Next week marks the official halfway point of the General Assembly Session. “Crossover,” which falls on Tuesday, February 16, is the day when each chamber must finish work on its own legislation and then may only consider legislation from the other body. The week leading up to Crossover is always busy, and this year was no exception. This week was marked by lengthy floor sessions and committees working overtime to ensure that they clear their dockets.
Agreement to Restore & Expand Concealed Carry Reciprocity Passes
A few weeks ago, I told you about an agreement that was reached between General Assembly Republicans and Governor McAuliffe regarding the Attorney General’s actions on concealed carry reciprocity. On Wednesday, the House passed the legislative proposals that make up this bipartisan agreement. In case you missed it, the agreement restores and expands concealed carry reciprocity, requires State Police to be available for voluntary background checks at gun shows, and prohibits individuals under permanent domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm under state law. The agreement had the support of both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).
The agreement secures the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and takes reasonable steps to make our communities safer. I know that many gun owners and concealed carry permit holders in the 20th District and across Virginia were concerned about the Attorney General’s actions. This is why the House made restoration of reciprocity a top priority for the session. I am glad we were able to put aside our differences and reach an agreement that will not only restore reciprocity but also expand it.
To read more about the specific pieces of legislation, click here.
Ensuring that all Virginians have access to quality and affordable healthcare is another top priority for many of us this Session. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act continues to cost Virginians by driving up insurance rates and healthcare costs.
Instead of expanding an expensive, broken entitlement program, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates are pushing for real health care reforms to increase access and keep health care costs under control.
The House of Delegates has already passed legislation to increase access to primary care doctors, expand access to mobile health clinics, and combat prescription drug fraud in Virginia. These are meaningful reforms that will improve healthcare in the Commonwealth.
In addition, we have focused our efforts to reform the Certificate of Public Need process. Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need program, first implemented 43 years ago in an attempt to optimize health care at the lowest cost to the state, has evolved to a burdensome, bureaucratic process that is widely seen as needing reform. For years, the General Assembly has evaluated legislative proposals to do so. However, these efforts have fallen short, in large part due to extensive lobbying efforts on the part of those who benefit economically from being able to control the provision of health care services in their community.
As a member of the Health, Welfare, and Institutions committee, I have been involved for some time now with these discussions. I have met with a number of stakeholders and I am familiar with the arguments on all sides of the issue. Research has shown that COPN laws restrict access to services and hospital beds rather than increasing access.
Unfortunately this week there has been a lot of misinformation and fear tactics used to scare citizens into action regarding this issue. I certainly understand the concerns of our local hospitals, but I am disappointed in the tactics that have been used by the Hospital Association’s public relations team.
The COPN process is extremely complicated and it would certainly be easier to support the status quo. The status quo is not, however, in the best interest of the citizens that I have been sent to Richmond to represent. The healthcare industry is unique, both in the mandates government places on it and the economic protections it bestows on it. It seems to me that this is all the more reason to find creative ways to allow providers who want to expand and offer new services the flexibility to do so.
Those of us that support COPN reform have the goal of promoting comprehensive health planning, promoting access to the highest quality care at the lowest cost to our families and businesses, avoiding unnecessary duplication of medical care facilities, and providing an orderly procedure for the construction/modification of medical care facilities. We are looking at this series of reforms not to hurt our local hospitals, but to help drive down already skyrocketing costs for our patients.
The legislation that would reform COPN has passed out of committee and should be up for a vote on the floor next week. I intend to support this legislation because I believe we should be increasing access and lowering costs, and not the other way around.
I have received numerous emails in the last few weeks asking for support of the proposed Natural History Museum in Waynesboro. Senator Hanger has proposed a budget amendment that would include the funding for this and has included the museum in legislation for the six-year capital outlay plan.
There has been some misinformation on my position on this museum, so let me clarify that now. I am in full support of bringing a branch of this museum to Waynesboro. I have been in contact with Senator Hanger and the City of Waynesboro on this project and stand ready to help in any way that I can. I believe that this project, combined with the efforts to revitalize the Wayne Theatre, will be very beneficial for economic development in Waynesboro and I look forward to the completion of both projects.
This week was a bit slower for visitors, but we were still happy to see a number of folks from home. Lee Ann Whitesell visited with a great group of students from Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School. They were here to discuss funding for part day Governor’s School programs. We also had the opportunity to meet with social work students from CNU, JMU, VCU, and Saint Leo University. Amy Darby and Bob Boyle, members of the Staunton School Board, were here as well. Additionally, Pat Coffield, Tim Fitzgerald, and 6 of the 7 members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors dropped by on Thursday.
We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session. If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.
While we make every attempt to see all of our constituents, please understand that our committee schedules can be very hectic and our schedule can change very quickly. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
We will be operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2016 Session. While we still monitor the voicemail on our District Office phone line, the quickest way to reach us by phone will be by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020. We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.
As in previous Sessions, I will provide weekly updates throughout our time in Richmond. If you know someone who would like to receive these updates, they can sign up online at bellfordelegate.com or email Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.com.
I look forward to seeing you in Richmond! Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.