Friday, January 24, 2014

Lingamfelter's 2014 Session Update

Dear Friends,


We are only about 12 days into the 2014 General Assembly Session but things are moving very quickly in Richmond. This week, subcommittee and committee dockets started mounting up and the debates on the floor of the House grew longer and sometimes a bit contentious.


I have introduced several pieces of legislation this year on a range of topics- everything from ABC permitting issues that have prevented a small business owner in the 31st District from opening their doors to legislation to restructure our tax code, protect our Constitutional rights, and support our law enforcement officers as they protect our communities.


House Bill 730 is a piece of legislation that I am particularly proud of this year. Based on the recommendations of an independent study implemented by the General Assembly, this reform legislation seeks to streamline, clarify, and reorganize the Commonwealth's public safety, emergency management, and Commonwealth preparedness operations to ensure that all levels of government are on the same page when it comes to coordination and planning.   Shortly after introducing House Bill 730, I was approached by Governor McAuliffe and several members of his Cabinet who were interested in working with us on the bill. So over the past few weeks, I have been working with the Administration to make certain the bill gathers bipartisan support in protecting the interests of all Virginians. HB 730 is a commonsense piece of legislation that will make sure that our county and state governments are prepared for natural or man-made disasters.


As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I have been on the front lines of crafting our biennium budget, which is arguably one of the most important things we work on during Session. As we have in years past, members on both sides of the aisle understand that a balanced budget is non-negotiable and that we must be wise about where we spend our money. To that end, our focus has been core functions of government and a basic safety net for those of us who are having a rough go at things. While we may agree with each other on some issues, there will be times that we see things in a different light. Medicaid expansion comes to mind. Medicaid costs are already spiraling out of control and taking up an even larger share of the state budget, and before we even consider expansion (which I do not favor), there needs to be serious reforms to Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid in Virginia will mean that in future budgets we will have less money for other major areas of concern like higher education, K-12 education, public safety, competitive salaries for our workforce, and support for our local governments. Medicaid is a whopping 40% of the general fund budget that is before us now and constitutes overall 22% of the entire general fund budget of Virginia. The growth in health-related spending has exploded in recent years. So if we do anything at this point, first and foremost we MUST reform our current system. We have a group working on that right now and we won't be rushed by media-driven politics when the policy is so important to get right. I look forward to a vigorous and honorable debate on this issue this session.

So as you can see we are busy for sure. And the good news is there has been a bipartisan effort around a number of things, including ethics reform which we will soon move forward. But unfortunately some of our more liberal members have once again returned to focus on social issues, looking to open old wounds and divert attention from the most important business here. Our focus needs to be on jobs, work force transition, educational opportunities, and keeping Virginia the Number 1 place in America to do business. We won't to that by dealing with divisive issues that take our focus off of the positive things simply to debate issues that have already been settled in law and in our constitution, like marriage. Think about it. We are only two weeks into Session and Attorney General Herring has insisted on driving a wedge between legislators in Richmond by announcing his intent to ignore the Constitution and laws of Virginia. Wherever you stand on the issue, you must admit, the Attorney General enforces the law, the legislature crafts the laws. And when you take an oath to enforce the laws, that means all of them- even the ones that give you pause. If you don't like them, propose a bill to change them but you don't get to do so by not doing your job. Very shameful.


I hope that we can quickly turn away from these distractions and get back to the issues most important to Virginians.


Finally, staying in Richmond for the 60-day 2014 General Assembly Session is a long time away from family and friends. Although committee meetings and floor sessions sometimes make it difficult to personally visit with folks from back home, I was glad to have several constituents make the trip to Richmond to speak with me personally about the issues they care about. Whether its early childhood education, hunter education, or local County issues, it's always good to see a familiar face.


As always, we have an open door policy. Feel free to come to Richmond to visit or give us a call to get an update on what the legislature is working on. We can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1031 or by email at


Stay warm this weekend- it's going to be a cold one!


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Friends of Scott Lingamfelter | P.O. Box 7175 | Woodbridge | VA | 22195

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