Cloud of Volcanic Ash Settles Over Richmond

OK, that’s not the case (although our Lt. Governor is stuck in Europe due to the dark cloud).

We are back in session today for the “veto session” which doesn’t actually have any vetoes. Instead we have 122 bill amendments and 96 budget amendments from the Governor. That is a lot — and this will be a long day. President Pro Tem Chuck Colgan is in charge of the proceedings.

We just had our first votes. In one of them, the Senate “accepted” on a 23-17 vote the Governor’s amendment to strip out our compromise language on SB 128 which preserved the limitation on emissions trading in the “non-attainment” area of Northern Virginia. Several members apparently changed their vote. This means that the coal-fired Mirant plan can now increase its operations right in the heart of northern Virginia. (ed. note — DEQ is actually amending Mirant’s air permit on its own initiative to potentially reduce emissions so I will mention that to be accurate — although I still don’t support this amendment which takes away the regulatory authority of the Air Board in NOVA).

A defeat on an important enviro issue.

(update at 2:00 pm)

We’re on a break right now as the House runs thru the various amendments. It’s a good time to talk about yesterday’s New Media Conference at the Washington Marriott on M Street. I was on a panel with Congressman Mike Honda and Alderman Sandi Jackson, which was covered on the Ali Velshi show on CNN. Will try to find the link.

(Update at 4:40 pm)

We are still on break. The House is taking care of business. They have defeated Governor’s amendments to require “managed care” for new Medicaid enrollees and give the Governor full discretion on spending FMAP (or Federal Medicaid match funding). They also killed the bill to reduce funding for public television.

Good work, House. Among other things, that will reduce the number of items we will consider later tonight.

(Update at 7:20 pm)

We have the budget amendments from the House. Will be voting on them shortly.

(Update at 7:45 pm)

In a moment, we’ll vote to eliminate any coverage for Viagara for state employees. (no, that’s not a joke)

(Update at 8:05 pm)

Senate votes to kill Governor’s amendment to slash funding for public television and radio. It’s a very small amount, $1.9M, but important to keep alive these public access channels. I vote against the proposed cut.

(Update at 8:15 pm)

Senate kills Governor’s amendment to shift TANF funds to the general fund in lieu of child support payments. The short answer is that we don’t want to penalize families and dads who make support payments by reducing their TANF support. I vote against the Governor’s cut.

(Update at 8:45 pm)

Senate barely passes (20-19) amendment prohibiting “general or non-general” state funding for abortion. This was a tough issue. While access to abortion should remain legal, I also believe that taxpayer money should not pay for it, i.e. through Medicaid. For that reason, I support the President and his adoption via executive order on the Hyde Amendment. But that was not what was before us. There were two problems with the Governor’s amendment as written: (a) its primary effect would have been on state employees, not Medicaid recipients, and (b) it left unclear what effect it would have on Virginia’s state-owned teaching hospitals. The AG’s opinion issued today raised the issue that “private pay” procedures at our hospitals could also be prohibited for the first time. While I support the intent of the Governor’s amendment, the language was simply too broad and there too many questions left unanswered to vote “yes” so I voted “no.” Regardless the amendment passed.

(Update at 9:30 pm)

We’re near the end. Anyone ever heard of the National Crime Prevention Center? Doesn’t exist so it’s stripped out of HB 1217.

(Update at 9:45 pm)

Chuck Colgan has gone wire-to-wire as our presiding officer today. Great work. And we’re done.

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