State ISSUES –2015
Action Alert! Where are we in the Legislative Process
Big news! Two of SALT’s top priorities are in the Senate Budget
Bill-wise, each house is at the crossover deadline—the date by which the House and Senate are required to finish working on bills originating in their respective chamber. Each house now works on the other’s bills. Also, each house is protective of its own bills, and when a similar one comes across from the other house, it is usually “conformed” to its original. When the same bill passes both houses but has been amended by one, creating a variation, a committee conference on that bill is created to work out the differences.
Budget-wise, each house has adopted its own, rejected the other’s, forcing the all important budget conference whose work will continue up until the last day, February 28th. This is where, for bills and the budget, our e-mails, faxes and phone calls are key—directed to those (conferees) from the House and the Senate appointed to the conference committee.
Big news! Two of SALT’s top priorities are in the Senate Budget (Urgently! Send the following messages NOW to all conferees):
Support Budget Item 335 #1s - Increases TANF temporary assistance by 2.5% — To provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives. We should not miss the opportunity to take prudent steps to alleviate poverty and protect families. Strong families are as important to Virginia’s future as schools and roads.
Support Budget Item 341 #8s - Provides a $100 per student back to-school allowance for BackPacks, School supplies, winter coats and shoes---By helping Virginia’s poor children prepare for school, we can offer at least some of the means to help them get back to school with confidence and be ready for learning. Help kids in need to start school strong! Equip kids to learn!
Budget conferees (Delegate & Senate conferees are identified below--Let all of them them hear from you NOW! ) john
Budget opportunity lawmakers will miss
The state budget, crafted nearly a year ago as state revenue faltered, is on the mend. As proposals unveiled this week by House of Delegates and Senate committees showed, the state's spending plan has improved. It reflects a turnaround in the state's fiscal outlook -for the lawmakers who happen to be up for re-election in the fall.
Revised revenue projections will provide legislators with more than $400 million, an enormous surprise given that they and Gov. Terry McAuliffe responded to last year's gloomy forecast by tapping reserve funds, slashing new spending and imposing other cost-control measures to close an anticipated $2.4 billion shortfall through 2016.
The revised outlook alleviates pressure to impose the fee increases that Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed in December, although their unwillingness to reduce ineffective tax credits - including a giveaway to the coal industry - remains indefensible. So does the Republican-led refusal to accept the obvious windfall that would come with accepting billions of federal dollars to expand health insurance coverage to 400,000 lower-income Virginians.
Is the turnaround in Virginia's financial fortunes worth celebrating, even if that recognition is tempered by the fact that legislators - in Virginia continue to oppose Medicaid expansion - have left billions more on the table.
Thanks so much for your support! Every voice helps bring attention to the marginalized segments of the population in Virginia who don't have a voice. Keep fighting the good fight!
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.
Oppose execution drug compounding:
SB 1393 – is not the solution! Join SALT in calling on Virginia Senators to abandon lethal injection and all other forms used to execute a human person convicted of a crime. Call on your Senator to do the right thing morally and fiscally. SALT opposes the death penalty, regardless of the method employed. The death penalty cannot be supported morally or fiscally, and is not a prudent use of taxpayer money.
Secrecy bill on execution drugs advances
A House panel on Monday backed legislation that would allow the state to prevent public disclosure of the manufacturers and drugs used in lethal injection executions in Virginia. Senate Bill 1393 advanced on a voice vote. The measure also would allow the Department of Corrections to contract with pharmacies to compound the drugs used in the lethal cocktail.
Panel votes down automatic restoration of rights in Virginia
A legislative panel rejected a proposal that could lead to automatically restoring rights of nonviolent felons after they have completed their sentences. Those qualified still must petition the governor to restore their rights. The resolution (SJ238) sought a constitutional amendment allowing the General Assembly to decide whether to automatically restore some rights, such as the right to vote, for nonviolent felons who have fully completed their sentences, including probation.
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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