LEGISLATIVE UPDATE--01-30-2017--YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE


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Special Alerts-State

SUSTAINING THE VETOES--2017

The 2017 General Assembly session is officially over!  In January and February 1,773 bills and resolutions passed, including the budget.  Governor McAuliffe reviewed them all and sent the General Assembly 83 amendments to bills, 27 amendments to the budget, and 40 vetoes. Here are some highlights.
BUDGET:  The most important budget amendment was yet another attempt to expand healthcare coverage for adult, mostly working, Virginians.  Despite having no rational reason to reject the federal funds, the majority party turned it down.
 
Looking ahead to resolving the impasse, the House and Senate agreed to set up a joint subcommittee to find a way forward.  Four Senators and four Delegates were appointed.   SALT urges you to contact Governor McAuliffe at 804-786-2211 and ask him to call a special session of the legislature to vote on a plan this fall.
 
VETOES:  The Governor broke the record for the most vetoed bills during his administration. One hundred eleven bills were vetoed during his term and the General Assembly sustained them all.  SALT supports all his vetoes of toxic bills in various categories.
 
Anti-Immigrant Bills:  Three anti-immigrant bills were vetoed.  Bills prohibiting "sanctuary cities"; requiring the Department of Social Services to publish refugee information; and a third would have required localities to hold undocumented immigrants in jails until ICE agreed to their release or transfer.  These bills add much fear and despair currently in our immigrant communities.
 
Firearms Bills:  Several bills that expanded access to concealed weapons permits were vetoed.  A particularly dangerous bill that would have encouraged abused women to arm themselves was also defeated.
 
Voter Suppression Bills:  Bills designed to discourage and inconvenience voters were also vetoed.  One particularly inconvenient one would have required absentee voters to provide photo IDs.
 
AMENDMENTS:  Several bills were improved by the Governor's amendments.  One dealt with four coal ash ponds that Dominion wants to close.  The amendment delayed the closure so more assessment and enforcement can take place.


Must read -The Session Adjourns! SALT Report --what happened!

Together we did it!
 
On behalf of SALT, I would like to convey our thanks to you our advocates and legislators in this year’s general assembly session for an increase in TANF and other Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.
 
SALT’s proposed a TANF increase patroned by Delegate Paul Krizek passed:

  • There will be a 2.5 percent increase in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits effective July 1, 2017.  This will be the third TANF Benefit increase in three years following fifteen years with no increases.  Benefits have declined to just one-fifth of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

TANF Group Consolidation:  SALT proposed and supported legislation to reform TANF locality groupings for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was successful passed.

  • TANF Group I – is eliminated effective with 7/1/17 payments.  All Group I localities will become Group II.
  • Locality groupings that determine (TANF) payment levels are reformed to reflect increased costs of living. The DSS Board's current three locality groups shall be reorganized into two locality groups. Group I shall consist of all localities that fall within the Board's current Group I and Group II.

Workforce Development Initiatives:

  •  Passed $7.5 million from the federal (TANF) block grant for community employment and training programs offered by Employment Services Organizations.
  • This money will help struggling mothers and struggling communities get a second chance.


SALT Opposed HB 2213: Time limit on the receipt of TANF financial assistance (defeated):

  • This proposal by Delegate O’Bannon to reduce the total lifetime limit on TANF financial assistance to 24 months;
  • Defeated by House Appropriations Committee.


SALT Supported Comprehensive community colleges; tuition grants SB 1032 by Senator Favola:
 

  •  Provides that Virginia students who were in foster care or considered a special needs adoption and are enrolled in a noncredit workforce credential training program in a comprehensive community college may qualify for a grant for the payment of tuition and fees.
  • Passed - Senate: Enrolled Bill Communicated to Governor.   

SALT Supported Sen. Favola’s budget amendment to extend child care services and other services to welfare moms while they completed a 2-year educational program –, failed.

SALT Supported Identical House Scholarship Pilot bills for TANF youth; HB 2041 and by Delegate Kathleen Murphy and SB 838 by Senator Bill Stanley:

  • House HWI Committee passed Unanimously and Senate Bill passed the Senate unanimously
  • Both - Laid on the Table -- Defeated in House Appropriations.

SALT Supported Senator Favola’s bill SB 876 that creates a Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program;
Enables extended family members to receive payments, if they can provide a permanent home for a relative who is in the foster care system.Research shows that foster children who are able to grow up with family have a much higher chance of flourishing:

  • House: Subcommittee recommends laying on the table by voice vote - House: Left in Appropriations.

SALT supported Food Stamp program; categorical eligibility SB 810 by Senator Favola. Establishes broad-based categorical eligibility for the food stamp program, exempting families that already qualify for certain public assistance programs from an additional financial eligibility determination for food stamp benefits:

  • Senate: Reported from Rehabilitation and Social Services (14-Y 1-N);
  • Defeated in Senate Finance full committee.

SALT Supported Food Stamps eligibility to receive benefits if convicted of drug-related felonies SB 830. Introduced by: Barbara A. Favola Provides that a person who is otherwise eligible to receive food stamp benefits shall not be denied such assistance solely because he has been convicted of a first-time felony offense of possession with intent to distribute:

  • Senate: Passed by indefinitely (PBI); Rehabilitation and Social Services (8-Y 7-N).  

SB 923, increases the felony larceny threshold from $250 to $500 By Senators Petersen & Surovell:

  • Passed the full Senate  28-12. Killed in the House.

 The General Assembly reconvenes six weeks after session (April 5th) to vote on bills that the Governor vetoes or amends.
The General Assembly has a perfect record sustaining Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes. Voice your support!
 
For Another SALT Accomplishment:
See our SALT Letter to the Editor published in Washington Post 1/25/17 go to Op/Ed for SALT page---Transparency letter.

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HB 1651 provides that an inmate sentenced to a term that makes the inmate ineligible for release (i.e., virtually a life sentence) exempt from depositing 10 percent of any funds the inmate receives into an inmate personal trust account. These accounts are designated to support re-entry.  There is no re-entry for a virtual life sentence.  HB1651 passed unanimously and goes to the Senate.

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Driver's Licenses for Immigrants
    
HB 1682 (Del. Bloxom), to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver privilege cards to taxpaying residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of the bill, it did not advance out of committee. We look forward, however, to supporting similar legislation, HB 2020 (Del. Villanueva), which would extend driving privileges to all immigrants who are legally present in the Commonwealth.

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Holding Wages Down

Three different bills offered by my Democratic colleagues that would have raised the minimum wage were defeated by an unrecorded subcommittee voice vote. And this week, the House Republicans passed a bill that prohibits our state agencies from requiring that laborers who work on state-funded projects be paid at the prevailing wage level. Virginians who work for the minimum wage won’t get the raise they need, and our skilled tradespeople could even see their wages fall.

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Death Penalty

On Monday, the Court of Justice committee killed Senator Favola’s bill which would have prevented those who have severe mental illness from being eligible for the death penalty. Those who don’t possess full understanding of their crimes should not be subject to the highest penalty.

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Virginia Transparency Caucus: Increasing Transparency in Virginia Government

The goal is to increase public awareness of the inner workings of Virginia Government and the legislative and political process, in order to make Government more easily accessible to all Virginia citizens throughout the Commonwealth.

A letter is being circulated among General Assembly members advocating for the inclusion of filming capability for committee and subcommittee hearings in the New General Assembly Building. More members are filming the proceedings on their bills as Del Mark Levine and co-founder Senator Amanda Chase do. And another group – Progress Virginia – has chipped in to film almost 75% of subcommittee proceedings.

The Caucus promoted transparency in bills before the General Assembly, such as a bill this year by Republican Delegate Ben Cline that would have required each committee and subcommittee to record its votes (but unfortunately was killed by the Republican Leadership). We want to see more of this type of bi-partisan legislation. Transparency is something that’s good for both sides of the aisle.


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End Gerrymandering - Four Delegates Against Reform – Contact Them!
 
During this legislative session, House Joint Resolution 749 was introduced by Democratic Delegate John Bell to establish an independent citizen-led Redistricting Commission, which would be charged with drawing districts using objective standards.
 
House Joint Resolution 763 was introduced by Republican Delegate Steve Landes to prohibit districts from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress, or other individual or entity.
 
Unfortunately, both of these common-sense measures were defeated in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee along mostly party-line votes.

Four Delegates voted against redistricting reform on Monday, January 30th.  It was four on a seven member subcommittee, so they effectively killed redistricting reform.  They decided their gerrymandering was more important. Contact them to tell them how disappointed you are in this vote.  Contact these Delegates Minchew, Miller, Hugo, and Cole right now!

Miller, Jackson    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Hugo, Tim           This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Cole, Delegate Mark L.     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minchew, Del. Randall    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



State ISSUES –2016

 SALT Legislative Proposals/Patron’s Updates—March 10, 2016 --
 
 Celebrate!
 

SALT Advocates:

Reason to celebrate! We did it!  You did it!

Thanks to your persistent advocacy our six SALT Budget Items and one SALT bill passed.

Thank your Delegate & Senator and our outstanding patrons: Senator George Barker, Senator Barbara Favola; Delegate Mark Sickles, Delegate Kaye Kory, Delegate Paul Krizek and Delegate Alfonso Lopez. Special thanks to our NOVA Conferees: Senators Dick Saslaw, Janet Howell and the lone Democratic conferee from the House—Delegate Luke Torian—thank them!

This is the most substantial win yet!

Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant - 2016

The General Assemblyadded$17.4 million in SALT proposed &supported TANF program funding for Virginia families:

  • $4.8 million for a Child Support Supplement;
  • $4.7 million for a 2.5% cash benefit increase;
  • $4.0 million to expand workforce training for TANF Recipients to five additional community colleges;
  • $1.9 million to Expand Foster Care Services to 21; 
  • Provides for Apprenticeships for TANF   Welfare Families; and
  • $2.0 million for domestic violence grants; and
  • TANF Caseload Expenditure Reports to Document TANF Funds not Directed Specifically at TANF Families (Non Supplatation).

With thanks! john


Medicaid Expansion Legislation

The 2015 General Assembly session may be over, but one big problem remains: lawmakers still refuse to close the health care coverage gap. A favorite smokescreen is the claim that Medicaid needs to be reformed before it can be expanded. However, this claim neglects the fact that recent Medicaid reforms are not only in place in Virginia, but are exceeding expectations. --The Commonwealth Institute
 
The Virginia Senate Finance Committee and House of Delegates Appropriations Committee chose to exclude Medicaid expansion from the budget and instead, they want to increase state General Fund dollars to free clinics and community health centers. However, we believe Medicaid expansion would enhance the entire health care delivery system in Virginia and is a better solution.
 
Virginians are already paying for Medicaid expansion through our federal tax dollars. Since our state lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid, we are losing that money. We are disappointed that our lawmakers are ignoring the basic needs of 400,000 people, most of whom are employed taxpayers in the Commonwealth.
 
Keep advocating for a real solution for those 400,000 Virginians because the people of the Commonwealth deserve better.

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Breaking News! VIRGINIA GOVERNOR McAuliffe BANS THE BOX WITH EXECUTIVE ORDER

Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 41, which reforms state hiring practices by removing questions regarding criminal history from employment applications. The Order makes clear that criminal history shall not be a determining factor in employment decisions, unless an individual’s criminal history bears specific relation to the job for which they are being considered. “In a new Virginia economy, people who make mistakes and pay the price should be welcomed back into society and given the opportunity to succeed,” Governor McAuliffe said about the Order.

As you know, “Ban the Box” legislation was a top SALT priority during the 2015 General Assembly session.  SALT & VA-CURE partner made a compelling case for “Ban the Box”: "Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison. These new (“Ban the Box”) laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier.”

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Visit the SALT website at http://www.S-A-L-T.org