State and National Government

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The chances of Virginia joining a majority of states that have expanded Medicaid have increased significantly after a key GOP lawmaker flipped positions on the issue. Republican Del. Terry Kilgore said Thursday on the John Fredericks Show that he’d changed his mind after years of opposition to Medicaid expansion and now supports it. Kilgore said his change of heart was due partly to President Donald Trump’s embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid. The powerful lawmaker from Southwest Virginia could help provide political cover for other Republicans to support expansion. Republicans have blocked Medicaid expansion in Virginia for years, saying its long-term costs were unsustainable. But they have softened their opposition this year after a Democratic wave helped elect several new lawmakers who campaigned specifically on expanding Medicaid.

Del. Sam Rasoul

Roanoke Democratic delegate Sam Rasoul has long advocated for more bi-partisanship in the General Assembly. Today he and Republican delegate Chris Peace have launched the “Virginia State Future Caucus,” comprised of state delegates 45 and under. Rasoul, the caucus co-chair, says they will tackle “new age” issues like student debt and clean energy. Its part of a national movement he says, with similar groups of lawmakers in 21 other states – and in the U.S. Congress.

2-14 New Caucus-WEB

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia says it is opposed to last week’s bipartisan deal that would raise Virginia’s felony theft threshold from $200 to $500 while also strengthening the state’s criminal restitution system.
The local ACLU says in a Monday statement it, the NAACP in Loudoun County and several other organizations support the felony larceny threshold increase but oppose another bill the compromise included to ensure criminals pay court-ordered restitution to crime victims.
The statement says defendants without the ability to pay restitution could be kept on probation indefinitely if the changes are adopted. It also says probation officers and judges would turn into “debt collectors.”
State Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran tells the Daily Press lawmakers would have killed the felony threshold raise without the restitution changes.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A bill to allow slots-like betting machines to revive the shuttered Colonial Downs horse-racing track outside Richmond has cleared a Virginia House committee.
The bill to allow historical horse race wagering, which lets players gamble faster by betting on races that have already happened, passed the House Appropriations Committee Friday 21-1.
The proposal could generate more discussion next week, when it reaches the House floor.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the language to legalize the new form of gambling was initially put inside former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget. But House Speaker Kirk Cox, who opposes the proposal, insisted it be filed as a standalone bill to have standard public hearings.
If approved, the gambling machines could be installed at Colonial Downs and a handful of off-track betting parlors around the state.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia Senate has passed legislation putting new limits on regulators’ ability to lower utilities’ electric rates that are currently earning excessive profits. The Senate voted Friday for the bill, which also providing some rebates for past overearnings. The vote came despite warnings from the attorney general’s office and regulators that it could result in billions of dollars in unnecessary costs while also effectively forcing customers to pay twice for some projects. Supporters of the legislation included Dominion Energy, Appalachian Power, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and others. They say the overhaul of state regulations is needed to help Virginia catch up to other states in renewable energy and modernizing the electric grid without incurring dramatic price swings. A House vote is expected next week.