March 7, 2014

Dear Friend,

The 2014 General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on March 8th, and I would like to take a moment to share with you an overview of the session. We have spent this 60-day session deliberating on over 2800 bills and resolutions, as well as amendments to the $96 billion biennial budget. The biggest topic circulating in the halls of the Capitol, the Senate, and the House of Delegates has been Marketplace Virginia, a private-option plan that would enable hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians to access health coverage.

For your review, listed below is a summary of legislation that has been considered this session.

Senate Bill 270 – Directs the Board of Education to require only Math and English reading Standards of Learning assessments for third graders. (This bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the governor’s actions)

Senate Bill 324– Delays the date by which the Board of Education is required to implement the A to F individual school performance grading system from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2017. (This bill is in conference committee for further deliberation)

Senate Bill 65 – Provides that any person who willfully discharges a projectile from a firearm into the air with no discernible or designated target and such conduct results in the death of another person is guilty of a Class 5 felony. (This bill passed Senate and awaiting amendment decisions from House of Delegates)

Senate Bill 97 – Provides that there must be at least three feet between a bicycle and a vehicle that is passing it. (This bill passed both chambers and awaiting the governor’s actions)

Senate Bill 127 – Repeals the $64 annual license tax on hybrid electric motor vehicles that was first imposed beginning July 1, 2013. (This bill has been signed into law by the governor)

Senate Bill 156 – Directs the Virginia Department of Transportation to develop and implement a plan to eliminate EZ-Pass transponder maintenance fees. (This bill passed both chambers, awaiting governor’s actions)

Senate Bill 513 – Creates the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission which is comprised of 14 localities in Planning District 23, two senators, two delegates, and four non-voting ex officio members. (This bill is in conference committee for further deliberation)

Senate Bill 154 – Allows hunting on Sundays under certain circumstances. (This bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the governor’s actions)

Senate Bill 260 – Extends the time that a person may be held pursuant to an emergency custody order from a 4-hour period to 24 hours. (This bill is in conference committee for further deliberation)

Senate Bill 261 – Directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to review requirements for qualifications, training, and oversight of individuals chosen by community services boards to perform evaluations of individuals in emergency custody orders. (This bill passed both chambers and awaiting the governor’s actions)

The biggest difference between the House and Senate budgets, which has yet to be resolved, is whether or not to approve a plan called Marketplace Virginia. This bipartisan plan is a “private option” approach that would use federal tax dollars that we have already paid — and will continue to pay — to fund premium supports, enabling up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians to buy coverage from private providers.

In addition to helping the uninsured, Marketplace Virginia will control premium costs for those who do have insurance. Right now, uninsured Virginians have to rely on the emergency room for care — meaning they wait to seek help until their illnesses have worsened. As a result, they end up needing more care — and that care is delivered in an inefficient, extremely expensive way. Because they’re uninsured, hospitals have to recover the costs of their care from other sources; Virginians with insurance end up paying a share. By ending the need for indigent care, Marketplace Virginia would hold down the premiums that those Virginians pay.

Marketplace Virginia carries other benefits, as well. The plan would create 30,000 well-paying jobs across the Commonwealth, and it would help keep endangered hospitals open for business. It would reduce state spending by more than $600 million over the next eight years, produce an economic impact measured in the billions, and — in the first year alone — return $1.7 billion in federal taxes to the Virginians who paid them. On the other hand, doing nothing means spending $5 million per day to insure residents of other states — at a time when over a million Virginians still lack coverage.

Marketplace Virginia has won broad support across the Commonwealth from groups such as the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. At this writing, the House of Delegates remains opposed; the plan cannot be enacted into law without their approval.

Again, thank you for allowing me to serve you. I value your thoughts and input. If I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kenneth Cooper Alexander
Member, Senate of Virginia