Victories and Stand-Offs

Five of my amendments to the budget passed on Tuesday, and I thank you for all your calls and emails! Because the Senate recessed until April 7, the budget impasse continues. On Tuesday, March 25th, delegates were presented with printed versions of two budgets: HB 5001, amending state spending through June 30, 2014 and HB 5002, funding Virginia’s government from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016.

These two documents were 800 plus pages in ten point type on letter size paper! We had roughly one and a half hours to review HB 5001 before we voted, and three hours to examine HB 5002 and draft amendments to sections of the budget. This made it difficult to complete a thorough and accurate review!

As a result, while I initially voted for HB 5001, I continued to study the massive bill after the vote. Delegate Mark Berg and I found provisions related to Medicaid “Reform” and other vague language related to Medicaid expansion, so, while I was initially recorded as a “yes” vote, I determined that I should file a “no” vote afterwards for the public record as did Delegate Mark Berg who also continued to digest the contents of HB 5001 after initial passage.

I also offered a floor amendment to the two year budget (HB 5002) to restrict Virginia’s Medicaid agency from writing regulations which they are required to do by the Obama Administration for current Medicaid recipients in such a way as to add new recipients. I wanted to close this loophole and I succeeded (with your help!) My amendment passed 68-31.

Language contained in HB 5002 limited any Medicaid expansion to theoretically end on June 30, 2016 giving the false impression that Virginia could unilaterally back out of Medicaid expansion after a two-year pilot program.

Because there are no provisions in the Obamacare regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or any actions by the President to provide for a provisional expansion of Medicaid, I successfully amended the bill by striking this language. My second amendment passed 68-31.

There are two ways that Medicaid expansion can be funded in the current budget. One is a provision by which the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) announces that all reforms have been completed and once they certify it, Medicaid expansion is funded. The second way Medicaid expansion can be funded is through the use of general appropriations language directing how excess funds are to be spent, even in cases where such language was not originally inserted in the budget to specifically provide funding for Medicaid expansion.

However, I was advised by legal counsel twenty minutes before the session that the effect of my amendment to remove the first provision might allow the Governor to use the second approach to fund Medicaid, even though the language was not specific to Medicaid expansion. Therefore, I withdrew my third amendment striking the MIRC funding provision. By leaving the MIRC funding language provision in the budget (for now) Governor McAuliffe is precluded from funding Medicaid expansion on his own through the use of excess funds.

Last year I voted against the budget because it contained similar provisions authorizing MIRC to “reform” Medicaid as a pre-condition of expanding it. That made it a poison pill for me then, and it remains so now.

As a result of all this, I voted “no” on final passage of HB 5002 because the so-called Medicaid “reform” commission was still in the budget. I filed the following statement which will appear in the House Journal explaining my “no” vote on HB 5002.

“I object to vesting the 10 member Medicaid Commission with ostensible authority to authorize the appropriation of funds to implement, for however long, an expansion of Medicaid, which I believe violates the Constitution of Virginia as an improper delegation of authority to a subset of the General Assembly.”

In other matters relating to the budget, several of my non-Medicaid amendments had been previously adopted and were already in the budget to prevent any state funding for Planned Parenthood, abortions of disabled children or any efforts by Governor McAuliffe to suspend or modify Virginia’s abortion clinic regulations.

Again, I am grateful for your efforts to contact members of the House of Delegates to support my amendments on your behalf. As the Senate has not acted on either budget, the budget impasse continues, so please continue to call and write your representatives.

Delegate Bob Marshall