Today the House of Delegates easily passed amendments to the two-year budget, closing a billion dollar hole caused by slower revenue growth than predicted. The House scraped together some fund balances, eliminated a few Governor McAuliffe initiatives, and borrowed well over $500 million from the rainy day fund. Under Virginia law, the General Assembly can borrow from the fund when certain assumed revenue measures are not realized. The Code section is complicated but there are strict rules about when the money has to be paid back.
Yesterday’s session was relatively short. The day after Crossover tends to be slow because the House committees are just starting to hear the Senate-passed bills. The only real business before the body was the confirmation of gubernatorial appointments. We also put the budget amendments in proper form for debate tomorrow.
School funding and teacher salaries have been a hot topic of discussion over the past couple of years in Fairfax County. As you may know, the Commonwealth distributes K-12 funding through a formula called the Local Composite Index (LCI), a formula based on land value and income that discriminates against “wealthy” areas. The formula is “rebenchmarked” biennially to reflect updated costs and the relative property values and incomes around the Commonwealth.
In the run up to Crossover, floor sessions become lengthy as each body passes judgment on a wide range of legislation. For those of you not familiar with the term, Crossover is the point after which each body of the General Assembly can only consider legislation passed by the other body. Today is that day.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the G.O.P. has been pitching the sale of health insurance plans across state lines as one potential solution to the “rising healthcare costs.” Various measures have been introduced on the federal and state levels to do away with State regulation of insurance, an ironic crusade by the same people that say they want to give states more authority.
Yesterday at 8:00 am, the Privileges and Elections, Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee summarily killed in a block vote a series of constitutional amendments, several of them concerning a fairer, non-partisan redistricting process. The meeting lasted less than thirty minutes and no one was allowed to testify in support or in opposition of the resolutions.
Yesterday, my bill, HB 2179 reported unanimously out of P&E’s Campaign Subcommittee. It changes the listing order rule for candidates in non-partisan elections on a ballot. Currently names of independent candidates appear alphabetically. HB 2179 calls for the ballot order to be determined in order of the time of filing. Last year, SB 664 changed the ballot order for school board elections.
Yesterday on the floor, House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) announced that he had come to an agreement with Senate Finance leadership on state employee raises of three percent starting on July 1, 2017. While teachers would not be included, more money would be sent to the school divisions on a per capita basis with no strings attached. The school money could be used to help fund teacher raises or for other priorities. When the General Assembly usually fund teacher raises, the sum total is sent down through an unfavorable distribution formula.
Yesterday was another long day of committee meetings. I headed to the General Assembly Building before the sun rose for a 7:00 a.m. P&E Elections Subcommittee meeting and didn’t leave until after sunset.
I write a week and a half into the fast moving 2017 General Assembly Session, but even as a fan of a part-time citizen legislature, six weeks is way too short to fully or adequately address the issues before us. Legislation is introduced and is immediately disposed of before the public knows about it and can weigh in.