I wanted to share with you our accomplishments from the 4th week in the General Assembly. We have had great success with our legislative priorities and have worked hard to further the economic prospects of the 85th district and Virginia. Below I want to go over some of the wins we have had this week:
HB 341 - Part of my alternative fuels legislation, this bill incentivizes large commercial vehicles to convert to the more environmentally friendly and economical natural gas. It passed through the House today 90-5 and will now go to the Senate for consideration. Large trucks are the number one user of foreign oil. They are now one step closer to getting a break on overweight permits, as natural gas tanks are slightly heavier. This is another bill that helps our economy, reduces carbon emissions, and helps Virginia lead the way in alternative fuels.
HB 344 - This is a bill that combats online harassment and bullying. As the law stands currently, online harassment is a misdemeanor. HB 344 would expand this law to allow for a felony classification if the harassment is done by stealing the victim's identity.
I joined the Military Veterans Caucus and our meeting this week was quite informative. In 2008, the GI Bill was updated with the enactment of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, giving veterans with active-duty service on, or after, September 11, 2001, enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses. These benefits include a living allowance, money for books, and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children. The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program or YRP) is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
George Washington University has a wonderful Veterans program for veterans that will ensure a free degree while using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In addition, GWU is offering undergraduate degrees at 60% off to active-duty military, veterans, and their families.
The State Senate is now evenly divided with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Previously, the State Senate had organized as a Republican majority due to then-Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R) casting tie-breaking votes. With the election of Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D), the Senate has reorganized with a Democrat majority. The practical effect of this is that it will be more difficult to get conservative legislation through the Senate.
MEDICAID EXPANSION - BAD FOR VIRGINIA
Medicaid expansion was a pressing issue last year, and it is an even more consequential issue this year. My office has received several inquiries from constituents on the status of Medicaid expansion in Virginia and where I stand on the issue. I do not support Medicaid expansion in Virginia, and I do not believe an expansion decision will be made this session.
Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Medicaid could be expanded to cover an additional 400,000 new recipients in the commonwealth. The federal government has promised to cover 100% of expansion costs for the first 3 years and 90% after that.
The House Republican Caucus believes expanding a broken Medicaid system is a bad choice for Virginia. Currently, Medicaid costs the commonwealth almost $9 billion a year and consumes about 22% of our general fund budget. It is the fastest growing part of our budget, growing at an average of 8% annually. Expansion could potentially cost an additional $1 billion a year if the federal government does not live up to their promise to pay 90% of the cost.
Historically, we have seen the actual costs far outpace the original projections for nearly every major entitlement program in the last 50 years. When Medicare was originally created in the 1960s, it was projected to cost $12 billion annually by 1990. In 1990, Medicare actually cost $110 billion. Today it's over $500 billion.
VISITORS THIS WEEK
Pictured: Venus Marshall, Carl Wright, and Judith Jeffrey of the NAACP
We also had visits from:
VHTA Virginia Hospitality & Tourism Association
Friends Bill Gambrel, and Chris Savvides.
Lynnhaven River Now - Dr. Barakey, Dr. Picardi
Virginia Beach's Commissioner of Revenue Phil Kellam and City Councilman John Uhrin
Massey Cancer Research Center
I truly enjoyed all of the visits and am looking forward to next week. As always, it is a pleasure and honor to serve you. I will continue to earn it every day.
Delegate Scott Taylor
Paid for and authorized by Scott Taylor for Delegate.