Archive for May, 2014

Report on the 2014 General Assembly

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Senator Creigh Deeds (D) and Delegate David Toscano (D) provided their perspectives on the issues that came before the 2014 Virginia legislature at our May 14, 2014 meeting. Senator Bryce Reeves (R) and Delegates Rob Bell (R) and Steve Landes (R) were invited but responded they had scheduling conflicts. Delegate Matt Fariss (R) was also invited but did not responded. The program was moderated by SSV President Bob McGrath. Listen to the discussion by podcast.

Senator Creigh DeedsSenator Creigh Deeds (D) represents the 25th Senate District, which includes the counties of Alleghany, Albemarle (part), Bath, Highland, Nelson, and Rockbridge, and the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington, and Lexington. He serves on five Senate standing committees: Transportation (Chair); Finance; General Laws and Technology; Privileges and Elections; and Rules. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1991, winning reelection five consecutive times before leaving the House to fill the seat of the late Senator Emily Couric in a special election in 2001. He was the Democratic nominee for state Attorney General in 2005, losing that race by the closest margin in Virginia history and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2009.

Delegate David ToscanoDelegate David Toscano (D) represents the 57th District in the House of Delegates (Charlottesville and part of Albemarle County) and, since 2011, has served as House Democratic Leader. He is a member of the Courts of Justice; Transportation; and Rules committees. He is also a member of the Disability Commission and has served on the special Joint Subcommittee to Study Land Use Tools in the Commonwealth and the Joint Committee to study Math, Science, and Engineering. He is a member of the Manufacturing Development Commission, the Virginia Adopts Statewide Steering Committee, the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program Committee, and the Board of Directors of the New College Institute. He is also a member of the United Way Board.

Program Summary

Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano provided their perspectives on the issues that came before the 2014 legislature.  Judy Wyatt, Delegate Landes’ legislative director, attended in his absence.  Both Senator Deeds and Delegate Toscano emphasized that service in the General Assembly is a part-time job with full-time responsibilities, and the members have to work for a living, and so sometimes there are things they can’t attend because of other responsibilities and the need to pay their bills, and so some of the legislators who aren’t here, can’t be here.

Senator Deeds noted that the legislative session is still in session. The regular session ended the second Saturday in March, but they are required to pass a two-year budget and if the budget is not in place by July 1, we will be in absolutely unchartered water. Senator Deeds has been there for 23 sessions and as Virginians, he said we can be very proud of the legislative process, and what happens here happened first – in 1619. But the process has become more partisan. Yet by working together, two major things were accomplished. The front-end crisis intervention piece of mental health treatment was addressed and will continue over the next four years to develop a model of mental health treatment. The second major accomplishment was to craft legislation to reduce the number of SOL tests and set up an educational accountability council to figure out how to replace the SOLs. The hang up is over the budget and Medicaid expansion. There are 400,000 people in Virginia that would qualify for Medicaid expansion and Virginians are paying for it already. The question is, do we bring those dollars back to Virginia—5 million dollars a day. There is bipartisan agreement in the Senate to move forward.

Delegate Toscano has participated in the SSV legislative report program every year since 2006 when he was elected to the General Assembly, and that year the legislature went up to June 30 before they passed a budget, and the delay was largely due to debates over transportation funding. He cited a few victories in the current session, including the SOL and mental health reforms, and a little bit of a budget reform bill that passed in the aftermath of the scandal involving Governor McDonnell. In terms of where we are right now, the Senate has refused to take up the House budget, and the House has refused to take up the Senate budget. So much has to do with the politics on the ground. The Republicans are scared to death of being primaried by folks from the Tea Party ilk who, if a Republican votes for anything that smacks of supporting Barrack Obama, is going to get primaried. But in the end, Delegate Toscano believes that most of his colleagues realize you can’t kick away 5.2 million dollars a day. You’ve got to find a way to get our money back. There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for UVa.