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Thanks Mostly to Republicans, 2014 Virginia General Assembly an Epic #FAIL on Almost All Fronts

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This past Saturday, the regularly-scheduled Virginia General Assembly session ended, without a budget and with nary a significant accomplishment to its name. Sure, Virginia Senate Democrats put out a cheery press release – significantly off message, if you ask me – “celebrat{ing} legislative accomplishments,” but you’d be hard pressed to find many. Let’s go through the panoply of (mostly) #FAIL.

Education

Believe it or not, two decent – albeit relatively small-bore – bills (SB 270 and SB 324) by Senator John Miller (D) actually passed both the Senate and House. The General Assembly also passed the unwise “Sea of Japan” bill. The big failure, of course, was that thanks to Republicans’ refusal to compromise on Medicaid expansion, we have no budget. That means we do not have, as the Virginia Education Association explained: “Medicaid Expansion {which} will free up $1.3 billion dollars in General Fund dollars over the next 7 years, some of which can be used for funding our schools.” We also don’t have increased compensation for teachers. Nor do we have State health plan; participation by local school divisions, which “could save millions of dollars in the years ahead,” savings which “could be used to provide needed school funding.” Thanks a lot Republicans – for nothing! #GOPFAIL

Elections

Almost complete failure on this front. For instance, SB 158 (“Provides for a statewide referendum on the question of whether a bipartisan advisory commission should be created to propose redistricting plans for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and congressional districts.”) passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but was killed in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. Same deal with SB 16 (“Provides that persons age 65 or older on the day of an election for which an absentee ballot is requested are entitled to vote absentee.”). Meanwhile, there’s no sign of any move to restore ex-felons’ right to vote (e.g., Greg Habeeb’s HB 7 got nowhere). Nor is there any sign of ditching ridiculous/unnecessary voter ID legislation (e.g., HB 564 was killed in the Republican-controlled House, as was HB 83). Lame.

Environment

Two decent bills – hybrid tax repeal and some needed fixes to Virginia’s fatally-flawed Renewable Portfolio Standard actually passed. Other than that…nada, basically. For instance, there are no signs of any serious effort to make Virginia the “energy capital of the East Coast” by jump-starting a clean energy revolution in this state, as is happening in so many other states. As usual, as evidenced with this bill, Dominion “Global Warming Starts Here” Power continues to rule the roost in Richmond, to all our detriment. There was also no movement to institute policies to encourage distributed energy, such as net metering, or to incentivize energy efficiency (e.g., via “decoupling”), etc, etc. Let alone any serious effort to put a price on carbon emissions or to deal with global warming and other “externalities” from dirty energy (e.g., mountaintop removal coal mining). We could go on all day here, but the bottom line is that there are a gazillion things that need to be done, yet essentially none of them got done this year. Or any year. And it’s overwhelmingly the fault of Republicans, plus a few coal-bought-and-paid-for Democrats. #massivefail

Ethics

If any year was the the year to enact serious ethics reform in Virginia, 2014 was it, following Bob McDonnell’s (and Ken Cuccinelli’s) recent scandals and ethical “issues.” Yet what did we get instead? A complete joke of a bill that was “riddled with loopholes and {which} softens a penalty for lying in disclosures”. Great job, huh? And the cesspool of corruption in Richmond continues on its merry way…#FAIL

Gun Safety

The attitude of Republicans (and a few Democrats, sadly), can basically be summed up as: gun safety? we don’t need no stinkin’ gun safety! Thus, no comprehensive background checks; no closing of the gun show loophole; heck, they couldn’t even pass a bill to prohibit “any person who is convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member involving the use of force from possessing, transporting, or carrying a firearm or any other weapon for a period of five years following his conviction.” Why couldn’t we get any decent gun safety regulation passed in Richmond for yet ANOTHER year, after all the mass shootings we’ve experienced in this state and country the past efw years? Because, quite simply, other than Dominion Power, our General Assembly is also controlled by ALEC and the NRA, and they have Republican (and some Democratic) legislators quaking in their boots.

Health Care

Medicaid expansion is the big enchilada of the 2014 General Assembly session, and a huge item on the agenda for Virginia. And so far, at least, thanks to Obama Derangement Syndrome-driven opposition by hyper-ideological right-wing Republicans in the House of Delegates, we’ve gotten nothing. That includes the compromise known as “Marketplace Virginia, a ‘private option’ plan that would recapture federal tax dollars that Virginians already pay in order to fund premium supports, enabling up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians to buy private coverage.” Nope, House Republicans wouldn’t even go for that, preferring to let Virginia tax dollars already paid to the federal government go elsewhere, while keeping hundreds of thousands of Virginia from having access to quality, affordable health care options. Great job, Republicans, we luv ya for it! (not)

Jobs & Economy

Nothing much in this area, thanks in large part once again to Virginia Republicans. For instance, a bill to raise the minimum wage passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but was killed in the Teapublican-controlled House. As was Donald McEachin’s legislation to prohibit “state agencies from including on any employment application a question inquiring whether the prospective employee has ever been arrested or charged with, or convicted of, any crime, subject to certain exceptions.” Needless to say, there was no serious discussion – thanks again, Republicans – of any major jobs initiatives, any effort to deal with economic mobility, etc. Such a waste…

Immigration

Del. Alfonso Lopez’s bill HB 88 (“Tuition, in-state; student eligibility, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) was killed by House Republicans. A similar bill was killed by Senate Republicans, when they still controlled that chamber. Any further questions?

LGBT Equality

Basically, Virginia Republicans spent their time ranting and raving about Attorney General Herring – gasp! – doing his job by upholding the U.S. constitution, which last anyone checked superceded Virginia’s constitution (and its anti-marriage-equality amendment). Oh yeah, and House Republicans also killed a bill by Donald McEachin which passed ovewhermingly in the Senate. That one would have enabled “the LGBT partners of state and certain local public employees to buy health insurance through their partners’ employers.” Can’t have that, according to Virginia House Teapublicans – oh god no!

Mental Health

On the one hand, SB 260 (“Emergency custody; web-based psychiatric bed registry, custody order valid up to 24 hours, etc.”) passed both the House and Senate. That’s good news. On the other hand, Virginia mental health advocates say that wasn’t even close to being sufficient, calling them “narrowly tailored fixes that do little to tackle fundamental problems,” “leaving broader improvements unaddressed,” and of course providing no serious money to invest in the under-funded Virginia mental health system. This may have been touted as a success, but actually it was a huge #FAIL, especially given the attention given this issue due to the attack on Senator Creigh Deeds by his mentally ill son, Gus. If we can’t get serious movement on strengthening Virginia’s mental health system after THAT horrible and high-profile incident, when CAN we?!?

Women’s Access to Health Care

Pretty much a total #FAIL in this area. One big item: SB 617 (“Abortion; removes requirement that woman undergo transabdominal ultrasound.”) passed the Senate overwhelmingly but was – take one guess?!? – yep, killed by the Teapublican House of Delegates. And, of course, there was no repeal of the onerous “TRAP” regulations singling out women’s health clinics across Virginia for unfair treatment. Total travesty.

Bottom line: the 2014 Virginia General Assembly was very close to being a complete failure, with almost nothing of any consequence being passed (unless we eventually get Medicaid expansion done), including a budget. The brutally honest truth is that none of this will change until: a) Democrats take back the House of Delegates; b) Democrats keep control of the governor’s mansion and the State Senate; and c) the power of corporate interests in Richmond is drastically curtailed. The problem is, it’s difficult to envision “c” happening for a long time to come (if ever), and “a” looks a long ways off, given that Democrats only managed to pick up a net of ZERO House seats in 2013, despite sweeping all three statewide elections. Ain’t Virginia politics a blast?!? (snark)

  • ir003436

    . . . we are poised to take back the House of Delegates in 2015.

    Right??

  • Dan Sullivan

    Or was it too soon to expect a new governor to have crafted any comprehensive agenda?

    Is it Medicaid expansion alone?

  • brianrw00

    Nothing is wrong with a GA session that passes “only” 700+ bills. We are not short of laws in Virginia. Most of the bills mentioned here are better for not being passed.