program, which is available to people 60 or older. McAuliffe said he had constitutional problems with the bill. He said the bill also would have allowed victims to get protective orders against inmates years after the crime was committed, “potentially overruling parole board decisions” and leading to litigation.
“It is the Parole Board's duty to carefully weigh an inmate's eligibility for geriatric release,” McAuliffe said in his veto letter. “This bill potentially strips that discretionary decision-making process and places Virginia's parole system into question.” TRAVIS FAIN--
Some good news on one of the session's big issues: whether Virginia would join 25 other states in extending health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of people through expansion of the Medicaid program. A major sticking point has been how much Medicaid expansion would cost us over the next several years. While earlier estimates calculated that the cost of Medicaid expansion would be around $137 million over the next few years, newly released estimates, based on the experience of other states that have already accepted Federal funds for this program, show that Medicaid expansion would actually save Virginia over a billion dollars between now and the year 2022.
The decision to expand or not expand Medicaid is much more complex than a "take it or leave it" decision. The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is responsible for verifying the implementation of Medicaid reform that is needed to consolidate support systems and service delivery, and to streamline eligibility and verification on individuals that qualify for related programs.
It is SALTs position that if Virginia is already going to be funding this program, that Virginia should support a mechanism to recoup the dollars paid to the federal government in new taxes; and the program must be established in a PRODUCTIVE, and ECONOMICALLY RESPONSIBLE way to serve all the citizens of the Commonwealth.
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