During Virginia's one-day veto session yesterday, state lawmakers had a number of things on their docket to wrap up the state's legislative session. RADIO IQ's Luke Church sat down with reporter Michael Pope to discuss the happenings in Richmond this week.
CHURCH: So, the most important thing lawmakers did this week is perhaps also the most predictable; rejecting Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe's plan to expand Medicaid. That's the federal insurance program for people who live in poverty or with disabilities. What happened there?
POPE: Back in 2013, this was the central campaign promise for Terry McAuliffe when he ran for governor; expanding Medicaid to 400,000 people who live in poverty or with disabilities; and Democrats and Republicans have been fighting bitterly ever since including this week, when Democrats said Republicans were being morally unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible. On the House floor, Democrat Charniele Herring made a passionate case for expanding Medicaid:
“This is very real to so many Virginians, not only in my district but I dare to say in your districts too. All of us. This is real. This is their life, and it’s the life of their families.”
Republicans reject the idea that it would be fiscally irresponsible to accept one of the key components of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They say Virginia simply can’t afford to offer health insurance to 400,000 people who live in poverty or with disabilities.
CHURCH: One issue that a lot of people in southwest Virginia were focused on was economic development for coal country. What happened there?
POPE: People across the state want to do economic development to bring companies from Europe or China here to Virginia to put all of those coal miners back to work. The real difference of opinion is who gets the money to do that economic development?
Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore, who represents that part of Virginia, wants to create a special team of hired experts who have many years of experience in international economic development to handle that task.
The Democratic governor, though, wants to put this in the hands of Virginia's existing economic development crowd and have them do it.
Kilgore told me he plans to move ahead with what he wants to do even if that takes private funds, so I would expect that to play out over the next several months.
CHURCH: Sometimes it seems like the sausage making will never end. But, Michael, the end is in sight isn't it?
POPE: The position of Virginia's governor is actually very powerful. All 40 of his vetoes were sustained, half of his budget amendments actually passed. The Republicans would need a two-thirds majority to overturn anything the governor did, and they simply didn't have those numbers.
So, the governor and his people are looking toward a legacy as his term ends.