House Passes Budget
The House of Delegates passed a two-year budget last Thursday totaling $85 million for the 2012-2014 fiscal years. Unlike federal budget practices in Washington, the House budget is balanced and structurally sound and contains no gimmicks or tax increases. It was passed on a bi-partisan vote of 79-21. We are now eagerly awaiting the Senate’s budget so that we can complete our work.
You can see some of the highlights of the budget in the panel to the right.
Funding Restoration Amendments Pass House
When the House approved the budget plan, two critical amendments were included that restore funding directly impacting the 10th district.
Funding Restored For Crucial 20th District Judgeship
The House budget will restore funding for our 20th Judicial Circuit General District Court judgeship that was not included in the Governor’s proposed budget. Delegate Joe May and I submitted a budget amendment that restores the judgeship’s funding (see: line 40 of amendment) to the proposed budget. Other districts throughout the Commonwealth will not be able to fill retiring judgeships as a result of funding cuts.
The 20th Judicial Circuit has one of the busiest per-judge dockets in Virginia and maintaining this judgeship currently held by retiring Judge Julia Taylor Cannon is crucial for our General District Court. Delegate May and I are grateful for the work of substitute judges who help fill in the gaps on an already full docket, but elimination of a judgeship in the region where the population growth continues to surpass anywhere else in the Commonwealth is unacceptable. I am pleased the House was amenable to our request for the maintenance of funding for the judgeship.
Cost of Competing Adjustment Funding Included in House Budget
The Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) is a long-standing recognition of the higher cost of living in Northern Virginia. Aided by COCA, localities can offset the higher cost of living with higher salaries for public school teachers. Cost of “competing” refers to school division’s ability to compete relative to the local private-wage market.
Knowing that the COCA to support higher salaries for Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick counties was not included in the Governor’s proposed budget, Delegate Joe May, Delegate Tag Greason and I submitted another House budget amendment to provide for COCA funding in the amounts of $6.5 million for the 2012-13 year and $6.7 million for the 2013-14 year. Last week the House approved our amendment and it is now included in our budget sent over to the Senate.
This is an important budget item that I was proud to fight for with other members of our Northern Virginia delegation in the General Assembly.
Priority Focus, Controversial Bills
My primary focus in Richmond this session has been on public policies that encourage job creation, enhance our business climate, support transportation and education, and protect our quality of life. Several bills on social issues, however, have inspired a robust public discussion. While these social bills only comprise 2.2% of the bills that were filed, the attention these bills have received show that both sides of the debate believe these issues are critically important. I respect impassioned citizens who care about public policy issues. As Justice Brandeis once correctly observed, “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.”
Two social policy bills filed dealing with pre-abortion informed consent generated the most discussion. They are House Bill 462 and Senate Bill 484. The core of these bills pertain to the need for information in making a critical decision. However, over the course of the deliberations on both bills in the House and Senate, it became apparent that amendments were needed to clarify the kind of information in the form of sonogram data required to allow for informed consent to occur.
One of these two informed consent bills required an invasive form of ultrasound data collection that is routinely prescribed and chosen by many women. But, while this procedure is routinely prescribed, that justification alone should not give rise to a government mandate. As Governor McDonnell advised in suggesting amendments to this informed consent bill, “mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state.”
The medical community has stated that their standards of care and practice guide them to use whatever ultrasound procedure is appropriate in each instance to determine the gestational age of the fetus. It is important for legal and medical reasons to determine gestational age, and the amendments that passed the House were intended to both clarify the bill’s purpose and reflect consideration of existing medical practice.
As such, I supported the amendments to the informed consent bills that remove the requirement for an invasive form of ultrasound. The Senate approved this amended bill earlier in the week and I supported it when it came back to the house, where it passed today on a 61-35 vote.
Again, thank you to those who contacted me both in favor and opposition of the bill. I take each of your concerns seriously. This issue has been a divisive one and I deeply respect the views of my friends and constituents on both sides of this debate. At their core, these bills affect life and liberty, two of the most important things in the world.
Over 97% of bills that have gone through the House deal with important functions of government that are not social issues. These bills will continue to receive the majority of my attention and focus during the 2012 General Assembly Session.