Greetings from Richmond
Special and Reconvened Sessions
I hope that you will be able to join me at my Post Session Town Hall today, Monday, April 23 from 7:30pm – 8:30pm at Laurel Hill Elementary School located at 8390 Laurel Crest Dr, Lorton, VA 22079.
I will be joined by Senator George Barker and Delegate Mark Sickles, and we look forward to sharing a legislative update with you.
Last week, I was in Richmond to attend two sessions: A Special Session to continue working on the biennial budget and the Reconvened Session to vote on Governor Northam's vetoes and amendments to bills. I am glad to share a highlight of these sessions below.
As always, feel free to contact me if you need assistance with matters related to our state government. You can reach me by phone at 804-698-1042 and by email at DelKTran@house.virginia.gov. Keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Because the 2018 General Session ended without passage of a biennial budget, the Governor convened the General Assembly in a Special Session so we could continue working on the budget. We had met once previously to address housekeeping matters and establish the rules by which we would conduct the Session.
On April 17, the House of Delegates met to vote on our proposed biennial budget bills, HB 5001 and HB 5002. These two bills are nearly identical to HB 29 and HB 30, which the House passed during the Regular Session. The House budget bills again include Medicaid expansion to ensure that approximately 400,000 Virginians have access to healthcare. I voted in favor of these bills and they passed the House with bipartisan support.
Currently, we are awaiting action from the Senate to put forth its budget bills so that the House and Senate can conference or negotiate on a final budget proposal. The Commonwealth's fiscal year starts on July 1; as such, we need to pass a budget by June 30.
During the General Session, the Senate's budget proposals did not include Medicaid expansion. Since then, two new Senators have publically supported Medicaid expansion. I am hopeful that the final biennial budget will include expansion - doing so will be transformative for Virginians across the Commonwealth, including about 700 residents in the 42nd District.
I will continue to give you updates on the development of the biennial budget as they become available.
During the Reconvened Session on April 18, the General Assembly considered Governor Northam's vetoes and amendments to bills that passed during the Regular Session.
The Governor vetoed 10 bills, including ones that would have interfered with Virginians' ability to exercise our right to vote, restricted the Governor and state’s ability to protect the environment, and forced local law enforcement agencies to use their limited resources to conduct federal immigration responsibilities. We must make sure that our Commonwealth is a place where all Virginians can thrive and participate in our democracy. Thus, I supported the Governor's vetoes, and they were all sustained by the General Assembly. For a list of the Governor's vetoes and explanations, please click here.
Governor Northam also made amendments to 47 bills that had passed the General Assembly during the Regular Session. While some of these amendments were technical in nature, others were substantive. Most passed but there were several significant ones that, unfortunately, failed.
For example, HB 1598 and SB 106 laid out principles for drawing new district lines. I firmly believe that all of our voices need to be heard and reflected through our elections, and we need to end gerrymandering - the practice of drawing district lines to favor a politician or political party. I voted against these bills during the Regular Session because they did not offer protections against political and racial gerrymandering. The Governor's amendments would have prohibited these practices, but the amendments failed.
HB 1539 and SB 856 addresses the need to have dedicated funding for Metro and the VRE. Traffic congestion affects our quality of life, and one part of addressing our situation in Northern Virginia is to have a safe and reliable Metro system. These bills require Virginia to provide $154 million per year for Metro, of which $30 million would come directly from the state, $102 million from existing Northern Virginia regional transportation sources, and $22 million from an increase in the regional gas tax, which passed in a separate bill in the Regular Session.
In addition to technical amendments, the Governor also addressed the source of funding for Metro. This included amendments to significantly decrease the amount of money that would be diverted from Northern Virginia regional transportation funds by increasing the Grantor’s Tax from 5 cents to 10 cents and increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax, a hotel tax, by 1 percent.
While the House and Senate bills and the Governor's amendments are not perfect, I supported them to balance the various transportation infrastructure needs we have in our region. The specific amendments addressing the funding source passed the Senate, but they failed in the House. This Washington Post article summarizes the situation.
The Governor will consider those bills for which his amendments failed. He now has a limited time to either sign into law those bills as they passed the General Assembly during the Regular Session or veto them. For a full list of the Governor's amendments their status, please see here.