The Veto Session ended with some successes and some disappointments. I highlight actions on issues that I feel are important to you and the Commonwealth in the paragraphs that follow. It is important to note that the Governor’s veto is sustained unless 2/3 of each body vote to override the veto. If the Governor amends legislation, then a majority of members from each body is needed to pass the amendments.
Gratefully, the Governor signed all of my bills without any amendments and vetoed the "Country Club Bill," at my request and with the urging of others as well. I am delighted to report that Arlington County and the two country clubs in Arlington have come up with a mutually acceptable framework for moving forward with the application of a real estate assessment.
In a surprise move, the Chair of the Committee on Local Government created a subcommittee on School Facilities and I was appointed to that subcommittee. Stay tuned for updates on the work of that subcommittee. I am also interested in any thoughts you might have on how the state can help localities pay for capital improvements to our schools.
As you may have read, the House of Delegates, once again, passed a budget that included Medicaid Expansion. Language in the budget refers to a work requirement and opens the door for possible subsidies to moderate-income families seeing exorbitant increases in their health insurance premiums. Of course, I explained to the body that states that participated in Expansion saw the slowest rate of increase in health insurance premiums.
We are waiting for the Senate to act on a budget.
Sanctuary Cities: The Democrats were able to sustain every veto that the Governor issued on a total of 10 bills. These bills were damaging to labor, immigrant relations, or the economy. For example, a sanctuary city bill that would have required local governments to work more closely with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and violate important principles necessary to developing trust among the immigrant communities they serve, was vetoed by the Governor and sustained by the House of Delegates.
Local Option - Living Wage: Another example of success was a sustained veto on a bill that would have prohibited local governments from requiring that a living wage be paid by contractors doing business with a local jurisdiction. This living wage option is completely at the discretion of the local government. Moreover, if it is a requirement in an RFP, then all entities bidding on the contract have to incorporate the living wage cost into the bid. No potential bidder is disadvantaged and no contractor has to bid on a specific RFP. The living wage option gives local leaders the opportunity to govern based on a set of mutually shared values.
METRO Funding: We do have a bill that dedicates $154M, annually, to METRO. This is Virginia’s proportionate share; some of the dollars can be used for operating costs and others for capital costs. Unfortunately, a large portion of this amount, $104M, will be diverted from revenues available to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). The remaining money, $22M, would come from the gas tax floor and $30M from state funds.
The Governor amended the bill to bring in $30M in new dollars to reduce the diversion of road dollars from NVTA. The $30M was achieved by applying a new 1% increase in the TOT or hotel tax and a 5-cent increase in the grantor's tax. This tax is paid by folks selling their homes. It is important to note that these taxes would only be applied in northern Virginia.
The tax amendments were defeated on a party-line vote in the House of Delegates. It was very perplexing that a northern Virginia lawmaker, Delegate Tim Hugo, made the tax amendments a Republican-Caucus issue. All other NoVA lawmakers, many others from around the state, and business groups supported the taxes, especially after we explained that road projects throughout the state would suffer if NoVA started competing for statewide dollars. (One of the primary criteria for the allocation of state road dollars is congestion mitigation.)
I am advising local leaders to identify projects that will be deferred or abandoned because new money will not be available, and to also identify projects that NoVA will be bringing forth for statewide money. This information will help us win the fight in 2019. Lawmakers who attempt to govern with “No Tax” pledges must be held accountable for the impacts of their votes.
Medicaid Expansion: The Senate Republicans are still trying to find a pathway forward for embracing Medicaid Expansion. I am confident that we will reach the finish line with a budget that provides up to 400,000 Virginians with access to healthcare, but I worry about how long it will take us to adopt a budget. Localities usually offer teachers their contracts by mid-May and we need to be sensitive to this deadline.
The Governor is showing great leadership on this issue and is working with moderate Republicans to come up with options for their consideration. Any reasonable objection to Medicaid will be treated with a thorough analysis and appropriate amendments to address the concern.
It is an honor and a pleasure to represent you in Richmond. Rest assured, I will always fight for our Democratic values. :) Keep in touch by signing up for my newsletter!
Finally, I will be holding a tele town hall meeting (a town hall meeting that I will be holding over the phone that you can dial into) on the evening of May 1. Stay tuned for more details to come!
Representing parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun