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
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
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.