Let me first thank all of you who came out to American’s for Prosperity’s Town Hall meeting on Monday night. For those of you who were not in attendance I encourage you to check out some of the news coverage of the event.
Dickie Bell: Majority oppose expansion of Medicaid – Augusta Free Press
Bell steps into lion’s den on Medicaid expansion – The News Virginian
Medicaid Expansion and the State Budget
Unfortunately since our last newsletter there is no progress to report on the state budget. Governor McAuliffe and members of the State Senate still will not agree to any budget that does not include Medicaid Expansion.
Christopher Newport University released a poll last week that decisively shows that Virginians oppose Medicaid expansion and don’t want to see a government shutdown in the Commonwealth.
According to the poll, voters oppose Medicaid expansion 53% to 41%. Even in the more liberal-leaning Northern Virginia support for expansion is only 49%. Independents oppose expansion 55% to 35%.
More importantly, the poll shows that Virginians overwhelmingly oppose Governor McAuliffe’s effort to hold the state budget hostage over this issue. 71% of Virginians want to see a compromise that avoids a shutdown –this means passing a clean budget without Medicaid expansion.
These are good results for us, but we can’t back off now. Click here to sign the petition and tell Governor McAuliffe it’s time to compromise and pass a clean budget to keep the state government open.
The General Assembly reconvened last Wednesday to consider the Governor's vetoes and amendments to legislation. Governor McAuliffe offered amendments to 57 bills and vetoed five. While some of his amendments were technical in nature and made improvements to the existing legislation, I did disagree with him on a number of other amendments and all of his vetoes.
While some of the Governor's amendments and vetoes seemed to be a genuine disagreement on policy, others appeared to be retribution against legislators that have been vocal opponents of the Governor’s efforts to expand Medicaid.
Overall, the House rejected the Governor's recommendations on 16 bills, while the Senate rejected his recommendations on five bills. All of his vetoes were upheld due to insufficient support in the Senate to override them (It takes a 2/3 vote in both chambers to override a veto).
There were three bills that were amended or vetoed for which I received significant feedback from my constituents. These were Senate Bill 377, Senate Bill 236, and Senate Bill 555.
Senate Bill 377 was initially written to allow gun dealers seeking to purchase, trade or transfer a firearm from a non-dealer individual to submit information on that firearm to law enforcement to determine if it has been reported lost or stolen. Included in this process is a consent form which must contain all identification taken in writing from the person selling, trading or transferring the firearm to the dealer as well as the firearm information. The original legislation stipulated that, should the firearm be determined to not have been reported lost or stolen, the dealer is required to destroy the consent form within two weeks.
The Governor's amendment required that the form be retained for at least 90 days, and did not stipulate that it ever had to be destroyed. Our fear was that this amendment could amount to a back-door way to go about creating a gun and gun-owner registry. Thankfully, the Senate rejected this amendment and therefore the House was not required to take up the vote. If I would’ve had the opportunity to vote, I would have voted against this amendment.
Senate Bill 236 and Senate Bill 555 are both bills related to religious liberties. SB 236 codified the right of students in public schools to pray, engage in religious activities or other forms of expression and to organize prayer groups, gatherings and religious clubs to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities. SB 555 prohibits censorship by state government officials or agencies of the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard
The Governor vetoed these bills, and unfortunately the Senate did not achieve the votes necessary to override the veto. I supported this legislation in the regular General Assembly session, and would have happily voted to override the veto if I had had the opportunity to do so.
I am honored to report that over the last couple of weeks I have received three appointments from Speaker Bill Howell.
The first was an appointment to the Southern Regional Education Board Legislative Work Conference, to be held in Louisville, Kentucky on June 21-24.
The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with 16 member states to improve public pre-K-12 and higher education. At this conference legislators from the member states to discuss education policy.
I was privileged to attend the SREB Work Conference in 2010 and 2013, and I am looking forward to having this experience again in 2014.
Additionally, I was appointed to two boards. I’ve been appointed to the Center for Rural Virginia Board of Trustees, as well as the Virginia Commission on Youth.
The Center for Rural Virginia was established in the Code of Virginia as an independent nonprofit local entity without political subdivision status, for the purpose of sustaining economic growth in the rural areas of the Commonwealth and lessening the burdens of government.
The Commission on Youth is directed by the Code of Virginia to study and provide recommendations addressing the needs of and services to the Commonwealth’s youth and families.
I am thankful to Speaker Howell for providing me with these opportunities that will allow me to better represent the 20th District.
Though the House of Delegates is continuing to hold the line against the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia, the fight is far from over. We will continue to have to use our resources to help get our message out. For this, I will need your help. A donation in any amount will help us continue this fight. You can donate by clicking here, or by mailing a check to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.
You can also reach us by mail at Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.