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Meanwhile, Back in Court
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRICHMOND, VA – The Senate reconvened Monday for the first time in a couple of weeks and were met be a "die-in” in Capitol Square produced by a plethora of left-wing groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL. It’s no wonder they support Obamacare Medicaid expansion — in Michigan, for example, there have been 11,000 more abortions since it adopted the program.

Critics claim the Republican Senate majority’s deliberate considerations are meant to wind down the clock toward July 1 and force a vote on a "clean” budget in order to avoid a first-ever government shutdown. But Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) guaranteed that there would be no such drama. That still didn’t shield him from criticism that the Senate has been slow to react to the budget plan the House passed two weeks ago, even as the Senate Finance Committee met to begin work on its version, which may get a floor vote as early as May 22.

Counties, though, are starting to get nervous. They need to know what is going to be in the budget in order to make their own plans. Some are pressing their senators for a vote and more are queuing up to do the same as the process drags on and the moment becomes more urgent.

The counties may become the unnoticed key players in the entire debate for another reason. Counties administer Medicaid and the extra burden expansion will bring won’t sit well with many as they struggle to fund their core functions, such as education and public safety. The House budget allocates to the counties $50 per each newly enrolled person but costs in some states are as high as $2,300 per person. Add in the ratings agencies’ increasing impatience and legislators may have no choice but to kick the Medicaid can to the next biennium.

Republican Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), however, remains committed to breaking ranks with his caucus, as he announced Monday. Senator Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) could join him, although each has different conditions for their votes.

Still another factor is the proposed hospital tax to fund some of the expansion that Hanger opposes and on which the hospitals themselves are split. Then there is the potential crooked procedural path that could slow down the train. The number of moving parts is enough to confound the best Swiss watchmaker.

Norment also vowed Monday that even if he losses Hanger and Wagner the remaining Republicans won’t sit on the sidelines, but will "shape” the best possible deal. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to brief states that have adopted the expansion that the money spigot is getting cut off, which is why it continues to tighten requirements for those states’ recipients — and to serve as a warning to states that are considering expansion: Do what you want now; just know the money won’t be there tomorrow, and don’t cry to us when it’s not.

Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.


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