Earlier this evening, House Republicans rejected $125 million in federal stimulus money for expanded unemployment benefits, ensuring that Virginians’ share of the stimulus will be sent to other states instead of families here in the Commonwealth.
Shortly before the vote, Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong took to the floor to express how badly his district needed the support – last month, the unemployment rate in Martinsville hit 20.2 percent.
Following an inquiry from former Republican Party of Virginia chairman Jeff Frederick, House Speaker Bill Howell ruled an amendment from Gov. Tim Kaine that would have allowed no-excuse absentee voting “not germane,” thus avoiding a recorded vote and killing the measure.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 28, 2009
House Democrats Laud Budget Passage
Federal Stimulus Funds Help Virginia Avoid More Devastating Cuts
Richmond, VA – Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed Virginia’s budget in the midst of the worst economic crisis since World War II by an overwhelming vote of 90-8. The hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the federal stimulus package allowed Virginia to avoid thousands of additional state job cuts and significant additional cuts to core services such as education, public safety and health care.
“Without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan approved by Congress with President Obama’s leadership, we would have been in far more trouble than we already are,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “Being able to partially fill the massive budget shortfall with nearly a billion dollars in federal stimulus money was an absolute lifeline to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
“Nearly $500 million in stimulus funds went into education,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum. “I am glad that we were able to get serious about our budget situation and go from using magic money supposedly in the Water Quality Improvement Fund to real money provided by the federal government to help staunch the fiscal hemorrhaging.”
“A majority of Republicans consistently opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, but were more than happy to use the money to avoid more politically unpopular cuts,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Kenneth Alexander.
House Joint Resolution 994, which commends Equality Virginia on its 20th anniversary, was pulled from the uncontested block of resolutions this afternoon by Del. Mark Cole – presumably so he and several other Republicans could register their opposition to the measure on an unrecorded voice vote. Equality Virginia is a statewide, non-partisan organization that seeks to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians.
In the video below, Del. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria expresses his disappointment that the resolution was singled out in such a fashion:
Last year, Republicans pulled a similar maneuver with a resolution honoring the Richmond Gay Community Foundation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2009
Delegate Ken Melvin Announces Retirement
Portsmouth Lawmaker Concludes Distinguished Career
Richmond – Today, Delegate Ken Melvin of Portsmouth announced that he would be retiring from the House of Delegates after 24 years of service. As one of the longest-serving members of the House Courts of Justice Committee, Delegate Melvin has earned a reputation as an arduous defender of civil rights and a strong voice for the disadvantaged.
“Ken Melvin has one of the sharpest legal minds of anyone I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “He has devoted his career to the equal and fair distribution of the law, and this House will not be the same without him. I thank him for his service, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
“I have had the joy of working with Ken for over two decades,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum. “He has served this body with honor and distinction, and we will dearly miss his perspective and innumerable contributions. The Commonwealth is a better place thanks to his work.”
Delegate Ken Melvin was elected to the House of Delegates in 1985 and is a senior member of the House Finance, Courts of Justice, and Commerce and Labor Committees. The 80th House District encompasses parts of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk.
The Indoor Clean Air Act, which will officially ban smoking in restaurants, passed the House this afternoon by a 60-39 vote.
In response to Republican attacks on the federal stimulus package signed into law this week, Del. Ward Armstrong took to the floor yesterday to question the consistency of those speaking against the stimulus who nevertheless plan to take full advantage of its extra funding boost. “When it comes to economic stimulus,” Armstrong said, “I think that all the ideas that have come from the other side of the aisle would fill a thimble.”
House Republican Leader Morgan Griffith’s response?
“Clearly, it would be foolish when the check arrives to say ‘No thank you, give my money to California, they’re bankrupt and we’re not.’ That would be foolish.”