HB 1714

Sources Explain HB 1714

On Wednesday we wondered aloud how HB 1714 slipped by the House. After all, if the Senate Republicans were concerned about the monumental and successful welfare reform program getting repealed, shouldn't that be a gigantic red flag? More suspicions were raised yesterday when Delegate Bob Marshall's (R-13, Prince William) budget amendment (Item 338) on the floor to nullify HB 1714 was resoundingly defeated (although a strange mix of liberals and conservatives voted with Delegate Marshall). 

We also questioned the fiscal impact statement which claims this new approach will save money by spending new money. Today, the bill, which is back in the House because of an amendment added in the Senate, was passed by for the day. 

Here's the scoop, according to some highly placed, reliable FF sources: The House was aware of the bill when it passed. It didn't just slip by. The idea of extending the availability of diversionary assistance money is to get those who qualify for actual welfare — which costs the state more money — to enroll in TANF instead. It won't save a lot of money, but it is a savings.

Additionally, our sources tell us, the reason HB 1714 was passed by today is because there will be something offered Monday to alleviate concerns.

OOOPS! How'd This Slip By?

There must be some embarrassed members of the House right about now. At least those who consider them fans of Welfare reform and the good that it's done to get people into productive lives. Seems a little ol' bill called HB 1714 got by the House unanimously, despite the fact that it would, in large part, re-institute direct payments to individuals. In bureaucratic speak, it increases the frequency of  "diversionary cash assistance" from one four-month payment every five years to one such payment every year.

How did this escape the budget hawks in the House, so eager to kill any new spending the last few years because of tight state finances? Surely it had a Fiscal Impact Statement — you know, those pesky little red flags the Department of Planning and Budget put out to the money committees as excuses to kill real reforms that will save money, ostensibly because they will cost too much?

Answer: It put out a Fiscal Impact Statement saying that spending all this money will save money. Brilliant! Because the House and Senate bought it! Literally! Congrats to all involved.

There is a chance this can be stopped. The Senate did attach an amendment, so the House has a chance to reject it, water it down with amendments, or force a conference committee, where perhaps it can run out the clock. It's amazing how three-sentence long bill can wreak so much damage on a major reform that has improved our society.

Regional Transportation Authorities: They're Still Alive!

Every year, a bill sneaks up on us and everybody else, that really takes the General Assembly by surprise. This year, perhaps more than others: There have been bills trying to expand the definition of blight (that we slowed down and got amended) and one still alive that would dismantle welfare reform (HB 1714). But one idea no one would have imagined would surface, espeially after the HB 3202 fiasco, was the idea of regional transportation authorities. There was talk of it in the greater Richmond area, but when suburban kingpin Henrico Country said it wasn't interested in joining, no one gave it a second thought. Nobody but Senator John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), that is. 

(The admin's note: Contrary to what you may think after three successive posts mentioning his name, this is not pick on Senator Watkins Day. Pure coincidence that he has been at least partially involved in the previous two posts.)

Senator Watkins, it seems, still wants the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County to get together without Henrico, with the possibility the latter and other jurisdictions can join the party later. It's all in SB 1534, which passed the Senate yesterday 21-19. The two sides were as odd a mix as you'll ever see, with liberals such as Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) voting against (probably in the vein of, "If Northern Virginia can't get that extra taxing power, no one is.")

This new authority would, according to the senator's own newsletter, include:

". . . the authorization of a regional congestion relief fee, which is, in essence, a grantor's tax that can be authorized by the respective Board of Supervisors or City Council. The primary reason for this is to give the authority, if formed, a mechanism to pay for its initial development and planning."

That is to say, more taxes, especially on an industry (real estate that is in depression and making refinancing and new mortgages more expensive) and more bureaucracy, regulation and half-baked and costly transportation projects. So, keep your eyes open. If this can sneak up on Richmond-area citizens, it can sneak up on every region. As we all know, bad ideas in the General Assembly never go away. They just get repackaged into worse ones.