The General Assembly adjourned the 2018 regular session sine die on March 10 without completing work on the 2018-2020 biennium budget and the FY 2018 “caboose” budget, a result that was set in motion on Thursday, March 8, when budget conferees announced that they had reached an impasse over the issue of Medicaid expansion. The budget passed by the House during the regular session provides for the expansion of Medicaid for individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act, and directs the state Department of Medical Assistance Services to apply for a waiver to implement work requirements included in the proposed Training, Education, Employment, and Opportunity Program, as well as cost-sharing requirements and incentives for healthy behaviors. The Senate budget opts against expansion. As a result, the House budget contains savings generated from drawing down the additional federal dollars associated with expansion, while the Senate budget incorporates none of these savings; consequently, the two budgets have very different levels of resources available to support key spending priorities of importance to local governments.
The House and Senate passed separate resolutions laying the procedural groundwork for a special session on the budget, but since the same resolution was not agreed to by both bodies, the legislature adjourned on March 10 without a set date for a special session, but with the expectation that the Governor would exercise his authority to summon members back later this spring. The Governor fulfilled this expectation within days of the regular session adjournment, issuing a proclamation on March 13 calling for a special session to convene April 11.
In the intervening weeks, the Governor will be reviewing legislation that passed during the session and signing bills into law, proposing amendments, or vetoing legislation in advance of his deadline of midnight on April 9 to act on legislation that passed the General Assembly in the latter part of the session. (Bills that passed the legislature more than a week before its scheduled adjournment were required to be acted upon within seven days of being transmitted to the Governor.) The Governor’s amendments and vetoes will be considered by the General Assembly at the April 18 Reconvened Session.
VACo has requested vetoes of legislation that would limit local authority over the siting of wireless cell towers and cap the amounts that could be charged for use of public rights-of-way. VACo has also requested that the Governor veto HB 1204, which would set a troubling precedent of state intervention in local disputes over the assessment of property. VACo appreciates the efforts of members who have contacted legislators and the Governor’s office regarding these bills.
The Governor will also be preparing a new budget for consideration during the special session. As was the case during the preparation of Governor McAuliffe’s introduced budget, VACo will be communicating with Governor Northam’s office to advocate for the inclusion of key county priorities in the new introduced budget, such as funding for K-12 education, public safety, and mental health. VACo is hopeful that budget negotiations will be resolved expeditiously, as adopting local budgets for the upcoming fiscal year without knowing what resources will be available from the state will be challenging for localities. VACo will provide an analysis of the new introduced budget as soon as possible and will keep members informed as budget deliberations continue. VACo thanks members who contacted legislators about provisions of the House and Senate budget proposals, as elements of these proposals may remain under consideration in the special session.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle