The General Assembly is in full swing and the No.1 agenda item is to craft a two-year budget. Governor Terry McAuliffe’s budget included Medicaid expansion, which the Republican-controlled legislature has repeatedly said was DOA, so there was that going into the session. Here’s what some of our many local legislators have been up to.
Delegate Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave and vice chair of the House appropriations committee, proposed some cost-saving cuts to the budget, which include eliminating new funding for substance abuse treatment, for development of biotech spin-off companies and for new hires in the attorney general’s office, where AG Mark Herring made the unpopular-with-Republicans decision to stop concealed-carry permit reciprocity with other states.
Landes submitted budget amendments that increase funding for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Discovery Virginia project, UVA’s Focused Ultrasound Center, the Frontier Culture Museum and for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In a surprise turn, the highly contentious issue of gun safety reached unusual bipartisanship January 30. McAuliffe announced that Virginia would recognize other states’ concealed-carry permits, reversing Herring’s decision. In exchange, Republicans agreed to support making it illegal for the subject of a protective order to possess a firearm and voluntary background checks at gun shows. State Senator Bryce Reeves, who represents part of Albemarle, carried a bill that reverses Herring’s decision.
Despite a growing majority of Americans who support the legalization of marijuana, the General Assembly remains steadfastly unswayed. Three days after a House subcommittee chaired by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, killed nine pot bills that would have allowed expungement of criminal records, reduced simple possession from a misdemeanor to a $100 civil fine and axed the six-month driver’s license forfeiture that comes with a marijuana possession conviction, a Virginia Commonwealth University poll showed that 78 percent of Virginians support a civil fine, and 62 percent favor legalization for recreational use.
In other Bell news, his perennial Tebow bill, which would allow home-schooled students to play in public school sports, passed the House of Delegates for the third year in a row.
And our legislator with the lengthiest rap sheet, Delegate Matt Fariss, R-Rustburg, is carrying a bill that would prohibit the governor’s security detail from carrying firearms. Language in the bill suggests retaliation for the now-abandoned revocation of concealed carry reciprocity. Other Republicans threatened McAuliffe’s security detail when he banned guns from government buildings last year.