The 2015 session of the Virginia General Assembly came to an end last week, and some of the biggest news was about what it did not do.
By far the ugliest debacle rests in the Assembly’s ongoing refusal to expand Medicaid to cover as many as 400,000 uninsured people in Virginia, even though it would come at no cost to Virginia (Federal government pays 100 percent for the next two years and 90 percent after that) and would be a massive boost to Virginia’s economy. The local and state economy is suffering from the loss of federal spending in other areas, and it’s just plain crazy and mean-spirited to deny medical care for people who can’t afford it otherwise, and at the same time, turn away an economic stimulus equal to 20,000 or more jobs and a direct infusion of nearly $2 billion a year.
GOOD: The Assembly nixed a bill which “empowers the Director of the Department of Corrections to make and enter into contracts … to compound the drugs necessary to carry out execution by lethal injection. … Information relating to the identity of the persons or entities compounding such drugs, the identities of persons or entities engaged to manufacture or supply the materials used to compound the drug products, and the name of the materials or components used to compound drug products for use in an execution are confidential, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, and not subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in a civil proceeding …”
The House of Delegates nixed executing people with secret potions. Passed in the Senate, blocked in the House of Delegates. Be sure to thank those local legislators who voted against this craven proposal: Senators: Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Dave Marsden and Chap Petersen. Delegates: David Bulova, Eileen Filler-Corn, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Mark Keam, Kay Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jim LeMunyon, Alfonso Lopez, Ken Plum, Tom Rust, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon, Scott Surovell and Vivian Watts.
And ask these local legislators who voted to carry out executions with secret drugs and secret methods what they were thinking: Senators George Barker and Dick Saslaw. Delegates: Dave Albo and Tim Hugo.
No good comes from conducting the people’s business in secret, all the more true when the business is brutal. Killing people is wrong, two wrongs don’t make a right, killing people and keeping the brutal details secret is wrong.
BAD: State Sen. Barbara Favola’s bill to extend foster care services and support, including foster care maintenance payments, to qualifying individuals age 18 to 21 years who were formerly in the custody of a local board of social services passed unanimously in Senate, and died in the House of Delegates. The money spent would have been matched by Federal dollars, and every dollar spent helping former foster children become independent, self-supporting adults saves a bundle in other costs down the line.
UGLY: “Ethics reform” put a $100 cap on each individual gift from lobbyists to members of the Assembly, with no enforcement mechanism, and no changes in campaign finance. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were convicted of corruption for taking more than $170,000 worth of gifts and favors from Star Scientific and related individuals; this was the catalyst for the so-called reform. It is apparently fine, however, that Star Scientific also gave $108,000 to McDonnell’s campaign. More than 40 other entities gave more, including Dominion ($383,720), Altria ($361,556), Smithfield Foods ($267,738), Walmart ($121,250), just as examples. (Source: vpap.org). No good comes from having our legislative body awash in this kind of cash. You can visit the Virginia Public Access Project at vpap.org and look up who has been giving how much to the people who represent you. It’s fascinating.