Home Transportation BREAKING: Bob McDonnell Amends Transportation Bill to Pass Constitutional Muster

BREAKING: Bob McDonnell Amends Transportation Bill to Pass Constitutional Muster

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From the AP’s Bob Lewis:

Gov. Bob McDonnell has amended the transportation funding reform bill to potentially extend regional taxing authorities beyond Virginia’s urban areas to other areas statewide in an effort to satisfy concerns about its constitutionality.

Also, per the Pilot on Politics twitter feed, “Our sources were right @BobMcDonnell prps $64 alt car fee instd of $100.” Of course, that’s still $64 too much, still makes absolutely no sense, still penalizes people who are doing the right thing by going green(er). #FAIL

P.S. Speaking of #FAIL, McDonnell reportedly has also signed a bill requiring photo ID in Virginia. We’ll see you in court (and at the DOJ), governor!

UPDATE: McDonnell vetoes Arlington’s transient occupancy tax. Also, 7 other vetoes, 80 amendments to bills.

UPDATE #2: On HB1900 (“Health insurance reform; revises State’s laws.”), McDonnell adds, “No qualified health insurance plan that is sold or offered for sale through an exchange established or operating in the Commonwealth shall provide coverage for abortions, regardless of whether such coverage is provided through the plan or is offered as a separate optional rider thereto, provided that such limitation shall not apply to an abortion performed (i) when the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or (ii) when the pregnancy is the result of an alleged act of rape or incest”

UPDATE #3: Gov. McDonnell added 12 more judges, including 11 vacancies – based on workloads, and/or places with 2 vacancies, it fills at least one.

UPDATE #4: See the comments section of this diary for tons more info…

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    We’ll see him at the Department of Justice if – and it’s a big if – the Supreme Court doesn’t throw out that part of the Voting Rights Act, as it appears ready to do.

  • kindler

    …is a testament to the great work of Adam Ebbin and Scott Surovell.  

    Attention all VA Dems — that’s what leadership looks like.

  • Commonwealth of Virginia Office of Governor Bob McDonnell

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    March 26, 2013

    Contact: Jeff Caldwell

    Phone: (804) 225-4260

    Email: Jeff.Caldwell@Governor.Virginia.Gov

    Governor McDonnell Makes Amendments to Strengthen Major Transportation Package ~Edits to bill strengthen legal posture, adds lock boxes to safeguard new funds, reduces alternative vehicles fees, vehicle titling tax, and local taxes; maintains structure for long-term sustainable transportation solutions to improve job creation and quality of life~

    RICHMOND-Governor Bob McDonnell today completed his review of the major transportation funding compromise passed by the General Assembly in late February. The bill substantially meets the goals established by the governor when he called for transportation investment and reform to be a top priority during the 2013 General Assembly session. However, the governor has proposed amendments to ensure that the provisions of the legislation do not negatively impact Virginia businesses and citizens, that they comply with the Virginia Constitution, and that Virginia’s Executive Branch agencies can properly implement and administer the new and improved funding mechanisms.

    The bill reflects the principles of the governor’s introduced bill, which, as amended, reduces the gas tax by 35 percent and replaces it with a sales tax that grows with the economy, uses $200 million in current general funds, uses another $200 million in future general funds

    from the federal Marketplace Fairness Act, and ensures that alternative fuel vehicles pay a share of the maintenance of the roads.

    “Virginia is now faced with the need to invest in our transportation system to ensure that our highway, rail and public transportation infrastructure is safe, efficient and reliable for our more than 8 million citizens,” Governor McDonnell said. “I thank Republicans and Democrats in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate for working together across party, philosophical and regional lines to solve one of our most vexing and longstanding legislative challenges. For 27 years Virginians have sat in traffic while partisan differences over how to address these challenges have stalled progress. The transportation funding and reform package that passed the General Assembly last month was an innovative solution that represents a realization that we must invest in our infrastructure to ensure our continued economic prosperity, safe roads for our citizens to travel, and an enhancement in their quality of life.

    “In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed and signed legislation to more than double the national gasoline tax. When signing the bill, he said: ‘We simply cannot allow this magnificent [transportation] system to deteriorate beyond repair. The time has come to preserve what past Americans spent so much time and effort to create, and that means a nationwide conservation effort in the best sense of the word. America can’t afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems. The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.’

    “Virginia’s economy depends upon a safe, reliable, efficient transportation system spanning all areas of the Commonwealth. This is why I have substantially agreed to the provisions in the compromise bill that passed our legislature, but have proposed multiple amendments to limit what it asks Virginians to contribute, to address potential legal questions regarding the regional taxing authority, and to clarify many administrative and technical aspects of the bill.”

    Governor McDonnell’s key policy amendments include:

    *Reducing the proposed vehicle titling tax increase from 4.3 percent to 4.15 percent. After hearing from automobile dealers and constituents, the governor proposed this amendment to ensure the increase is reduced and does not adversely impact the number of vehicles purchased.

    *Reducing the Alternative Fuel Vehicles annual Fee from $100 to $64. The intent of this fee assessed to drivers of alternative fuel vehicles was to ensure that that are paying their share for the road maintenance and wear and tear caused by their vehicles. The original proposal for a $100 fee was based on a 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax. The conference report establishes a lower rate of taxation on gasoline. As such, this amendment ensures equity in how different types of vehicle fuels are taxed.

    *Correcting and reducing the rate of taxation for the regional congestion relief fee. The stated goal for this fee was to raise approximately $30 million per year. Based on slightly incorrect data, the fee was set at $0.25/$100 for real estate

    transactions. Utilizing correct data, a rate of $0.15/$100 will generate the same revenue of $30 million per year.

    *Reducing the Transient Occupancy Tax in Northern Virginia. At 3 percent, the TOT would place the tax in Northern Virginia near or above surrounding out-of-state jurisdictions. Reducing the rate to 2 percent will not significantly impact revenues, but will ensure Virginia’s hotels remain competitive.

    *Addressing potential legal questions regarding regional taxation authority for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Amendments are made to the sections imposing the regional taxes for transportation by the state to improve the legal posture of the law by changing the applicability of the taxes to any Planning District Commission meeting certain empirical thresholds including population, registered vehicles and transit ridership. Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are the only jurisdictions currently meeting these criteria, but in the future other parts of the Commonwealth could utilize these tools if their transportation challenges continue to grow.

    *Ensuring that Transportation generated by this legislation can only be used for transportation. General provisions were added to the legislation to ensure that funds provided for in the statewide funding and regional plans remain dedicated to transportation in the years ahead. In making this commitment to fund this core function of state government, Virginians expect that commitment to be honored and that this funding is used solely for the purpose for which it was intended. These amendments, combined with a series of technical and administrative amendments, will accomplish the goals established by the governor earlier this year by moving away from the declining gasoline tax and toward a more dynamic sales tax-based revenue source. The final version of HB2313 sponsored by speaker Bill Howell eliminates the 17.5 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, increases the state sales portion of the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, dedicates revenues for the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund and the Intercity Rail Operating and Capital Fund, and dedicates increased revenues for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund. Governor McDonnell’s amendments would still result in over $5.9 billion in total revenue for transportation over the next five years This long-term transportation plan will generate thousands of jobs, create hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provide the Commonwealth with the transportation infrastructure necessary to grow and prosper in the decades ahead. As a result of this plan, thousands of delayed construction and maintenance projects around the state will be funded, from widening I-64 between Newport News and Williamsburg, widening Route 28 in Northern Virginia, bringing down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and advancing the Silver Line, bringing Amtrak service to Roanoke, and helping to build the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. It will also eliminate the current unsustainable practice of taking money meant for new projects just to fund paving and pothole patching (currently equaling nearly $400 million annually). “If we do not act now to solve the Commonwealth’s transportation funding problem, the cost of delay will be much higher in the future” Governor McDonnell said. “I thank Speaker of the House Bill Howell for his leadership and many other persistent legislators to get this bill passed to ensure Virginian’s economic prosperity, and to provide safe roads for our citizens and the quality of life they deserve.” ###

  • Governor McDonnell Submits $14.1 million in

    2012-2014 Biennial Budget Amendments

    ~Includes $2 Million in Funding for Increases in Teacher

    Compensation; $1.6 Million for Economic Development, $2.14

    Million for Filling Judicial Vacancies, and $450,000 for Key

    Education Initiatives and Language to Clarify Medicaid

    Reforms~

    ~Legislative Information System Will Post Amendments on Tuesday ~

    Governor’s Budget Amendment Letter Available HERE

    RICHMOND – Last night, Governor Bob McDonnell submitted his amendments to the 2012-2014 biennial budget update passed by the General Assembly during the 2013 session. The governor sent 52 budget amendments prior to the midnight deadline for executive action.

    Governor McDonnell issued the following statement in regard to the budget amendments:

    “Over the past three years, we have demonstrated that principled, conservative leadership works. Those efforts have created a foundation for job creation and economic growth. Our commitment to sound governance demands that we eliminate inefficiency, set priorities and invest wisely. I am pleased that together with the members of the House and Senate, we have done that once again. We have made the hard decisions and chosen to budget responsibly in these uncertain economic times and by doing so we have taken significant steps to strengthening the fiscal security of the Commonwealth. This year we are dedicating $95 million toward future required deposits to the revenue stabilization fund and will increase the rainy day fund from $295 million in 2010 to nearly $800 million by FY2014. These are  investments that will pay dividends for generations.

    “We made clear our budget priorities from the beginning. We sought new investments in transportation, public education and water quality. We urged continued investment in higher

    education and job creation. We removed the burdensome $45 million across-the board budget cuts to localities and worked toward the removal of the accelerated sales tax, which is now eliminated for 98 percent of retailers. Though the budget as passed accomplishes much of what we set out to do, I submitted several amendments that will strengthen our plan.

    “While the enrolled bill achieves most of the major objectives I requested in my introduced budget, I am returning it with amendments to address five overarching themes: 1) continued efforts to address judicial workload and fill vacant judgeships, 2) provide general fund

    appropriations for select items that were funded by earmarks against dedicated funding streams, 3) restored reductions in several key areas, 4) necessary language changes, and 5) funding for new issues that have surfaced since you passed the budget bill in February. My spending

    amendments total just $14.1 million, the smallest adjustment of a budget post regular session by

    my administration.

    “Virginia’s excellent teachers sacrifice much to invest in the next generation of Virginia

    leaders. This year, we made it a priority to invest in them. My amendments add $2 million to the

    $5.5 million in new funding for strategic compensation for teachers on top of the 2 percent pay

    raise I proposed and the General Assembly accepted. This will allow local school divisions to

    reward and retain our best performing teachers. Additionally, I have proposed an additional

    $450,000 to help establish the Opportunity Educational Institution because I believe that we have

    an obligation to ensure that every child, regardless of zip code, deserves a world-class education.

    “It is critical that as our economy recovers that we fill some of our key judicial vacancies. This is why I am proposing $1.8 million in additional funding to fill 11 vacant positions in courts that are either 40 percent or more above the state average workload or have at least two

    vacancies now or in the near future. These vacant judgeships are causing delayed hearing of court cases and are resulting in additional time before citizens have resolution of important legal matters. I am also proposing the creation of a new 15th Judicial Circuit seat to alleviate a high

    caseload in that circuit. We will have funded 32 of the 49 judicial vacancies this session to improve our judicial system.

    “The General Assembly delivered a plan that requires that Medicaid is dramatically reformed before it can be considered for expansion. To address legal and policy concerns, I have proposed more specific and thorough reforms to ensure that Virginia will have sustainable, cost-

    saving changes in the existing program. While I remain opposed to the Medicaid expansion at this time due to the unsustainable 1,600 percent growth in Medicaid in the past 30 years, I have helped outline a plan for long-term reform to save money and get better patient outcomes.

    “In addition, I have included amendments to increase our strategic investments in economic development that will continue to spur the creation of good-paying jobs in Virginia and the expansion of companies in our state, which is recognized as one of the best in the nation for business. I’ve included $481,000 for international trade initiatives to help expand overseas markets for Virginia companies, $500,000 for tourism, $100,000 for workforce development

    efforts, and $520,000 for increased investment in the rapidly growing fields of modeling and simulation.

    “Through government reforms, audits, reduction in boards, commissions and agencies, employee incentives to save money, and many other cost-containment policies, we have controlled general fund spending. In FY 2013, we are just slightly above FY 2007 general fund spending levels, but nearly 1 percent below FY 2007 when adjusted for population and inflation.

    “Virginia is on the right path, but we must continue to take strides to grow our economy, strengthen our workforce and increase our global competitiveness. This year’s budget, combined with these amendments, does exactly that. I am respectfully asking the General Assembly to accept these amendments to make our Commonwealth stronger for the remainder of this biennium and for years to come.”

    ###

  • DRONES:

    Governor McDonnell is sending amendments to the General Assembly on the drone moratorium bill that would allow the use of this technology for certain law enforcement operations such as the search or rescue of missing persons or in cases involving imminent danger to citizens. This will allow law enforcement officials to use this developing technology to protect public safety while respecting individual rights of citizens and their expectation of privacy. Additionally, these amendments clarify that this legislation does not apply to institutions of higher education or other entities engaged in research and development of this and related technology. Lastly, the governor’s amendments will require that the Department of Criminal Justice Services help develop guidelines for the appropriate use of drones by law enforcement agencies in the future.

    TEXTING:

    The governor believes that texting while driving is a dangerous activity and motorists should refrain from this, and all, distractions while behind the wheel. Texting is but one of many dangerous driving distractions that can cause crashes, injuries and deaths on Virginia highways. Drivers should concentrate on their responsibility of operating a motor vehicle safely and remaining in control at all times, and therefore should avoid texting and other distractions that can take their attention away from the roadway and cause accidents. The governor supports making texting while driving a primary offense, but has proposed to reduce the fines for convictions to bring them more in line with the penalties for comparable violations such as DUI and reckless driving. Additionally, the governor’s amendments will require that

    the Department of Criminal Justice Services make training available to state and local law enforcement agencies for enforcement of this new law.

    PHOTO ID

    Governor McDonnell signed the legislation requiring voters to present a valid form of photo identification with the recognition that almost all citizens already have acceptable forms of photo ID that would allow them to vote and a majority of voters support this policy. He believes that proving that you are a citizen and registered voter by photo ID is a reasonable effort to protect the sanctity of our democratic process. It does not establish an onerous demand upon citizens who are used to providing photo IDs for routine banking, commercial and personal transactions. The legislation also provides for a free photo ID to anyone who does not have a valid ID. To ensure that citizens are not denied their ability to cast a ballot because of this change, the governor is simultaneously issuing an executive order directing the State Board of Elections to implement a plan to inform the public about this change in voting laws and to assist them in obtaining appropriate photo identification prior to the 2014 elections when this measure becomes effective.

    MEDICAID:

    The few budget amendments pertaining to Medicaid Reform as found in Item 307 #20c explicitly align the budget language to the five tenets put forward in the governor’s February 20 letter to conferees. The governor applauds the work of the conference committee in identifying language that focuses on direct Medicaid reforms that was subsequently supported by both chambers. He did not substantially modify the work of the committees, but rather inserted specific reform expectations to be met by the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), affiliated stakeholders, and where applicable, the federal government.

    In phase one, the governor inserted language to ensure that the necessary approvals from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were granted for continued progress with the Dual Eligible demonstration. Additionally, he ensured the language captured community behavioral health assurances and inserted specific program integrity efforts.

    Phase two includes amendments which clarify the population that will benefit from these Managed Care reforms. Specific reforms are highlighted and examples were included to serve as the basis for discussion between DMAS, the health plans, and CMS. In phase three, he strengthened the language directing the department to further seek reforms that will allow for the individuals who receive Medicaid for their long-term care needs to benefit from their services being coordinated and managed in the same way as other Medicaid recipients. Understanding the complexity of this process, he has requested that DMAS provide an update to the General Assembly during the next session. Both phase two and three incorporate amendments that acknowledge the need for federal authority being granted for these reforms.

    There will be ample opportunity for interested parties to work with both providers, plans, and other stakeholders to ensure that reform is designed to strengthen the program, enhance the quality of service delivery, and yield programmatic savings as a result of these efforts.

    Limited amendments were also made to the process by which the MIRC will review the progress being made by DMAS in implementing the reforms mandated in the budget. The purpose of these amendments is to attempt to address legal questions raised by the Attorney General relating to operation of the MIRC. (More to come here.)

    JUDGES

    Governor McDonnell has made budget amendments to fill vital vacancies in courtrooms around the Commonwealth. He recognizes that these vacant judgeships are causing delayed hearing of court cases and are resulting in additional time for citizens to have resolution of important legal matters. Therefore, he proposed funding all vacancies in courts that were at least 40% above the statewide caseload average, including:

    o Circuits: 28th

    o GDC: 15th, 16th, 27th

    o J&DR: 15th, 23rd

    If there were two or more openings in a circuit or district, or where the caseload is immediately expected to exceed 40% of the statewide caseload average, he proposed funding one of the two vacancies.

    o Circuits: 3rd (beginning 1/1/14 when there will be an additional vacancy), 4th, 23rd

    o GDC: 13th, 19th

    o J&DR: None

    And, he proposed creating a new 15th Circuit seat to alleviate a high caseload in that circuit. Even with all vacancies filled, the caseload in that court is still about 40% above the statewide caseload average.

    STUDENT ORGANIZATION BILL:

    The governor believes that student organizations should not be told how to operate or whom to accept as members in their organizations. While he believes these organizations should operate according to their conscience and be open and accepting of those individuals and classes of people protected under federal and Virginia law, he has signed this bill to ensure that the government does not compel these organizations to operate against the dictates of their conscience.


  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    March 25, 2013

    Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition Condemns McDonnell Abortion Ban Amendment

    Amendment prohibits insurance companies from offering policies in the health exchange that provide comprehensive reproductive health coverage

    Richmond, VA – The Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition today strongly condemned Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed amendment to HB1900/SB921 that prohibits insurance companies from offering policies that cover abortion in the health exchange. The amendment goes beyond political interference in private health care decisions and restricts economic activity between private companies and individuals. The amendment language is available online here.

    “This amendment denies private insurance companies the ability to supply, and individuals the right to demand, comprehensive health care,” said Cianti Stewart-Reid, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Taking away insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure that most plans have covered for years leaves women in a dangerous situation if they find themselves in need of serious medical care resulting from complex and sometimes life-threatening pregnancies. If insurance companies already provide basic benefits, politicians shouldn’t interfere.”

    Katherine Greenier, director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Right’s project at the ACLU of Virginia, similarly criticized the amendment. “Medical decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. The Governor simply cannot know the circumstances of every pregnancy, and he has no place determining what kind of health care a woman in crisis should receive. Caring for pregnant women means making sure they have the care they need for allmedical possibilities during pregnancy – whether that applies to carrying a pregnancy to term or making the decision with their doctor to end the pregnancy. Abortion is part of basic health care for women and should be part of comprehensive insurance plans.”

    McDonnell’s amendment sets a dangerous precedent for political interference into health care decisions by eliminating coverage for care to which he is ideologically opposed. Similarly, anti-women’s health politicians have pushed to limit access to affordable contraception, by placing access decisions in the hands of employers.

    ###

    Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition

    ACLU of VA · AAUW of VA · Virginia League of Women Voters · Jewish Community Relations Council

    NARAL Pro-Choice VA · National Assoc. of Social Workers VA Chapter · National Council of Jewish Women of VA

    Planned Parenthood Advocates of VA · Progress VA· Virginia NOW· Unite Women – VA

  • ProgressVA Strongly Condemns Governor’s Signature of Photo ID Legislation

    Reacting to news that Governor Bob McDonnell has signed SB1256, requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls, ProgressVA executive director Anna Scholl released the following statement.

    “We all wish to protect the integrity of our elections but any changes to election law must be carefully balanced with preserving access to democracy. It is simply outrageous that conservative politicians are throwing up new barriers to the ballot box when the Commonwealth already has voter ID law that was passed just last year and with a $2 million price tag. Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. SB1256 makes it harder for many Virginians to vote by requiring a specific form of ID which many eligible voters don’t possess. Furthermore, the requirement that voters, many of them life-long voters, travel to the General Registar’s office in order to obtain a new ID is an unnecessary and costly burden on low-income voters.”

    ###

    ProgressVA is a multi-issue advocacy organization dedicated to communicating progressive values across the Commonwealth. We engage citizens around issues of immediate state and local concern.

  • ARLINGTON, VA – Candidate for Virginia Lt. Governor Aneesh Chopra spoke out today against Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed amendment to HB1900/SB921 that would prohibit Virginians participating in healthcare exchanges from purchasing insurance plans that cover abortion services. This amendment not only interferes with a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, but also hampers insurance companies with needless restrictions on the coverage they can offer in the marketplace. Currently, more than 90% of private insurance plans offer basic abortion coverage.

    “Once again, we have lawmakers forcing themselves into women’s private healthcare decisions,” Chopra said. “Prohibiting insurance coverage for safe and legal medical services is irresponsible and reckless. We must end this cycle of politicians putting the health of Virginia women at risk to score political points. We should focus on moving towards a healthcare system that focuses on caring for our sick neighbors in a more coordinated way and lowering costs by reducing waste and inefficiency.”

    Chopra urges that the amendment be rejected, saying “this extreme amendment would deny many Virginia women the choice to purchase comprehensive medical coverage with their own dollars. That is unacceptable and would set a dangerous precedent — allowing extreme ideologies to overrule medically sound decisions made between a woman and her doctor.”

  • Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe released the following statement regarding Governor McDonnell’s proposed amendments to the bipartisan transportation compromise:

    “I applaud Governor McDonnell for once again overcoming last minute roadblocks thrown up by those who prefer extreme gridlock.  A modern transportation system is integral to our goal of making Virginia the best for business, and this can only be accomplished through bipartisan compromise.  I urge the General Assembly to approve these amendments and make the first meaningful progress on transportation in nearly 30 years.  By definition, compromise is never perfect for all sides, but Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling and Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly came together to make progress for Virginia.”

    Click here for audio of this statement.

  • Richmond, VA – Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Charniele Herring released the following statement today responding to Governor Bob McDonnell’s amendments to the bipartisan transportation compromise passed by the General Assembly this year:

    “I commend Governor McDonnell for overcoming Ken Cuccinelli’s multiple attempts to derail this transportation compromise and moving it forward so we can begin to solve the transportation crisis we face. This package is not perfect, but it represents considerable progress toward making our roads safer, getting Virginians out of gridlock and creating jobs along the way.

    “It is encouraging that Democrats and Republicans in Richmond are still capable of working together for the good of the Commonwealth, even as extreme ideologues like Ken Cuccinelli attempt to stop compromise and progress on a critical issue for Virginia families and businesses.”

     

  • GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS SAY REMAINING ANNUAL HYBRID TAX STILL FLAWED



    Delegate Surovell and Senator Ebbin led petition drive to remove punitive tax and pledge to introduce 2014 legislation to fully repeal it.

    Delegate Scott A. Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) and Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) reacted today to Governor Bob McDonnell’s amendment to the transportation bill passed by the General Assembly to reduce rather than eliminate a new $100 annual tax on all hybrid gasoline vehicles. McDonnell’s amendment calls for reducing the proposed tax to $64 from $100.

    Ebbin and Surovell led the effort that collected more than 7,000 signatures to a petition calling for the removal of the provision from the omnibus transportation bill, HB 2313.

    Delegate Surovell said, “While the Governor reduced the tax, he should have eliminated it. Basing a tax on a specific technology does not make sense when the mileage of hybrid vehicles ranges from 19 to 60 MPG.  There are many gas-powered vehicles that get better mileage than many hybrids.  If the Governor wants an additional tax to pay for road damage, he should focus on vehicle weight.”

    Senator Ebbin added, “I thank Governor McDonnell for offering an amendment to move us in the right direction and save hybrid owners $3 million per year in unfair taxes. However, we still believe that hybrid drivers should not be singled out to pay higher taxes. Typically, they already pay higher titling taxes, higher annual personal property taxes and higher sales prices for being good environmental stewards. We will introduce legislation in the 2014 to fully repeal the punitive annual tax.”

    Dawone Robinson of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said, “When climate-conscious consumers seek to do good by purchasing a fuel-efficient hybrid, government should pat them on the back rather than punish them. Virginians all across the Commonwealth have voiced their frustration with this issue, first by participating in a hybrid parade in late January and then by signing thousands of petitions against the tax.”

    “While I’m happy that Governor McDonnell listened to our concerns and reduced the proposed tax increase, the tax no matter how great or small still sends the wrong message. I commend Senator Ebbin and Delegate Surovell for their efforts that garnered more than 7,000 supporters in opposition of this tax. Without their assistance and leadership on the hybrid issue, there may not have been any reduction in the unfair tax.”

    McDonnell’s amendment will be considered during the April 3 Reconvened Session of the General Assembly, where it must receive a majority vote in both the House of Delegates and Senate to be approved.

  • Senate Democrats Oppose Governor’s Amendment to Deny Abortion Coverage In Virginia

    McDonnell’s Socially Divisive Ideology Intrudes into Market Place

    (Richmond, VA) Today it became known that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has proposed a ban on abortion coverage by insurers who participate in Virginia’s health exchange.  According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia this would affect approximately 50,000 Virginia women who are expected to use Virginia’s health exchange.

    “This is Republican hypocrisy put into practice again”, said Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Donald McEachin (D-Henrico).  “Gov. McDonnell is intruding into the world of the private market place and contracts by mandating what individuals and private insurance companies can agree to cover.  He’s is overreaching yet again on social issues.”

    Senator McEachin continued, “We have no business telling people how they should spend their own money.  As a conservative you would think Gov. McDonnell would know that.”

    Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said, “Women who want the option of abortion coverage and are able to pay for such an option with private dollars will be denied this service as a result of the Governor’s action.  We cannot permit this right-wing ideology to dictate personal medical decisions. It is very demeaning to women, to their physicians, and to all Virginians.  Virginians do not want a woman’s constitutionally protected liberties to be infringed upon by politicians–when that happens everybody’s liberties are at risk.”

  • Senator McEachin Statement on Photo ID Bill:

    Appreciates Governor Promising to Add the Senator’s Educational Component to Bill while Still Expressing Serious Reservations

    Henrico – Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) today released this statement about the photo ID legislation which the governor signed yesterday. “I appreciate the governor taking my suggestion that was in the form of an amendment to the original bill and promising to add an educational component through Executive Order to the legislation. While this does not make the original intent any less egregious nor the requirement any less onerous, it does, at least, attempt to ensure that Virginians will know about this added impediment to voting when they go to the polls.

    “This legislation has been demonstrated to be unnecessary. Voter ID requirements were made significantly more stringent just last year and, in the presidential election, the election of maximum turnout, only around 600 provisional ballots were filed statewide. This is a solution in search of a problem. Moreover, it is a hindrance to voting that falls disproportionately on the elderly and the poor, both of whom may have a much more difficult time obtaining a photo ID.

    “Fortunately, the legislation needs to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice which, I believe, will find it unacceptable. The arduous burden imposed on Virginia voters, should make the Department of Justice reject the legislation,” Senator McEachin concluded.