The Senate convened at 11:00 a.m. today to review the Governor’s budget, with amendments from the Senate Finance Committee.
In this day and age of computers, the Senate budget — like the House — still works in 18th century fashion. (And I’m fine with that.) Essentially, we are given the introduced bill at the time it’s filed. We are then given the amendments in a half-sheet summary form a day before voting on the budget. There are typically 200-300 amendments to the original bill, so it takes time to read them.
On the day of the vote, the clerk will read the number of the amendments after the bill is introduced on the Senate floor. After each amendment is “called,” any member can shout “Objection.” At that point, the amendment is moved to the regular calendar for an explanation and then a vote.
In a regular session, the “calling of the amendments” takes about an hour. Today, we shortened that process by putting all amendments on a consent basis, unless a member specifically pulled it out. So we only had about a dozen contested votes.
One of the more interesting votes was a Senate amendment which states that Old Dominion University could only spend money for planning a new football stadium through privately donated funds. (ODU started Division I football a few years ago and needs a larger stadium to accommodate the crowds). In other words, you can’t use “activity fees” for a project of this scale, even the planning.
That amendment was rejected by football-loving Senators on a voice vote. I actually voted for the amendment. I don’t think we should use general fees or funds to build athletic stadiums, especially when we are freezing salaries for professors and raising tuition. As for ODU football, I wish them great things — except when they play Virginia.
(FWIW, I also opposed using the Opportunity Fund money in 2011 for moving the Redskins’ summer camp to Richmond.
Later in the session, the Senate (re) passed Marketplace Virginia, which is our market-based alternative to Medicaid expansion and closes the “coverage gap” by providing coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. The vote was 22-15.
At the risk of rehashing earlier posts, it utilizes the Federal Medicaid funding to pay the health care premiums on Virginians who qualify for Marketplace, e.g. they work full-time, pay 5% of their own income to health care, and earn at or below 138% of poverty level. This plan, of course, keeps our Virginia tax dollars in Virginia.
Basically, we’ve kicked the ball back over to the House. Time for them to pass our plan — or come up with an alternative. They will be meeting at 4 pm today.