Archive for February 2009
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.”
Last month, the House Republican majority made short work of a number of initiatives aimed at easing voter access to the polls – for example, allowing early in-person voting and expanding absentee voting. They were swiftly killed (along with several redistricting reform bills) in a predawn subcommittee meeting that fell on the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
Today, the House GOP killed Senate versions of the same legislation. Sen. Janet Howell’s SB810 would have allowed registered voters to vote absentee for any reason, Sen. Louise Lucas’ SB819 would have allowed early, in-person voting beginning two weeks before Election Day, and Sen. John Miller’s SB1010 would have allowed registered voters over the age of 65 to vote absentee.
Sen. George Barker’s SB1230 would have provided for a court-ordered extension of polling hours in emergency situations.
Finally, Sen. Creigh Deeds’ SB926 would have established a Bipartisan Redistricting Commission.
While most passed the Senate by sizable margins (Sen. Deeds’ redistricting bill passed unanimously), all were killed this morning on party-line votes, with Republicans John Cosgrove, Chris Jones, Steve Landes and Jeff Frederick voting against Democrats Rosalyn Dance and David Englin.
For Immediate Release
February 13, 2009
House Republican Record of Accomplishment
~House Republicans Prove They Can Do Something Well – Kill Commonsense Bills~
Richmond, VA – Today the House Democratic Caucus released a list of bills introduced by Democratic members that failed to pass the Republican-controlled House during the 2009 legislative session. Many of the listed bills were not passed out of committee and some received no hearing at all. It is the prerogative of Committee Chairmen to decide which bills the committee considers and which go unheard.
“The Republican majority in the House of Delegates reminds me of a black hole,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Ken Plum, “Good bills go in, but they don’t come out. This session Delegates from both parties have introduced a number of bills aimed at improving the lives of Virginians. Unfortunately, for the legislators with a ‘D’ next to their name, even the best bills seem to enter the “Party of No” black hole, never to be seen again.
“As we begin the second half of the 2009 session, Democrats are going to continue to work for results for Virginia. I look forward to working with members of both caucuses to solve the problems we face as a Commonwealth, and I urge my Republican colleagues to put politics aside and work across the aisle to keep Virginia moving forward.”
Below is a partial list of bills, grouped by category, proposed by members of the House Democratic Caucus that failed to pass the House:
CREATING JOBS AND INVESTING IN VIRGINIA
- HB2439 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have offered tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans.
- HB2374 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have given an income tax credit to businesses that create jobs related to renewable alternative energies. Neither one was heard in committee.
- HJ742 (Del. Hall – Richmond) would have established a two-year study to develop a strategic plan that aims to reduce the poverty rates, especially in those jurisdictions with rates above the state average.
- HJ727 (Del. Bouchard – Virginia Beach) would have investigated ways to combat homelessness among Virginia’s veterans.
FIGHTING FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES
- HB2588 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have eliminated the food tax and cut taxes for low income Virginians and small businesses.
- HB2196 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have granted an income tax deduction for certified nursing assistants and home health aides who provide Medicare-authorized home health or long-term care services to individuals in their homes.
- HB2512 (Del. Marsden – Fairfax) would have ensured that Virginia Military Family Relief Fund benefits would not be taxed.
- HB2195 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have given tax credits to families who care for a mentally or physically impaired relative.
- HB2522 (Del. Nichols – Woodbridge) would have allowed employers with fewer than 50 employees to participate in the state health insurance plan.
- HB1903 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsville) would have prevented Virginia merchants from charging unconscionable prices for necessary goods during a shortage.
- HB1997, HB1959 and HB1960 (Del. Bulova – Fairfax and Del. Mathieson – Virginia Beach) would have expanded access to Virginia’s Line of Duty act and make sure that public safety employees and their families receive full benefits to cope with the sacrifices they’ve made for us.
- HB1093 (Del. Sickles – Fairfax) would have prohibited lenders from making a low-document, no-document, or stated-document mortgage loan unless they verified a borrower’s stated income.
- HB77 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have expanded the recordation tax exemption for certain nonprofit providers of affordable housing.
STENGTHENING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- HB1608 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have granted Virginia veterans who graduated at the top of their class automatic acceptance to in-state colleges, was defeated in committee with an unrecorded vote.
- HB2295 (Del. Caputo – Fairfax) would have increased two-year college transfer grants, was also left to languish in committee.
BROADENING ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT
- HB2496, HB2301, HB1620, HB1621, HB1894, HB2307; HB1988, HB2110, HB2113; HB1644 (Multiple Patrons) Yet again, the House Republican majority quickly disposed of legislation to expand access to absentee voting and create a nonpartisan redistricting process. Democrats proposed a variety of no-excuse absentee voting and early voting measures in order to help assure that working men and women won’t be disenfranchised and ease the workload of local registrars. All were defeated in subcommittee.
- HJ677, HJ623, HJ182, HJ628, HJ623 (Multiple Patrons) The GOP majority also squashed efforts to restore voting rights to former offenders who have paid their debt to society.
- HJ702, HB1793, HB1685 (Multiple Patrons) House Democrats patroned several measures to broaden input into the re-districting process through either bipartisan or nonpartisan means – ensuring that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around. Unfortunately, all were again defeated before so much as reaching the House floor.
- HJ668 (Del. Shannon – Vienna) would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the legislature and state agences and recommend money saving improvements,.
- HJ676 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsvile) would have directred JLARC to review the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals. Since its inception, the tobacco commission has never been audited.
MEETING OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
- HJ675, HJ704, HJ682, HB2387 (Multiple Patrons) The Republican majority defeated a variety of home energy and conservation measures this session, as well as further efforts to ensure new public buildings are as green as possible.
- HB2157 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have required all biodiesel sold in Virginia to contain at least 2% biodiesel by 2011.
- HB2235 (Del. Valentine – Lynchburg) would have created a clean energy manufacturing grant program, in order to provide financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable energy, nuclear energy, or energy efficiency products.
- HJ682 (Del. Vanderhye – McLean) would have directed the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.