Virginia Governor Attempts to Expand Medicaid Under Affordable Care Act

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a Medicaid expansion on Tuesday. He predicts that the expansion would bring health care to 400,000 low income Virginians, provide 3.9 billion to the state’s economy and add 30,000 new jobs. Using 2 billion a year in federal funds, the Senate would help Virginians buy private insurance. Before his election, McAuliffe vowed to reject a budget plan without a Medicaid expansion. He needs allies in the Republican House for the expansion to pass.

McAuliffe Urges Federal Government to Expand Offshore Drilling

Governor Terry McAuliffe joined forces with governors from Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast states on Monday to urge Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to finalize rules allowing expanded offshore oil and gas drilling.

Secretary Jewell and senior Interior Department officials met with Gov. McAuliffe, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to discuss the expansion of offshore drilling.   

The intention of the offshore drilling is to draw new industry while creating millions of dollars in tax revenue to states that did not benefit from the U.S. energy boom. According to The Washington Post, the department is expected to release an environmental impact statement within days that would allow energy companies to begin surveying the outer continental shelf for natural resources.

 Once the department issues a statement on the drilling, seismic surveys for oil and gas deposits could begin within the following months. 

Senate Oks bills on e-cigarettes, and red light cameras

On Wednesday, the Virginia Senate approved three bills regulating e-cigarettes, red light cameras and concussions in youth sports.

Senators passed Senate Bill 96, which prohibits the purchase, possession and use of tobacco products by minors, such as nicotine vapor products and alternative nicotine products. 

 The Senate also endorsed Senate Bill 172 requires non-scholastic youth sports programs that utilize school property to establish policies and procedures for handling concussions. The bill also directs the Board of Education to review and revise the Board’s guidelines on concussions as necessary.

House Bill 1040 allows people who have received traffic tickets issued by a red light camera photo system the right to appeal to the circuit court in a civil proceeding. The bill also reduces $50 to $20 the amount of fine that may be appealed. 

VA. House easily passes repeal of hybrid tax

Virginia’s House of Delegates repealed a $64 annual license tax on hybrid vehicles that was issued through last years transportation package. The House voted 92-7 to back a Senate bill to repeal the tax.

More than 7,700 owners of hybrid cars joined forces to start a petition drive seeking a reversal of the fee by the General Assembly. “If we’re going to tax fuel efficiency, we might as well tax insulation and vegetables,” said Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), according to the Washington Post.

If the tax passed, it would make sure all owners of hybrid cars pay their share of the cost of building and maintain roads.

 “We might as well start taxing nonsmokers for not doing their fair share, either,” added Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), another key opponent of the tax. “You were taxing people for doing the right thing.”

The legislation will provide a full tax refund for all hybrid taxes previously charged and collected. The bill is now going to Governor McAuliffe for him to sign. Both Delegate Surovell and Sen. Ebbin expect him to sign the repeal.

Former Gov. McDonnell to seek dismissal of indictment

Former Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell says he will file a motion to dismiss the 14-count indictment against him, according to court papers filed on Tuesday.  McDonnell’s lawyers will file a motion to dismiss the indictment by March 25. U.S. District Judge James Spencer scheduled a hearing on motions for May 19th.

On Jan. 21, McDonnell and his wife Maureen were indicted on federal corruption charges. The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in illegal gifts, trips and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for helping promote Williams’s company’s products. After a month long federal investigation McDonnell insisted he did not break the law and vowed to fight “these false allegations.”

McDonnell is the first governor of Virginia to be indicted for actions committed during his tenure. The trial is set for July 28 and is expected to last between five and six weeks.

Virginia Becomes Nation’s 18th State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

Virginia’s ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional yesterday by District
Judge Arenda Wright Allen.

Judge Allen ruled that the ban passed by Virginia voters in 2006 was unconstitutional, denying gay and lesbian couples their 14th Amendment rights of due process and equal protection. The judge took Supreme Court precedent into consideration, stating, “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.”

Virginia is now the 18th state to allow gay marriage.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, will be lead counsel in NSA Class-Action Lawsuit

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., filed a class action lawsuit against President Obama, the National Security Agency and a host of others involved in the U.S. surveillance program in a Washington D.C., court as a private citizen on Wednesday morning. It is unclear if Paul’s lawsuit will target the NSA’s phone records, Internet programs or both. A senior staffer for Paul spoke to the media last December and said that Paul was considering challenging both programs.

Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said he expects the suit to eventually prevail in the Supreme Court. “I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment,” Paul said in a statement from his political action committee, RAND-PAC. “The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants.”

A press conference will be held today after the suit is filed, and will feature FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli will serve as the lead counsel member on the legal team working on the lawsuit.

Landmark hearing on ban of same-sex unions to be heard today in Norfolk

A Federal court will hear both sides of the historical Bostic v. Rainey case today in Norfolk. Timothy Bostic and his partner Tony C. London filed the suit last year after the couple was denied a marriage license at the Norfolk Circuit Court clerk’s office. Mary Townley and Carol Schall of Chesterfield County also joined Bostic and London in suit.

Newly elected Attorney General Mark R. Herring will attend today’s arguments in support of Bostic and London, and will hold a press conference following the oral arguments. Herring recently announced that he considers Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional and that he would not only refuse to defend the ban in court but side with the plaintiffs. Republicans and religious groups criticized Herring, accusing him of not doing the job he was supposed to when he was sworn in. Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael will argue in court on behalf of the Commonwealth.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the hearing will last at least 2 hours, but an immediate resolution is unlikely. It could be as late as June 2015 before a final decision is reached. If the court decides to hear the case and favors the plaintiff, then same sex marriage will be legal in Virginia.