Winners and losers: The General Assembly is adjourned

Delegates Steve Landes and David Toscano applaud increased spending for education, but disagree on how Medicaid should be used to provide health care.

COURTESY SUBJECTS Delegates Steve Landes and David Toscano applaud increased spending for education, but disagree on how Medicaid should be used to provide health care. COURTESY SUBJECTS

Legislators in Richmond ended the General Assembly session one day early after passing a record $105 billion biennial budget March 11 and sending it to Governor Terry McAuliffe. Both sides of the aisle praise its passage, while regretting the what-might-have-beens.

McAuliffe didn’t get the Medicaid expansion he wanted—again—but he commends the oft-contentious legislature for investing an additional $1 billion in education at all levels, including workforce training.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the session was McAuliffe making a deal on guns, agreeing to recognize concealed carry permits from other states, a pet project for state Senator Bryce Reeves, who just announced a run for the 2017 Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

In return, those who are the subject of protective orders can’t possess guns, and dealers can voluntarily do background checks at gun shows, measures rejected in the past. “On firearms, we had the courage to set aside many years of heated debate and reach a consensus that protects families from gun violence and increases access to background checks at gun shows while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens,” says McAuliffe. “The resulting state laws will save lives.”

Delegate Steve Landes’ budget amendments were aided by his position as vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee. They include $250,000 for the formation of the Virginia International Trade Corporation to “keep Virginia’s economy moving forward,” he says in a release.

The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton pulls in $300,000 in additional funding for staff, which Landes says is also important for economic development.

The Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA is a big winner in the budget sweepstakes, with an additional $4 million for research.

And while Landes is against Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, he did nab $5.2 million a year with matching Medicaid funding to expand the number of slots on the intellectual or developmental disabilities waiting list.

“It is ironic that despite [Republicans’] negative rhetoric, our budget does expand some Medicaid services, but in the most inefficient way possible,” says Delegate David Toscano in his own release.

Toscano also praises the increased education funding that includes a 2 percent raise for teachers and increased funding for students to receive free and reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches.

He got $1.9 million in state funding plus another $3.9 million from federal and other sources for a program to help 18-year-olds who age out of foster care transition to adulthood. The Independence Resource Center in Charlottesville also picked up additional funding.

Court-appointed lawyers for indigent clients will get more money for complicated cases, as will court-appointed mediators.

Mental health funding has been a bipartisan concern for state Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Rob Bell since Gus Deeds stabbed his father and killed himself during a psychiatric crisis in 2013. The new budget adds $76.2 million for mental health services, according to Toscano.

Bell is disappointed his charter school constitutional amendment failed by a few votes, but says he’s pleased that it will be easier for someone being stalked to bring charges. And now, if a person violates a protective order by stalking or assault, he will be looking at a felony charge.

The issue of picking judges was controversial on the state Supreme Court level (see this week’s Odd Dominion, p. 12), but good news locally: The budget includes money to fund a new general district court judge.

The Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA is a big winner in the budget sweepstakes, with an additional $4 million for research.

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