State’s Board of Health to Vote on Review of Abortion Clinic Rules

On Wednesday Governor McAuliffe appointed an abortion rights advocate and former lawmaker to the Board of Health, reports The Washington Post. This decision came just in time for Thursday’s scheduled vote regarding whether the commonwealth will start to overhaul abortion provider regulations.

The Board of Health is to make a decision on whether or not they should amend abortion clinic rules, which would include their tough, hospital-style building codes which abortion rights activists contend threaten to block access to the state’s remaining clinics.

Advocates who are opposed to abortion hold that the strict codes are in place to ensure safety for women as well as access for emergency personnel. Some are still hopeful that a review of the current regulations would result in even stronger restrictions on clinics, rather than weaken them.

Abortion has long been a polarizing issue for Virginia lawmakers. The Board of Health’s vote, which would begin a long process, represents the newest chapter of this struggle.

McAuliffe’s appointment of Mary Margaret Whipple, a 15-year General Assembly veteran from Arlington, strengthens the chances there will be a vote to overhaul.

Puckett’s Resignation Foils McAuliffe’s Plans for Medicaid Expansion

Governor McAuliffe has appeared to run out of options to pull off his campaign promise to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, reports The Washington Post.

This defeat lead to the aggressive voicemail he left the man at the root of the problem, Southwest Virginia Democrat Phillip Puckett, who had quit the Senate just days prior to the vote leaving control of the Senate to the Republicans.

“Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe,” started McAuliffe in his message. “I want you to know we lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy.”

Puckett’s resignation occurred after discussions of jobs for himself and his daughter with Republicans. Democrats had worked to convince him to stay with offers of making his daughter a state agency head or federal judge.

It is clearer than ever now that Puckett was vital to the passage of McAuliffe’s plan. It also clear that the situation, which spurred a criminal investigation has left lasting hard feelings between the parties. Puckett’s resignation further incubates the increasingly partisan atmosphere in Richmond, and will undoubtedly make it even more difficult for McAuliffe to work with the GOP-controlled legislature to accomplish anything during the remainder of his term.

McAuliffe Debuts a Mild Plan for Health Care Expansion

With the Republican-dominated Virginia legislature against any major Medicaid expansion, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) announced a limited plan to use his executive powers and federal funding, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

McAuliffe campaigned on the promise of Medicaid expansion but could not get the General Assembly on board. As a result, the governor debuted his 10 point plan for expansion on Monday.

The new plan would provide coverage to 20,000 new Virginians, rather than the almost 40,000 that would have been covered if Medicaid had been expanded under the Affordable Care Act. The new plan provides more coverage to mental health patients and hopes to optimize participation in existing state and federal benefits that currently cover Medicaid-enrolled children, veterans and expectant mothers.

No General Assembly action is required, and Virginia will use the $40 million in carry over funds from the final six months of the 2015 fiscal year which will end July 1st. If the program is to go forward, it would need almost $80 million a year, which is subject to action of the General Assembly.

State contributions made each year would be matched by federal dollars that are equal to or greater than what the state is spending.

In the coming week, the General Assembly will meet in a special session to discuss the issue of Medicaid expansion. Earlier this summer, the House Republicans blocked McAuliffe from using his executive powers to authorize the acceptance of Medicaid expansion funds.

McAuliffe Unveils New Economic Plan

According to The Washington Post, Governor McAuliffe unveiled a plan to better train workers for skilled jobs and speed up the employment of military veterans on Wednesday. In a rare show of bipartisanship, this is a policy that Republican leaders say they can get behind.

The program, the “New Virginia Economy Workforce Initiative,” focuses on developing “middle-skill” jobs that are in high demand and do not require a 4-year degree. McAuliffe announced the program to a group of community college educators but did not mention how the program would be funded or where it would be housed.

Gov. McAuliffe Makes Workforce Development ‘Number One Priority’


Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe

According to the Roanoke Times, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to make workforce development his number one priority.

During a brief stopover in Danville on Tuesday, VA, McAuliffe spoke at a business and community meeting held by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce. In his remarks, McAuliffe touted his achievements since taking the governorship, and pledged to work with Virginia to grow jobs, improve education and boost the economy.

“We’re all in this together,” McAuliffe told the economically troubled community.

To boost jobs across the state and especially in economically disadvantaged communities like Danville, McAuliffe promised to make workforce development the “number one priority” for the remainder of his term. He also promised to help improve the state’s education system to attract businesses to the area.

McAuliffe Announces New Virginia Rail-Safety Task Force

On Friday, Governor McAuliffe announced the creation of a rail-safety task force following the derailment of a CSX train carrying crude oil last Wednesday in Lynchburg, Virginia, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“What happened here should give us all pause,” McAuliffe said as a small crew nearby performed some cleanup work.

Officials estimate that 20,000 gallons of oil were lost, either in the fire that followed the derailment or the spill into the river. No one was injured and the accident is still under investigation.


McAuliffe Takes Office, Starts by Imposing Gift Cap

1389476103000-AP-McAuliffe-InaugurationOn Saturday, Terry McAuliffe (D) was inaugurated as Virginia’s 72nd governor.

The former Democratic National Committee chairman emphasized the need for bipartisanship in leading the state government.

“Common ground doesn’t move towards us, we move towards it,” McAuliffe said during his inauguration speech, according to the Associated Press.

The next four years will be a tumultuous blend of economic policy and political stalemate in the state legislature. McAuliffe made a brief pitch for expanding Medicaid across the state, a hard sell for the GOP-controlled House.

“Like the majority of other states, we need to act on the consensus of the business community and health care industry to accept funding that will expand health care coverage, save rural hospitals, and spur job creation,” the governor said.

As one of his first orders of business, McAuliffe signed an executive order setting a $100 cap on gifts to executive branch members and their families, including himself and his wife and children. The order also establishes an Executive Branch Ethics Committee. This comes as a response to the scandal that plagued former governor Bob McDonnell’s final year on office. McDonnell and his family accepted thousands of dollars from Jonnie Williams, former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc. McAuliffe will ask lawmakers to “enact the strongest possible new ethics rules to hold all Virginia elected officials to the highest of standards.”

General Assembly Convenes; Deeds Returns; McDonnell Says Goodbye

bobmcdonnell1Yesterday, Virginia’s General Assembly began a 60-day session that will unfold under a Democratic governor and a potentially divided legislature, according to Jim Nolan with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The first task the assembly must undertake is settling priorities in the proposed 2-year, $95 billion budget.

“Following them — and in some cases leading them — will be hundreds of lobbyists and flocks of special interest advocates who will nest on Capitol Square in Richmond for the next two months to make friends and influence people, especially those who decide how the $95 billion is spent,” Nolan writes.

Both Democrats and Republicans are expected to pass reformed mental health law following the November 19 stabbing of Sen. Creigh Deeds, by his son, Gus, who later took his own life. Deeds is in Richmond for the 60-day session.

Outgoing Governor McDonnell will deliver his State of the Commonwealth address to the legislature tonight at 7 p.m. The last few months of McDonnell’s tenure have been plagued by the investigation into gifts McDonnell received from wealthy donors. A decision on the investigation is expected in the days following his departure from office on Saturday, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe takes office.


McDonnell Recounts Accomplishments in New Book


Governor McDonnell would like to be remembered for his accomplishments while in office, not the major scandals that plagued him in his final year in office.

McDonnell released a 52-page softcover book in December that lists all of the governor’s achievements, ranching from his landmark transportation bill to recession-defying job growth, according to the Washington Post. While produced on the taxpayers’ dime, the cost was minimal: $1,500 for 250 copies distributed to Cabinet secretaries, reporters and staff.

“As we reached the final weeks of the McDonnell Administration, we wanted to try to put the accomplishments of the last four years into one simple and concise document,” spokesman Tucker Martin said in a cover letter mailed with the book. “But as many of you know so well from covering our policy rollouts, brevity has never been our hallmark. So we hope you’ll enjoy this 52, yes 52, page book that breaks down the achievements of Governor McDonnell’s term as Virginia’s 71st governor.”

McDonnell leaves office Jan. 11, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe is sworn in.

McDonnell Continues Pledge to Strengthen Foster Care Adoption


bobmcdonnell1Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has demonstrated his commitment to foster care adoptions across the state, and his new budget continues to reflect this commitment.

In mid-December, McDonnell announced his budget includes $27.7 million in new funding for four initiatives targeted at improving foster care adoption. He also announced that Virginia has successfully matched almost 1,000 children in foster care with adoptive families, coming very close to meeting goals set to reach by the end of his administration.

More about McDonnell’s foster care adoption initiatives can be found at The Augusta Free Press.