In a sight too seldom seen in the State Capitol, Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox stood together at the same podium to announce a bipartisan agreement on criminal justice reform. Governor Northam has agreed to sign a bill on restitution in criminal cases that when it passed last year was vetoed by Governor McAuliffe, and the Republicans agreed to pass a bill to raise the threshold for felony larceny from the current $200 to $500 for which many interfaith and social justice groups have been forcefully advocating. While there are details about the agreements that continue to be open for criticism, they represent important steps in criminal justice reform.
The Governor intervened in a controversial bill on electric energy regulation that is likely to make the ultimate outcome more satisfactory to multiple stakeholders. The original bill was referred to as the “Dominion” bill because it impacted Dominion Energy, American Electric Power Company and the electric cooperatives. After the Governor called together 30 stakeholders and a professional mediator, a revised bill emerged that will keep the electric power companies financially stable while granting refunds to consumers with advances in smart metering, energy conservation and a giant step in moving towards renewable energy. For critics of any bill that deals with electric energy, take a look at the new bill that has been negotiated; I think there are very good reasons conservationists are happy with the new bill.
The critical need for Metro funding presents a challenge for working out a solution. There is no debate about the importance of Metro; all business organizations testify to its critical role in the success of the Northern Virginia region. Holding up the process of working out the new funding are legislators who continue to want to talk about reforms of Metro without specific proposals and who are not willing to make a commitment on funding. Hopefully the partisan political speeches can be set aside, and serious discussions can be carried on by sane heads that will result in a satisfactory compromise.
A bill passed recently that supports a work requirement for recipients of Medicaid that was supported by the Speaker was the first indication that there may be a path to an agreement on Medicaid expansion. Such requirements are becoming common among the states. While such a requirement may be adverse to some people, we need to do what is needed to move the program forward for the maximum number of persons who are otherwise qualified. Certainly, the program will be revised and improved most every year. I share the Governor’s priority that we make progress on expanding health care this year.
On every issue that comes before the legislature there are multiple points of view and different interests. Each has a legitimacy in the mind of the proponent. The continued challenge that keeps me interested and excited about legislating is the working out of complex issues to the best interest of the citizenry.