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Column: General Assembly Gets Underway

The Virginia General Assembly convened in Richmond last Wednesday. So far one of the major issues is whether or not to lift the moratorium on mining uranium. The bill before us is one that would go forward to set up regulations should the ban be lifted. Many people have contacted me regarding this issue sharing studies and concerns pro and con.

Another issue gaining a lot of attention is Governor Robert McDonnell’s reappointment of Helen Dragas to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Her reappointment must be confirmed by the General Assembly. After meeting with Ms. Dragas and considering the damage that has been done to our stellar, flagship public university, I have decided that I cannot vote for her confirmation and have informed Ms. Dragas of my decision.

I have introduced several bills to assist veterans with unemployment and to aid people with health care coverage. These include:

SB 829 would amend the Code of Virginia to enact a comprehensive program to reduce unemployment among veterans by assisting businesses to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

SB 831 would provide a tax credit for hiring veterans.

SB 730 would provide an exemption for nonprofit veteran’s organizations to qualify for sales and use tax exemption.

In the area of health care insurance, SB 947 would prohibit a health insurer from making modifications to prescription drug coverage to increase the price of the drug or removing or altering the quantity allowed without 60 days prior notification. These kinds of changes can impact insured patients without giving them time to try to make different arrangements or find alternative coverage. Therefore, I believe this legislation is needed.

SB 945 would require health plans to allow “certain covered persons to pay their cost-sharing obligations under their health benefits plan in 12 equal monthly installments.” This could be very helpful to people suffering from chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis that require excessively expensive medications. The Joint Commission on Health Care that I chair strongly supports this bill.

Two town hall meetings are planned: in Lee District, Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m. at the Thompson Center, 6090 Kingstowne Village Parkway, Kingstowne, and in Mount Vernon District, Saturday, Feb. 16, 9:30 a.m., Mount Vernon Government Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria.

Please continue to let me hear from you on issues of concern. Email me at: district36@virginia.senate.gov; phone: 1-804-698-7536; and mailing address: Senate of Virginia, P.O. Box 396, Richmond, Virginia 23218.