Prince William

Can The States Stop Nationalized Health Care? Bob Marshall Says, "Yes"

As mentioned here (and according to the AP), 13 attorneys general are preparing to file suit on behalf of their states to block any eventual nationalization of America's health care system — or at least leave their states free to choose whether to participate. Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims is one of the 13. Law suits have been known to work. It is, after all, the states which have the right and obligation to defend themselves from participation in any federal scheme not enumerated in the constitution as a federal responsibility — also known as the 10th Amendment. Of course, the 10th Amendment, nor anything about the constitution, has stopped the federales from increasing its size and scope over our lives throughout recent decades.

But law suits aside, what else can the states do? Apart from the attorney general, who else is in the game? What about legislatures? If Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) has anything to do with it, Virginia's General Assembly will have a lot to do with it. Last month, he made a presentation to the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition about HB 10, The Health Care Freedom Act, a bill he has already filed. Other patrons thus far are John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico), Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William), Harvey Morgan (R-98, Gloucester) and Bob Tata (R-85, Virginia Beach). HB 10 reads, in its entirety, thus:

No law shall restrict a person's natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans. No law shall interfere with the right of a person or entity to pay for lawful medical services to preserve life or health, nor shall any law impose a penalty, tax, fee, or fine, of any type, to decline or to contract for health care coverage or to participate in any particular health care system or plan, except as required by a court where an individual or entity is a named party in a judicial dispute. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes lawful medical services within the Commonwealth.

Marshall, as ever, is sure of its legislative cure as well as its constitutionality, as we are reminded by Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids. In fact, as Leahy points out, Delegate Marshall offers a Q&A on Dr. Bob Hollsworth's Virginia Tomorrow blog, asking and answering questions himself, a FAQ tutorial on state legislative prerogative on federal issues, if you will. At least as far as it concerns the federal takeover of the health care industry and individuals' constitutional rights to be forced into it. 

So, the 10th Amendment lives? We'll see what Virginia's General Assembly says — about its own authority. Virginia could make hay as the bulwark against the largest federal power grab in history. That would really give the lawyers something to fight about.

Spending Transparency: Close To Two Major Victories, Keep Contacting Lawmakers

Spending transparency is one of our priority issues this session and the bills involved (SB 936 and HB 2285) have had a long and winding path thus far (as do most major reform efforts). Just as predicted, their paths are somewhat similar to eminent domain reform bills in 2007, with many twists and turns and near-death experiences. Although each committee vote has been non-controversial, the behind the scenes efforts have been exhausting to get it to that point, with great credit going to the two patrons — Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), respectively, and their co-patrons, particularly Senator Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax) and Delegate Joe Bouchard (D-83, Virginia Beach). There has been tweaking of the bills to avoid the inexcusably outrageous and bogus fiscal impact statements which would have made the bills cost prohibitive to implement, especially in these tight budgetary times. (Fiscal impact statements once served a good purpose — cautionary breaks for lawmakers on new programs or government administrative expenses. Now they are used as excuses to stop much needed reforms.)

Each bill has gone through numerous committee hearings, amendments and substitutes, been reported and refered to money committees and the House version even was sent to a Senate committee the Senate version had no part of (see here). (As it turned out, HB 2285 was sent to the Rules Committeebecause the Auditor of Public Accounts comes under legislative directive, or some such governmentese, but still begs the question why SB 936 didn't go that route.)

All that said, we are closing in on major victories, but it's not time to let down our collective guard. A final push is needed from concerned citizens who believe the government has a serious obligation to shine the light on where our tax dollars are spent. 

SB 936 unanimously passed the House Science and Technology Committee only to have another obstacle thrown in its path — a trip to House Appropriations tomorrow. Committee members Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) and John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake) tried to avoid the referral by asking for a vote to report straight to the House floor.

However, things look positive. Committee Chairman Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) told committee members the bill had to be referred to Appropriations to be vetted for costs, but that she would inform Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) there are no costs associated with this bill. Appropriations meets tomorrow afternoon.

Indeed, Auditor of Public Accounts Walter J. Kucharski and Joe Damico, deputy director of the Department of General Services, both testified that the bill, offered in its third form, would have no fiscal impact on the state budget. Amazingly, the Department of Planning and Budget attached a fiscal impact statement to the bill claiming its original and subsequent amended versions would cost state government between $1.5-$3 million in new equipment and software, man-hours, and more employees. One small problem: no one asked the departments involved (read this about impact statements).

Earlier in the week, HB 2285 emerged with unanimous approval in the Senate Rules Sub-Committee on Studies and now is in the full Rules Committee which meets at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. 

Spending transparency is an important issue (read here) for many reasons: good government, accountability, taxpayer protection and the like (read here). It also will give us a clearer window into how often, how much and for what reasons nefarious profit making groups such as Planned Parenthood get our tax money! We are very close to victory on a major priority this session. Let's not take it for granted.

Contact Rules Committee members here (HB 2285) and Appropriations Committee members here (SB 936).

Another Hurdle For Spending Transparency

Spending transparency (SB 936) cleared another hurdle today only to have another one thrown in its path — a trip to House Appropriations (click here for contact information), this Friday. However, things look positive. It passed on a 21-0 vote and in the House Science and Technology Committee late this afternoon, but then referred to the Appropriations. Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) and John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake) tried to avoid the hurdle by asking for a vote to report straight to the floor. According to committee Chairman Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), it simply is a safeguard measure — if a cost to it was discovered on the floor, the bill would die because Friday is the last Appropriations Committee meeting. Better for it to be vetted there, and amended if necessary.

However, Auditor of Public Accounts Walter J. Kucharski and Joe Damico, deputy director of the Department of General Services, both testified that the bill, offered in its third version today, would have no fiscal impact. Amazingly, the Department of Planning and Budget posted a fiscal impact statement claiming that the second version of the bill would cost these two departments and state government $1.5 million in new equipment and software, man-hours, and more employees. One small problem: no one asked the departments.  

It's no time to rest, however. SB 936 and HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), and which emerged yesterday with unanimous approval in the Senate Rules Sub-Committee on Studies and now is in the full Rules Committee (contact information here), should both be heard Friday in those committees. Contact members of both committees. We're very close to victory on a major priority this session. Let's not take it for granted.

House Passes Four Pro-Life Budget Amendments!

Yesterday the House and Senate were supposed to finish work on their respective budgets, laying the groundwork for the budget debate over the final two weeks. Things do not, however, always go as planned in Richmond. While the Senate postponed its budget vote until next week (waiting on Governor Kaine's latest revenue conjecture, which didn't sit well with the House because now it is out on a limb), the House proceeded and passed several pro-life amendments that protect taxpayers from subsidizing unethical and failed research, elective abortions and a wealthy, partisan organization. In addition, the House included a language amendment that raises the safety standards at Virginia's abortion centers. A description of each:

One of the adopted amendments, introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William), defunds Planned Parenthood. It passed 61-28. During this decade, Virginia taxpayers have unknowingly sent nearly $500,000 to this overtly partisan and pro-abortion organization. Its national annual budget is more than $1 billion. If the governor cut funding for abstinence education, ostensibly for cost savings, then we should not ask Virginians to send their hard earned money to this group.

Another amendment, also submitted by Delegate Marshall, prohibits the use of taxpayer funding of abortions. Incredibly, in 2006 and 2007, Virginia tax dollars funded 322 abortions (160 in fiscal-year 2007 and 162 in fiscal 2006). The federal government subsidizes abortions only when a Medicaid-eligible woman's life is at risk or in the cases of rape and incest. Virginia, however, goes above and beyond those requirements.  This extra funding should stop now.

A separate amendment, submitted by Delegate (and Majority Whip) Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights), prevents the funding of failed research that requires the destruction of human embryos. It passed 79-21. As many in the scientific community abandon embryonic stem cell research for the successful adult stem cell research, some in Virginia continue to advocate for taxpayer funding of the utterly unsuccessful embryonic version that simply has not lived up to its advocates' hype — producing not one major success. Meanwhile, adult stem cell research has produced dozens of cures and treatments (recently reversing the affects of some MS patients). Investment in adult stem cell research offers hope and promise, and that's where Virginia's money should go.

Also yesterday, the House voted 61-36 to add to the budget policy language that raises the safety standards of abortion centers. Similar legislation has passed the House several times in recent years, only to be killed in the Senate Education and Health Committee. Adding that language to the budget is a creative way to try to circumvent the "Committee of Death."

The House was seemingly caught off guard by the Senate's decision to postpone its budget vote, and continued work on its budget, passing it late in the afternoon yesterday. But the Senate adjourned without taking a vote on its budget and without, apparently, changing the midnight deadline for the vote.

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.

Quote Of The Day

Today's version comes from the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Unlike most committee meetings where patrons and witnesses make statements and take questions from committee members, today's docket was so full, Chairman Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania) only took reports from sub-committee chairmen, and comments from patrons and executive branch personnel for technical advice. So when Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) stepped up to the rostrum for his HB 2509, a voter integrity and identification bill, only for the committee to pass it 17-5 in a heart beat, Marshall said:

"I do better when I don't say anything."

While the room laughed, it absolutely erupted when Delegate Chris Jones (R-76, Suffolk) rejoined:

"I'll remind you of that on the floor."

Quote Of The Day, Question Of The Day

Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) is getting a rep as one of the wittiest guys around the capitol. Tonight, in the House Education Subcommittee on Teachers and Administration, he had a classic. This evening the sub-committee heard Delegate Scott Lingamfelter's (R-31, Prince William) bill (HB 1844) to make it easier for localities to create charter schools by allowing to sunset some of the restrictive language in the statute that created charter schools in Virginia (which critics say was passed not to create charter schools, given the difficulty in creating them and the paucity of them).

Typically, Pat Lacey, a veteran and effective lobbyist for the educrat establishment, which uses its political muscle to block any and every education reform — and even bills that sometimes only remotely affect education — was sitting in the GAB's 4 West conference room's front row waiting to punce on the bill, even after Delegate Lingamfelter amended some of the its language.

After Lingamfelter finished his presentation, Delegate Gilbert opened it up for public comment by asking:

"Would Delegate Lacey like to speak in opposition now?"

The room, knowing Lacey's power may be as great or greater than many lawmakers, errupted in laughter.

However, things are only funny if there's a bit of truth in them, and Delegate Gilbert's keen sense of humor makes a huge point. Powerful special interests funded by huge war chests don't make for a pretty legislative process. But Gilbert wasn't done.

Also speaking in opposition was a man who identified himself as from an organization representing teachers. When he finished his statement, Gilbert pointedly asked, to gain some transparency:

"Do you represent any teachers other than those who work for public schools?"

The man meekly admitted, "No." There. "Teachers unions" don't speak for all teachers and, often enough, not even the ones in their own union. Delegate Gilbert's question should be rote for any education committee member to anyone who claims to represent "teachers," especially those whose mission isn't to educate, but to block reform.

By the way, the bill passed 7-0. Good news for its immediate future. We'll see how it fares down its legislative path. No doubt, the educrats are waiting somewhere along the way, waiting for "Delegate" Lacey and allies to kill it off.