Newman News from the Capitol February 11, 2019

Virginia’s Capitol became the epicenter of American political life this week.  Because of a bizarre and unexpected series of events, the entire national press corps has descended upon Capitol Square.

 With just two weeks remaining in the General Assembly session, we can’t afford to become wrapped up in the latest development or revelation.  We are, by necessity, concentrating our energies on reviewing the hundreds of remaining bills still under consideration, presenting our own bills to our House colleagues.  I have had a laser beam focus as a co-patron of the tax bill on crafting a budget that includes $1 billion in tax relief for Virginia taxpayers.  That focus was essential this last week, as we completed crossover and passed our package of amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget.

 Crossover is the legislative half-way point of every General Assembly session.  From here on out, senators will be reviewing bills passed by the House while delegates consider bills passed by the Senate.  Both chambers passed out a lot of bills this year, especially for a short session.

 The Senate is currently working on over 600 bills approved by our counterparts in the House.  Delegates have it a little easier, as they are considering fewer than 500 bills passed by senators.

 On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved its plan to amend the state’s budget.  The package of amendments makes substantial changes to the budget enacted less than eight months ago.  Like the tax plan I detailed in last week’s column, our budget includes a $110 tax rebate this year for Virginians who pay personal income taxes and $220 for couples.  It also increases the standard deduction by 50% for 2019, the largest increase for taxpayers ever.

 Placing a priority on strengthening our public schools, the Senate approved the funds necessary to cover the state share of expenses for a 5% raise in teacher pay.  It included $4 million in additional funding for our successful Workforce Credential Grants, which are making it possible for thousands of Virginians to become certified in high-demand, high-paying fields.

 We added over $25 million in additional funding for behavioral health and reserved $70 million for the Literary Fund to provide support for school construction.  And, we put $15 million more to accelerate the availability of broadband in rural areas.

 These improvements are made possible because we are prioritizing spending that will improve the quality of life for people in every corner of the state.  We’re producing a conservative, balanced budget that will protect our AAA bond rating, invest in our future, and provide working families with nearly $1 billion in tax relief.

 Considering the budget was approved by all 40 senators, our efforts earned strong bipartisan support.  So at a time when news headlines might lead you to believe partisan strife is everywhere, we successfully crafted a plan that unified members of both parties. 

 I filed several of those nearly 500 bills we approved to send over to the House.  In addition to the school safety bills I am carrying, my bill to establish an energy career cluster in the Department of Education, in consultation with representatives from industries such as renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear energy, coal, and oil, will prepare students for entering careers in these high demand fields.  I am patroning several bills related to improving health care for all Virginians and I have focused a great deal of my time on crafting the tax relief bill.  I will have more details next week. 

 Richmond enjoyed daily highs in the sixty-degree range for most of the week.  Good weather usually boosts the number of visitors to Capitol Square, and our office had a lot of visitors from home this week. We welcomed a huge contingent of supporters here for the pro-life rally.  We also met with Moms Demand Action, the Virginia Wing Civil Air Patrol, and officials with the Lynchburg Regional Airport.  It is impossible to list everyone, but we appreciate seeing each visitor. 

 With just two weeks remaining, there’s a lot of work to finish before we can adjourn on February 23.  If you want to contact us about an issue or legislation being considered, please send us an email at District23@senate.virginia.gov or call us at (804) 698-7523. 

 Although you’ll have to rely on the news media, both local and national, to fill you in on the latest developments for our three statewide officials, I’ll provide more information on our continued legislative progress in next week’s column.  Until then, have a great week.

Newman News from the Capitol February 4, 2019

In what has been an exceptionally eventful session, this was a very eventful week.  Legislative debate on General Assembly and Congressional redistricting, the eligibility age for purchasing tobacco or nicotine vaping products, and a proposal that would have permitted abortions up to and including the time of birth all generated headlines, both in Virginia and nationally. 

 As someone who has fought for the rights of the unborn since first entering the General Assembly, the discussions this week over legislation to weaken protections for unborn children in the third trimester of a pregnancy was disheartening. Learning that our Governor supports and defends legislation that would make it easier for children to be aborted through the time of birth undoubtedly shocked many Virginians; as it shocked my wife, Kim, and me.

 Sadly, what the Governor expressed is not an uncommon position, just one rarely said aloud. It is, in fact, the long-held and widely accepted position of his party.

 For legislators like me who believe in the sanctity of innocent human life, this was the week when everyone else learned what we’ve been up against for years. As outraged as people are about what has been expressed by those who support abortion-on-demand, now they know the stark choices they will be making this November.

 This was also the week that all 21 Republican senators united in support of a plan to provide $1 billion in tax relief to Virginians.  The plan we are advancing will directly affect more than four million taxpayers, providing a tax rebate this year and lowering personal income taxes next year through at least 2025.

 The plan is remarkably simple.  Later this year, individuals would receive a $110 tax rebate and couples would get a tax rebate for $220.  Beginning next year, the standard deduction for personal income taxes will increase by 50%.  An increase in the standard deduction lowers your taxable income and, as a result, you pay less in taxes.

 If enacted, our plan would constitute the second largest tax cut in Virginia history.  The plan returns $976 million of the projected revenue windfall created by the federal tax reform and simplification to taxpayers in direct tax relief.

 The increase in the standard deduction is long overdue.  While the standard deduction allowed when you pay your federal income taxes has regularly increased, Virginia’s has not.  As a result, Virginians filing their personal income taxes as individuals today are allowed the same $3,000 standard deduction that was allowed 30 years ago.  Under our plan, that deduction would jump to $4,500.  And, couples would see their current $6,000 standard deduction jump to $9,000.

 By giving this money back to taxpayers, Senate Republicans are insisting that state government live within its means.  Restraining the growth of government spending is always a challenge.  But, it is essential to maintaining our AAA bond rating and to ensuring the sustainability of the essential government services you expect.  We’ll still have a budget that is balanced, and we’ll still have your tax dollars prioritized to providing core government services.

 Like the federal tax plan, which also substantially increases the standard deduction, the goal is to not only lower your income taxes, but to make them simpler and more sensible.  As a result, the bulk of the tax relief goes to working families.  Ours is a tax relief plan for the many, not the few.

 Taxes and the budget are likely to grab the lion’s share of headlines during the final three weeks of this year’s session.  My Republican colleagues and I are ready to meet this challenge by voting for a fiscally responsible tax relief plan and crafting a conservative, balanced budget.

  Uneven weather did not discourage the thousands of Virginians who made their way to Capitol Square this week.  Our office had more than a few smiling faces from home stop by, including local members of Virginia 4-H, the Bedford and Botetourt Farm Bureau, Virginia Counselors Association, Roanoke County Treasurer, Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperatives, Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.  We were pleased to welcome teachers from Roanoke County Public Schools, Lynchburg City Schools and Botetourt County Schools.

 We’re at the halfway mark of the 2019 General Assembly session.  In the week ahead, we’ll be finishing our work on Senate bills, passing our plan to amend Virginia’s 2018-2020 Biennial Budget, and begin considering House bills.

 If you, your family, or a group of which you are a member is planning to visit the Capitol between now and February 23, please remember to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building.    You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.

Newman News from the Capitol January 28, 2019

 

Legislators have submitted 1,995 bills for their colleagues to consider during this year’s General Assembly session.  That’s a lot of legislation to consider over the course of 46 days.

Only a handful of the bills and resolutions considered by the General Assembly generate attention from the news media.  And, those issues that are the most contentious, highlighting the differences between the parties or regions garner more attention than any other.

One such contentious issue was considered by legislators this week, the minimum wage.

Virginia and twenty other states have the same minimum wage as mandated by the federal government.  Of the five states and the District of Columbia that border Virginia, three observe the federal minimum wage and three have higher rates.  The District of Columbia has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $13.25 per hour.

The Senate debated this week whether to raise Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, which would make ours the nation’s highest state minimum wage.  This was a debate that broke entirely along party lines, with all Republicans opposing the dramatic increase and Democrats supporting it.

The opposition to doubling the minimum wage can be summed up in a single word: jobs.  From the Congressional Budget Office to academia to independent think tanks, studies consistently show that minimum wage increases result in a loss of jobs.  One study indicated that an increase to $12 per hour – less than what was proposed – would cost us over 24,000 jobs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 3% of the hourly workforce earns the minimum wage.  Since such a small percentage are earning the minimum, why would so many jobs be lost?  Those being paid the minimum wage are disproportionately young, often working only part-time, and are rarely breadwinners.  For employers, these jobs are the easiest to eliminate, endangering extra income and opportunity for those currently earning the minimum wage.

While there are exceptions, those who do earn the minimum wage do not earn it for very long.  It is usually a starter wage.  Wages are rising across the board for the first time in decades and unemployment is at record lows.  Dramatically changing what amounts to entry-level compensation endangers our economic vitality.

A wide coalition of groups representing small businesses, chambers of commerce, the hospitality industry, manufacturers, and agribusinesses all weighed in on the issue, uniformly opposing the increase.

I want Virginia’s economy to expand and the number of jobs to grow.  As a result, I voted against the $15 minimum wage.

 I was honored to give remarks at the Capitol Foundation Gala this week in my role as President Pro Tem of the Virginia Senate. We are fortunate to have the Virginia Capitol Foundation as a partner. This small nonprofit organization raises money for projects that fall outside the state operating budget. Highlights include:

• the Thomas Jefferson statue
• the visitor orientation film, Keepers of the Flame,
• the Virginia Women’s Monument: Voices from the Garden,
• restoration of Capitol Square’s 1818 Cast Iron Fence,
• the USS Virginia Silver Service,
• and an updated visitor experience to the Capitol, Capitol Square, and Executive Mansion.

     

Several of my bills advanced through the legislative process this week.  I have been working on bills to improve health care, assist in energy related rate issues, and transportation concerns. I will have more about these bills in the coming weeks.

 Most years, more people visit the General Assembly on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday than any other day during session.  This year, visitors braved windy 20-degree weather to see their elected officials working for them.  Visitors came by our office throughout the week, including many members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, representatives from Ortho Virginia, YMCA members, Virginia Rural Water Association staff and Horizon Behavioral Health representatives and several individual constituents.

 We’re already one-third of the way through the 2019 General Assembly session.  There’s a lot more to come.  If you want to contact us about an issue or legislation being considered, please send us an email at District23@senate.virginia.gov or call us at (804) 698-7523.

Newman News from the Capitol January 18, 2019

We have just completed the second week of session, and we have already considered nearly 40% of all the Senate bills this year.  Committee meetings, debates over legislation in the Senate, and the election of judges were all part of the first full week of the 2019 General Assembly session.  Since this year is a “short” 46-day session, time is at a premium.

 We have already voted to support our Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms, we have decided to reject many of the Governor’s revenue increases and we have determined to pass legislation to give tax payers more options for healthcare. 

 When it comes to judges, states take different approaches to selecting the judges who will serve in their courts.  Judges are directly elected by the voters in some of our neighboring states, where they conduct campaigns to serve on the bench.  In Virginia, the General Assembly is responsible for choosing judges.  We will elect three additional judges for our local area in the come three weeks. 

Next, we elected this week the newest member of the State Corporation Commission.  The Commission, commonly referred to as the SCC, may be one of the lowest profile parts of state government.  Yet, it is more than a century old and is vested with important responsibilities to protect Virginia’s consumers.

 Established in 1903 to give regulatory oversight to then cutting-edge telegraph and telephone industries, as well as railroads, the SCC’s responsibilities have grown to provide oversight for the insurance industry, state-chartered banks, public utilities, and a wide range of public corporations.

 We elected Judge Patricia West of Virginia Beach to serve as one of the SCC’s three judges this week.  Judge West served as Secretary of Public Safety for Governor George Allen, was Chief Deputy Attorney General for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and has more than a decade of service as a Circuit Court judge and a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge.

 Judge West was exceptionally qualified to serve on a commission charged with protecting consumers and overseeing industries critical to Virginia’s infrastructure.  In a disappointing emulation of confirmations in Washington, no Democrat legislator voted to elect Judge West – even though several Democrats readily acknowledged her strong qualifications for the post.

When the General Assembly meets for a “short” session, it means there are two fewer weeks in which to consider and act upon legislation submitted by its 100 delegates and 40 senators.  Considering lawmakers have already filed over 2,000 bills and resolutions, events move quickly.

 I have begun the process of presenting my 12 bills to my colleagues.  I am pleased to be patroning several bills that resulted from the Select Committee on School Safety study that was completed this past year.  These bills have passed the Education and Health Committee and should be on the floor of the Senate soon.

 Our visitors this week included several local members of the Virginia Credit Union League with their bright red scarfs, Lynchburg Community Action Group, Safe Families for Children, the American Legion, the NRA and several business owners and families brought their concerns to us regarding various legislation.

 If you, your family, or a group of which you are a member is planning to visit the Capitol between now and February 23, please remember to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building.    You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.

 

Newman News from the Capitol January 11, 2019

The Virginia General Assembly convened its 2019 session this week.  There’s been some anticipation of this year’s session, as the General Assembly marks its 400th anniversary.  Four centuries later, Virginia’s legislature describes itself as “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.”

For its first 80 years, the General Assembly met in Jamestown.  The 22 elected representatives were called Burgesses then.  They continued to meet in Jamestown until 1699, when the capitol was relocated to Williamsburg.  In 1780, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson convinced the General Assembly to move the capital to Richmond.  It’s been here ever since.

There have been some changes in the General Assembly since 1619.  Our legislature is now bicameral, with 100 delegates and 40 senators.  But, some things haven’t changed.  Legislators are still elected by their fellow citizens.  And, every session begins with prayer.

Virginia has planned a lot of events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of elected government in North America.  You can learn more about them by going to www.americanevolution2019.com.

 The governor addresses the General Assembly on the first day of our session, delivering the annual State of the Commonwealth Address.  In it, Governor Northam detailed his priorities for the 2019 session.  While his speech last year rankled many because of its overtly partisan tone, his address this year was not as strident.  Although the tone of the Governor’s remarks may have changed, the underlying policies remain the same.  From gun control to higher taxes to increased government spending, Governor Northam’s agenda is largely indistinguishable from the one espoused by his immediate predecessor, who is now busy introducing himself to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire.

 I was honored to offer the televised Senate Republicans response detailing some of our priorities following Governor Northam’s remarks.  Making healthcare and health insurance more affordable is the top priority for Senate Republicans this session.  We are promoting legislation that will give Virginians more choices when they seek coverage, lowering their premiums and reducing deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

  The first week of a General Assembly session has no shortage of ceremony, and there are a lot of visitors on hand to see history in the making.  We had quite a few visitors from home stop by our offices in the Pocahontas Building including the Virginia Republican Women’s Federation, local members of the Family Foundation, VA School Counselors Assn, Virginia Assn. for Career and Technical Education, Centra officials and Liberty University associates.

 Our offices in the Pocahontas Building are in Room E604.  You can reach us by emailing District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling (804) 698-7523.

 

2018 Special Session June 1

The General Assembly returned to Richmond this week to complete the process of approving Virginia’s 2018-2020 Budget.  The end result was a budget unlike any Virginia has ever enacted.

The Senate Finance Committee crafted and approved a balanced, conservative, and fiscally responsible budget.  It included increased funding for our public schools and state-supported colleges and universities.  It provided essential increases for public safety and health and mental health care, too.  It even featured pay raises for public school teachers, state employees, and state-supported local employees like sheriff’s deputies.

The budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee made substantial deposits to the state’s Rainy Day Fund and set aside more for Cash Reserves, which will improve Virginia’s fiscal stability and help preserve our AAA bond rating.

The Senate Finance Committee’s budget plan met all these priorities without raising taxes.

Overall, the budget approved by the Committee would have increased spending by nearly 7% over the budget under which the Commonwealth is currently operating.  In previous years, that would be considered a generous increase.  But, a generous increase wasn’t enough for the Senate plan to win approval.  Although most Republican senators voted in favor of the Senate Finance Committee’s plan, it was rejected by a majority of the Senate.

In a sign of just how far Virginia has moved away from its tradition of conservative fiscal management, the budget that was ultimately approved increased spending by more than 11%, the greatest growth in state government spending this century.

As has been widely reported, the approved budget includes Obamacare’s Medicaid scheme, making Virginia the first state to expand Obamacare since the 44th President left office over 16 months ago.

To cover the state’s portion of the expense of the expansion, a new $600 million tax on hospitals – twice what the Governor proposed during regular session – was included in the budget that was approved.  Despite this new tax, calculations by the Senate Finance Committee staff indicate that Virginia’s for-profit hospitals will actually increase their bottom lines by $1 billion under the scheme.  As with virtually all taxes, the expense will ultimately be borne by the consumer.

Fans of big government will love this budget.  When you increase spending this much, there’s a lot to spread around.  In radio and television ads, those who supported this budget have been busy touting all the “benefits” of higher government spending.  From a bigger government to an ample supply of pork and earmarks, this budget undoubtedly has something for everyone.  But, that spending is likely not sustainable beyond this budget.

Medicaid is already the fastest-growing expense of state government.  In just 10 years, it has grown from 14% of Virginia’s general fund expenditures to 23%, where it is currently.  Since the general fund also pays for core government services like schools and public safety, Medicaid is continuing to crowd out funding for those other services.

Other states that have expanded Medicaid are already experiencing this phenomenon.  That’s one of the reasons why several states have had teacher strikes this year, as their legislatures learn that Obamacare’s promise of “free” money to expand Medicaid isn’t quite as free as they had hoped.  In its efforts to rein-in federal spending, the Trump Administration has targeted funding for Medicaid expansion to be phased-out.

While this situation does not bode well for Virginia’s fiscal future, there are some immediate effects of this budget you’ll be experiencing later this year.  The budget plan approved does nothing to reduce Obamacare’s high – and growing – health insurance premiums or its exorbitant deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.  Most consumers should brace themselves for another hefty hike later this year, fueled by Virginia’s decision to fully implement Obamacare.

Since Governor Northam vetoed Senate Republican legislation that would have given consumers more – and more affordable – health care options, Virginians will have to look to the federal government for relief from Obamacare’s costly, same-size-for-all health insurance policies.  Of course, those $600 million in new taxes will have to be paid, too.  That means there will be no relief from the cost of health care.

This is nowhere close to the result I wanted for Virginia, which is why I was among the 17 senators – all Republicans – who voted against this plan.

Although a budget was approved, the Special Session isn’t over yet.  There are some judicial vacancies that still have to be filled.  I’ll be back in the district until then. 

Newman News from the Capitol Sine Die

Newman News from the Capitol Sine Die

The Virginia Senate Republican Caucus today expressed disappointment that a budget

agreement has yet to be reached, but also noted the success

of its legislative accomplishments during the 2018 Session

of the Virginia General Assembly.

Of the nearly 1,000 bills filed by members of the

Virginia Senate, over 360 have been approved and sent to

Governor Northam for action.

“The continuing budget impasse is, understandably, the

most notable result of this year’s regular session,” noted

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James

City). “There were, however, many initiatives successfully

advanced by Senate Republicans that will make a positive

difference in the lives of Virginians.

 “Our members are particularly proud of our initiatives that will

make healthcare more accessible and affordable, while also offering

greater choice to consumers.

“In addition, we’ve sent legislation to the Governor that will

help create jobs and grow our economy, strengthen our public schools

and higher education, and ensure the safety of all Virginians.

“The continuing budget impasse is frustrating, both to our

members and to me personally. The Senate approved a balanced,

responsible, conservative budget. Senate Republicans remain

unanimously committed to passing a clean budget without Obamacare’s

Medicaid expansion, and we will continue to work towards that goal in

the special session.

“I am proud of what our Caucus has accomplished this year, and

of the serious and substantive approach they have maintained

throughout this session. We will remain unified in our commitment to

advancing responsible and conservative legislation that will benefit

all Virginians.”

I was pleased to see passage of the following bills that will expand opportunity through education. 

SB 368 (Newman) Passed Senate 40-0

Passed House 99-0

Requires Virginia educational programs of higher education to include training and intervention for

students with dyslexia or a related disorder.

SB 969 (Newman) Passed Senate 38-1

Left in House Appropriations

Requires the Board of Education in establishing high school graduation requirements to require verified credit in history and social science.

Senate Democrats today voted to support Senate Joint Resolution 248, formally requesting Governor Northam call a Special Session of the General Assembly to approve a budget agreement.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats rejected two resolutions that would have extended session for 30 and 3 days, respectively.

Today, Senate Democrats joined Senate Republicans and approved Senate Joint Resolution 248 by a 40 to 0 vote.  Subsequently, the House of Delegates introduced and passed its own resolution calling for a special session.  House Joint Resolution 576 was approved after Senate Joint Resolution 248 was communicated to the House.

Both the Senate and House resolutions call on Governor Northam to convene a Special Session.  They would also allow the General Assembly to elect judges during the Special Session.

“I am grateful to Senate Democrats for joining us in approving this resolution for a Special Session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City).  “I was also glad to see the House follow our lead in issuing a resolution of their own.

“This budget impasse may prove as difficult to resolve as those that occurred in 2006 and 2014.  With more than $3.3 billion separating the two budget proposals on revenues and over $840 million in differences on spending, I cannot envision how this situation could be resolved quickly.

“I agree with Speaker Cox that the ‘two budgets differ dramatically on healthcare.’  There, however, is where our agreement ends. 

“The House’s plan, which they assert was crafted to avoid straight Obamacare Medicaid expansion, is barely distinguishable from straight Obamacare Medicaid expansion.  As demonstrated by the Senate Education and Health Committee, their ‘work requirement’ is little more than a ‘work suggestion’.  The ‘taxpayer safety switch’ they tout is actually featured in all the Medicaid expansion plans promoted by former Governor McAuliffe, including this year’s introduced budget.

“There is only one way to resolve this matter expeditiously: The House needs to produce a ‘clean’ budget, with responsible, conservative, and sustainable levels of spending.”

“The House has been very disingenuous in characterizing the provisions of the Senate budget regarding Medicaid,” Senate President Pro Tempore Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford) remarked.  “Nothing in the Senate budget plan – nothing – is in anyway comparable to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

“As Virginians know, the Senate budget plan rightly places a priority on those for whom Medicaid was intended.  We make no apologies for laying out a framework for how future revenues should be directed.  Their claim that our proposal either spends or would spend $440 million is simply false.

“Every Virginia budget includes features that are aspirational in nature.  In fact, the House’s budget has similar features on additional salary increases beyond the two percent they included.  That we prioritized those on the waiting list for intellectual and developmentally disabled waivers is a good thing.

“The Senate budget rejects Medicaid expansion but continues our nearly two decades effort to cover a few thousand of the most vulnerable in our state.

“We have been in contact with the Trump Administration, and they have been unequivocal in their position that states should not be expanding Medicaid.  The House has chosen to ignore OMB Director Mulvaney’s admonitions of at their own risk – and at Virginia’s.

“House Republicans worked with us to pass our Healthcare package, which included practical conservative solutions to provide relief from the high premiums and exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses characteristic of Obamacare.  I hope we can use that model of cooperation, and retain our conservative principles, by producing a budget agreement that spends $800 million less.”

“I relayed to the entire House Republican Caucus yesterday that I do not support their plan or their budget,” said Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R-Augusta).

“I would not support what the House has referred to as ‘straight’ Medicaid expansion.  I would insist on a much more robust work requirement, similar to those we enacted to reform welfare during the Allen Administration.  If the Governor sends down a plan that doesn’t include a real work requirement, bend the cost curve, and stabilize the marketplace, I will not support it.”

“From the first day of session to Sine Die, Senate Republicans have had 21 members united for a clean budget, without Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion scheme,” noted Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover).  “We have communicated this to House Republican leadership repeatedly.  Yesterday, we reiterated our position to the entire House Republican Caucus.

“We are committed to keeping the promises we made to the citizens who elected us.  Our position on this issue has not changed during this session and will not change in a Special Session – regardless of length.

“As Chairman Jones and Speaker Cox realize that a clear majority of their caucus opposes Obamacare expansion, we look forward to the House joining us in supporting the Senate’s conservative and fiscally responsible budget – without Medicaid expansion.”

###

Senate Approves Republican Initiatives to Lower Cost of Healthcare and Health Insurance

Senate Approves Republican Initiatives to Lower Cost of Healthcare and Health Insurance

WILLIAMSBURG, Va, 13 February 2018: The Senate of Virginia today approved several measures to lower the cost of healthcare and health insurance for Virginians. The bills will increase insurance choice for areas with only one carrier, expand the low-cost catastrophic care coverage option, increase the number of waivers for the intellectually and developmentally disabled, and increase competition among healthcare providers.
Senate Bill 844, sponsored by Senator Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and incorporating a proposal by Senator Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), would place requirements on health insurers to offer plans in more areas of the Commonwealth. The bill would also allow less expensive “short term” coverage plans to be offered for 364 days instead of the current 90 days.
During debate over the legislation on Senate Floor, Senate President Pro Tempore Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Health, said, “This is a bill we will all remember, and one that should become a model for other states who want to help the middle class.” The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 844.
Senate Bill 935, sponsored by Senators Dunnavant and Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), would expand the availability of group insurance plans, allowing more Virginians to participate in insurance “pools.” Passed earlier in the session, Senate Bill 935 was approved by a vote of 38 to 0.
Senate Bill 964, sponsored by Senator Sturtevant, would allow catastrophic health coverage plans, which provide essential health benefits, to be offered to more Virginians. Currently, such plans, which are significantly less expensive than other plans offered under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), are available only to those under the age of 30. Senate Bill 964 would remove this age limit and make the plans more widely available. The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 964.
Senate Bill 915, sponsored by Senator Dunnavant, would prioritize the funding of waivers for Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Virginians. Funding for these waivers, for which there is a current backlog exceeding 3,000, has been a longstanding priority for Senate Republicans. In addition, the legislation prioritizes increased mental health and substance abuse treatment. The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 915.
Senate Bill 266 encompasses several exemptions to COPN, including neonatal care in the Roanoke Valley, and ambulatory surgical centers and MRI services in several regions of the state. The bill incorporates provisions from Senate Bills 235, 354, 365, 806, 848, and 923. Senate Bill 266 was approved by a vote of 20 to 19.
“From the beginning of this session, Senate Republicans have been focused on alleviating the high cost associated with healthcare and health insurance for Virginians,” declared Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City). “Senate Republicans are unified in our commitment to ensuring care to the those most in need, to expanding access to affordable care, and to increasing consumer choice. Until the federal government acts, the measures we approved today will form a framework going forward for Virginia to address the challenges associated with Obamacare.”
“The approval of these bills is an historic step forward in increasing access to care and affordability in coverage for Virginians,” Senator Newman noted. “The Affordable Care Act hasn’t been very affordable, and these bills help to expand the availability of affordable insurance to those who have been denied it since Obamacare went into effect.”
###

 

 

 

Newman News Week 6 February 19, 2018


This week, the 2018 General Assembly session passed the halfway mark of the legislative
calendar, crossover. For the Senate, it’s been a very productive first half.
Senators submitted 994 bills this session. By the crossover deadline, 469 had been
approved and forwarded to the House of Delegates for consideration. That means we killed
one-half of the bills before us which is also an important part of legislating.
The House, of course, returns the favor. They forwarded 589 bills to the Senate. Now,
each chamber will consider only those bills approved by the other. The final three weeks of
session will have delegates appearing before Senate committees and senators appearing before
House committees. Bills that survive this scrutiny are then sent to Governor Northam, and he’ll
have a chance to approve them, suggest amendments, or veto them.
More than any other issue, healthcare has dominated the media coverage of the 2018
session. Specifically, Governor Northam’s efforts to adopt Obamacare’s optional Medicaid
expansion. Under Obamacare, Medicaid, which was designed to be a healthcare safety net for
impoverished children and mothers, the disabled, and some who needed long-term care, would
be extended to able-bodied adults as a substitute for insurance.
Senate Republicans are taking a very different approach from the Governor. We are
advancing a healthcare package of our own, one focused on lowering the cost of coverage and
the cost of care. With affordability a top priority, we approved several bills that will increase
insurance choice for areas with only one carrier, expand the low-cost catastrophic care coverage
option, and increase the number of waivers for intellectually and developmentally disabled
Virginians.
Senate Bill 844 would allow more Virginians to opt for less expensive “short term”
coverage plans. It would also place requirements on health insurers to offer plans in more areas
of Virginia. The bill will help to reduce costs and expand options for the hard working middle
class who are trying to do the right thing for their families. .
Senate Bill 935 would expand the availability of group insurance plans, allowing more
Virginians to participate in insurance “pools.” This would be a low cost option as well.
Senate Bill 964 would allow more Virginians to qualify for catastrophic health coverage
plans, which provide essential health benefits. These plans are a lot less expensive than the plans
available on the exchanges, but are currently available only to those under the age of 30. This
legislation removes that age limit, making the plans more widely available – and bringing
affordable coverage to more Virginians.
Our package has won widespread, bipartisan support. The three bills noted here were
approved without a single dissenting vote in the Senate, a rare feat on an issue that has become
very contentious.
Halfway through the session, friendly faces from home keep coming to Richmond to see
their government in action. We felt an extra layer of protection on Thursday when we welcomed
hundreds of Sheriffs and some of their deputies to the Capitol, including Lynchburg, Botetourt,
and Appomattox Departments. We are so grateful for their courage and service.
Remember, you can always contact our offices by writing us at
District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling us at (804) 698-7523.
We’re heading into the week when the Senate and the House must approve their
respective versions of the Commonwealth’s 2018-2020 Biennial Budget. Next week, I will
highlight the details of the Senate spending plan.
Until then, enjoy the unseasonably warm temperatures and have a great week.

Newman News Week 5 February 12, 2018

The halfway point of the legislative calendar, crossover, is upon us. The pace in the Senate was quicker and the floor sessions longer. 
Although we’re already more than 30 days into this year’s 60-day session, we’re actually not quite halfway done. The second half of the legislative session is when it becomes a lot clearer what will and what will not be approved and sent to the Governor. During the first half of the session, both chambers consider the bills filed by their respective members. When crossover arrives on February 13, the Senate will have considered just under 1,000 bills filed by senators.
After crossover, we will be considering bills filed by delegates that won approval in the House. Although delegates filed more than 1,600 bills this session, the Senate won’t have to consider nearly that many during the second half of session. The House will have winnowed down its bills, approving only a fraction of the ones submitted by delegates.
The Senate has been especially efficient this year. Over 80% of the bills filed by senators have already been acted upon with several days remaining before the crossover deadline.
In Washington, the Senate must approve the appointments made by the President to his cabinet, embassies, and a wide range of other key policy positions. It’s a little different in Virginia. Yes, the Senate must approve appointments to the cabinet and a wide range of boards of commissions. But unlike Washington, the House also gets to weigh in as its approval of gubernatorial appointments is also required.
This week, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee approved dozens of Governor Northam’s appointees. Now, those appointees will be considered by the full Senate and then by the House. 
There was action on several of my bills this week. This week a couple of my bills received overwhelming support, passing out of the Senate and crossing over into the House. SB 368 which will provide teachers who are preparing to be reading specialists additional training in identifying and instructing students with dyslexia was passed unanimously, while SB 369 that will require our children have a solid background in history and social studies passed by a vote of 38 to 1. Both now head to the House Committee on Education for their consideration. 
More Virginians took the time to come to the Capitol this week. Several stopped by our offices and saw the legislative process up close. We welcomed a contingent of the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, conservation representatives and some individuals who came with concerns on various bills. 
Remember, you can also contact our offices by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling us at (804) 698-7523.
After crossover is behind us, we consider legislation filed by delegates and complete our work on the Senate version of the Commonwealth’s 2018-2020 biennial budget. That means there’ll be a lot to talk about – and a lot going on – in the coming weeks.

 

Newman News from the Capitol Week 4 February 5, 2018

Newman News from the Capitol Week 4 February 5, 2018
When most people hear the word “Senate,” they think of the United States Senate, a
legislative body known for moving very slowly. Judging from this year’s session, the Senate of
Virginia is very different from the Senate in Washington.
My fellow senators and I have already passed over 200 bills during this year’s session.
Having completed work on more than half of the bills submitted by our members, we are in the
midst of the Senate’s most productive General Assembly session in anyone’s memory.
Even though the General Assembly will ultimately approve hundreds of bills, and send
them on to Governor Northam for his consideration, you won’t likely hear the details of all of
them described in local media accounts. As is the case with most sessions, the attention of the
media is drawn towards “high profile” legislation.
In the world of covering government, “high profile” has become a synonym for
“partisan.” If you’re watching the six o’clock news and hear about an issue we’re discussing at
the Capitol, the odds are pretty good the report will be about a bill on which Democrats and
Republicans do not agree.
In reality, a small percentage of the legislation that is passed each session falls into that
category. While in the Senate of Virginia many bills that are passed win approval without
opposition because of the time we spend to get the policy right.
With the Senate completing its work expeditiously, there was action on several of my
bills this week. My bill SB 969 will make sure our children have a solid background in the
traditions of American and Virginia history. Next, my bill, SB 368 provides incoming teachers
who are preparing to be reading specialists additional training in dyslexia. I also pressed for SB
965 that would remove the provisions of a bill passed four years that resulted in electric bills
being higher than they should have been.
The Pocahontas Building, our “temporary” home, was filled with visitors from across
Virginia this week, including several from home. We enjoyed meeting students from Lynchburg
College and Liberty University. We also welcomed Mayor Joan Foster. Vice-Mayor Treney
Tweedy, Councilmembers Mary Jane Dolan and Sterling Wilder.
There’s only one week to go before crossover, the legislative halfway mark of the
session. With a new month upon us, we are also getting closer to the point in the session where
we approve Virginia’s two-year budget.
If you’re paying a visit to Virginia’s historic Capitol before we adjourn on March 10,
please make it a point to stop by our offices. You can also contact us by writing us at
District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.
Thanks for taking the time to keep up with the latest news from Richmond. I’ll be back
next week with more.

 

Newman News from the Capitol Week 2, 1-25-2018

The first week of the General Assembly session was filled with ceremony and change. In the Senate, the second week was filled with time-consuming work for the people of Virginia.
Governor Northam, Lt. Governor Fairfax, and Attorney General Herring were sworn-in on Saturday, during a ceremony where the sun broke through the rain clouds for just long enough to illuminate the podium where they were reciting their respective oaths of office.
Monday evening, Governor Northam addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, detailing his plans and proposals for this year’s session. 
Like many of my fellow legislators, I had hoped that the departure of Governor McAuliffe would signal at least some relief from the polarizing partisanship of the last four years. With an eye toward higher office and the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination, the last year of the McAuliffe Administration had developed the feel of an exploratory campaign committee.
Having served in the General Assembly, first as a senator and then as lieutenant governor, for ten years, there was genuine optimism that Governor Northam would bring a more workmanlike approach to the office. 
The Inaugural Address and the Address to the Joint Assembly were both dominated by a legislative wish list of the extreme left of the Democrat party. The word “bipartisanship” only made it into the speech once, around two-thirds of the way through. And when it did appear, it came in the middle of a lengthy plea to fully enact Obamacare in Virginia by adopting its Medicaid expansion scheme.
After a week of ceremonies, the work we’ve been doing considering bills in the Senate continued at a very quick pace. It has to. On the eve of Friday’s deadline for filing bills, Senators had already filed nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation. Based on past history, that number will be even higher after all the bills are submitted.
We had a very productive, if very long meeting this week in the Senate Education and Health Committee, which I chair. Crossover, the day on which the House and Senate must have completed all work on legislation filed by its respective members falls on February 13 this session. That doesn’t allow for a lot of time to consider all the bills that have been filed. 
Not only am I hearing about bills and resolutions that were submitted by my fellow senators, I am also busy presenting legislation I filed for their consideration. I’ll have more about these bills in the coming weeks. 
This week, we had visitors representing the Concerned Women of America, Lynchburg Community Action, many teachers and the Virginia Citizens Defense League. 
If you’re planning to see Virginia’s government in action between now and March 10, please make it a point to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building. You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.

 

 

Week One Newman News from the Capitol January 15th 2018

The 2018 General Assembly Session opened on January 10th. This year will be a longer, 60-day session where we craft a new biennial budget and tackle important issues such as healthcare, the opioid crisis, and the teacher shortage across Virginia among other issues.
While the Senate was gaveled into session by Governor-elect Ralph Northam on the first day, by the second day of session he was bidding our chamber farewell. As the Senate President Pro Tempore, I was honored to preside over the Senate for the second and third days of session as we awaited the inauguration of our new presiding officer, Lt. Governor-elect Justin Fairfax. It is a high honor to run the Virginia Senate session at the Capitol and I was pleased to allow our next governor time to prepare for the hard work ahead. I look forward to working with Governor Northam for the best interests of the Commonwealth.
The inauguration of a Virginia governor is a very formal affair. It is held on the south steps of the Capitol, a setting that has appeared in several films as a stand-in for the United States Capitol. My additional responsibilities as Senate President Pro Tempore allowed me to lead the Virginia Senate during the Inauguration ceremonies. I joined the Speaker of the House and new Lt. Governor on the stage as we heard from our new Governor during the State of the Commonwealth address. During the course of the day, I participated in many formal ceremonies that are part of every Virginia inaugural. Every aspect of the Inauguration is based on longstanding traditions. Being a part of those traditions serves as a reminder of just how fortunate I am to have been elected to serve in the Senate of Virginia.
The House of Delegates is very different than it was last year. They have a new Speaker, Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, who was elected on the opening day of session. And, they have 19 new delegates. Of those new delegates, 16 are Democrats and 3 are Republicans, and the House’s partisan balance is now 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. That’s a lot closer to the 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats in the Senate.
Sessions that occur in the year immediately following a gubernatorial election are always filled with changes. But, the differences at the Capitol this year are exceptionally numerous. In addition to the changes in our statewide elected officials and the House of Delegates, all 40 senators and 100 delegates have new offices in a different building.
The Pocahontas Building, across the street from the Capitol’s entrance on Bank Street, will serve as our temporary housing for the next four years. While the exterior of the old General Assembly Building is still up, it is in the process of being razed. In a week or so, legislators and staff will likely acclimate themselves to the new building. But for now, those trying to find their way around the new building often have confused looking faces, as legislators, staff, and visitors adopt the characteristics of lost tourists. 
The first week of session always brings visitors to Capitol Square, and this year they got to be just as confused getting around the Pocahontas Building as the rest of us. I am happy to report that our office had some friendly faces from home, including our local bankers and members of the Republican Women’s Clubs who were here for their annual luncheon on opening day of Session. 
Our offices in the Pocahontas Building are in Room E604. The main entrance to the building is at 900 East Main Street in Richmond. One thing that hasn’t changed is how you can contact our office during session. Our email address is still District23@senate.virginia.gov and our phone number is still (804) 698-7523.