2014 James and Nellie Butler Albemarle County High School Scholarships

Butlers

This Scholarship program was established in 1998 by the Albemarle County Democratic Party to honor James and Nellie Butler, life-long members of the Democratic Party. The scholarship honors their commitment to Albemarle County and their support for public education. All graduating Albemarle County High School students who plan to attend college, university or an accredited technical/ vocational program are eligible to apply.

Since the creation of the scholarship by the Albemarle County Democratic Party, over $20,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to students to help defray part of their college costs. The Butler Scholarship Committee, after a review of the applications which include an essay, will select the recipients of the 2014 scholarships. Financial need is a consideration.

One $500 scholarship toward post-secondary education tuition is awarded to a senior at each of the four Albemarle High Schools: Albemarle Senior high, Western Albemarle Senior High, Monticello Senior High and Murray Senior High.

Jim Butler served Albemarle County for over 35 years as an agricultural extension agent. He was the first African-American to be named Unit Chairman for an agricultural extension office in Virginia. Jim was also the first African-American elected to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, winning the seat from the Rivanna Magisterial District in 1981.

Nellie Butler was a Girl Scout leader and a 4-H advisor in Albemarle County. She taught at Piedmont Technical Education Center in Culpeper for over 25 years.

Jim Butler was recognized for his many contributions to Albemarle County in 2000, when the Baker-Butler Elementary School was named for him and John Baker, the first African-American Chair of the Albemarle County School Board.

Find additional Information and download the 2014 application. Applications are due by May 10th.

Senator Creigh Deeds sends  his latest newsletter ahead of Tuesday’s Election for Senate and House of Representatives. Don’t forget to vote for Mark Warner and Lawrence Gaughan!

Dear Friend,

The 10th of November saw a reconvening of the Virginia General Assembly during what seems to be a never ending session.  Not since 2001 has the General Assembly been in session this long. While these extended sessions do not often occur, I fear the Jeffersonian ideal of a part-time citizen legislature is in jeopardy.

A part-time citizen legislature requires that people gather for short periods of time every year to consider changes to the law.  Those people have to earn their principal living outside of government service and have to live among the people they represent.  The idea is that citizen legislators remain closer to the people, and thus their work is more likely to reflect the needs of the community they represent.

Legislators are drawn to Richmond for a few months every winter, away from their families and jobs, to engage in lawmaking.  It is always a challenge to find the right balance between all of one’s responsibilities.  The system works because the Constitution of Virginia defines the legislative session as being no longer than 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 days in odd-numbered years unless there is an extension agreed to by a super majority or unless the Governor or a super majority of the legislature calls a special session.

Special sessions are called periodically to deal with very specific issues. In 1994, parole was abolished. In 1998, we adopted the plan to repeal the car tax. In 2004, we took up taxes. This year the special session was called because we failed to adopt a budget during our regular session, in large part because of disagreement over Medicaid expansion. In addition, certain judicial vacancies needed to be filled.  Historically, special sessions are not protracted.

After gaining the majority in 1999 for the first time since Reconstruction, the Republican majority cut the Democratic minority to smithereens in the redistricting process in 2001.  Litigation ensued and the Republicans kept the General Assembly in special session all year in order to avoid subpoena or deposition in the litigation.  

This year, former Senator Phil Puckett’s abrupt resignation from the Senate in June gave the Republicans absolute control of both houses of the General Assembly and hastened the death of Medicaid expansion.  It also helped resolve the judicial vacancy issue because appointments to the bench are a prerogative of the majority party.  Since the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, appointments would not be bogged down by partisan disputes and should have made for a quick judicial selection process. But it has not been that easy.

A number of judicial vacancies were filled this past summer and a few more this past week.  However, the majority party has not found consensus on the appellate court vacancies.  There will be a vacancy on the Virginia Supreme Court at the end of the year, and there will be at least two vacancies on the Court of Appeals.

The General Assembly could just call it quits, end the Special Session and reach agreement when we convene in 2015.  Legislators would have some normalcy for the remainder of the year and not have to worry about being called to Richmond again before January 14th.  However that would also give the Governor certain prerogatives with respect to filling judicial vacancies.  Continuing the Special Session not only serves to allow the majority party to resolve its disagreements about filling the vacancies, it serves as a check on gubernatorial power.  In that respect, keeping the legislature in a Special Session this year – all year – is unprecedented and undermines the natural checks and balances built into our system of government by the Constitution.

Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider the notion of filling judicial vacancies on the basis of merit, a suggestion that has been made over the years by both Democrats and Republicans.  I remember such ideas coming from Andy Guest, a Republican delegate from Warren County, and Whitt Clement, a Democratic delegate from Danville.  I have sponsored legislation in the past as well because the administration of justice is one of the most important functions of government, and too important to be left to the partisan politics of the day.

It continues to be my honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia.  If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact my legislative office:  P.O. Box 5462, Charlottesville, Virginia 22905, (434) 296-5491, or via email atdistrict25@senate.virginia.gov.  The General Assembly will convene for the 2015 Session on January 14. Legislation is already being introduced and can be tracked here. If you have ideas or concerns that you think need to be addressed during this session, please let me know as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Creigh Deeds

You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.

Read other updates from Albemarle’s Democratic elected officials.

 

Senator Creigh Deeds sends  his latest newsletter ahead of Tuesday’s Election for Senate and House of Representatives. Don’t forget to vote for Mark Warner and Lawrence Gaughan!

Dear Friend,

In less than a week, Virginians will head to the polls. My friend, Mark Warner is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate because he believes that all Virginians should get a fair shot at success. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. His first two business attempts failed, but he pushed forward and met with success on his third attempt.  He wants to ensure that all Virginians have that same fair shot.

Senator Warner has a long track record of working together to find commonsense solutions for Virginians. As Governor, he helped turn a $6 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus. He made the largest single investment in K – 12 education in Virginia’s history and created 130,000 new jobs. As a result, Virginia was named the best-managed state and the best state for business. He has always put Virginia first.

Senator Warner has brought the same bipartisan approach to his work in the U.S. Senate. He founded the Gang of Six to help tackle our debt and deficit and put our nation on a path to long-term stability.  He supports raising the minimum wage and has stood up for a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. He has introduced student debt legislation to provide new tools to help students pay down their debt.  And he has always stood up for our military families and veterans, most recently when he worked to pass a provision to bring private sector help to fix the scheduling problems at the VA hospitals.

Senator Warner’s opponent, however, has taken the opposite approach. He has spent his entire career as a political operative and top DC lobbyist.  He even went on TV and called himself a “partisan warrior.”  The last thing Virginians need is another partisan warrior to add to the gridlock in Washington.

This is an important election. The choice is between finding commonsense solutions and going back to the same tired economic policies that drove our country into the ditch. We need to keep the car in drive, not reverse, and re-elect Mark Warner on Tuesday, November 4. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.  

Sincerely,

Creigh Deeds

You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.

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Samuel Miller District Supervisor Liz Palmer sends  this update:

Dear Fellow Samuel Miller District Resident,

This is the second in a series of occasional newsletters that I plan to send to keep everyone up to date on recent and upcoming actions of the Board of Supervisors.  I hope you’ll find them useful. If you know someone whom you think may wish to receive these emails please forward this on to them. On the other hand, if you’d rather not receive them, you may unsubscribe by clicking the link below.

First, here are some ways to keep in touch with me and the rest of the Board of Supervisors:

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Upcoming community events:

  • Vintage Virginia Apples and the Cove Garden Ruritan Club will host the 14th annual Apple Harvest Festival on November 1, 2014 - 10am to 5pm, at Albemarle CiderWorks in North Garden.  Enjoy apple butter and Brunswick stew, hayrides, music, crafts, and local artisanal food.

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Upcoming Town Hall meetings: 

As the media have reported, the Board has been very busy with a myriad of issues including the 29 North improvements, the courts renovations, solid waste management and recycling, rural internet service, and efforts to enhance our working relationship with the School Board in preparation for the 2015 budget discussions. We are also holding additional meetings each month to complete the Comprehensive Plan revision.

I will be holding 4 Town Hall Meetings for Samuel Miller Residents this fall.  At each meeting I will be joined by representatives from the Albemarle County Police and Fire & Rescue departments.  

  • Thursday, October 23rd at Yancey Elementary School. I will speak at 6:30 pm following a program celebrating the 21st Century Grant received by Club Yancey.
  • Tuesday, November 17th 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Red Hill Elementary School.
  • Monday, November 18th 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Henley Middle School with Ann Mallek, White Hall Supervisor.
  • Monday, December 1st 6:30 – 8:00 pm at Monticello High School with Jane Dittmar, Scottsville Supervisor.

County priorities and financial planning for the next five years will be a topic of discussion for the November and December meetings. Read more info on the Comp Plan. Please plan to attend!

On the road: I have been visiting various interest groups and organizations.  Each meeting has been valuable to me.  Please let me know if you’d like me to attend your group’s meeting.

Below is a snapshot of a few of the many subjects that the Board of Supervisors has been discussing and will continue to work on over the coming months.

 —————————–—————————– 
Route 29 Solutions Package: 

VDOT is moving ahead quickly with the Route 29 Solutions Package, which includes a compact grade-separated interchange at Rio and 29, widening of the 29/250 (Best Buy) ramp, Hillsdale Drive extension, Berkmar Drive extension over the South Fork Rivanna River, widening of 29 North from Polo Grounds Road north to Towncenter Drive, and the adaptive traffic signals. The Board of Supervisors has been involved in the planning and preparation process each step of the way.  Construction on much of the package should begin in 2015 and be completed in 2017. Much planning has taken place to reduce the impact on area businesses.·       

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Trash collection, AKA Solid Waste Disposal and Resource Recovery:

This has been an area that has garnered a significant amount of my time. For this newsletter, I will skip the discussion of illegal dumping and trash burning but suffice it to say we are considering these as we develop our solutions package.  The topic can be divided into disposal services provided to residents, and recycling as an environmental imperative.

Services: The county government must make sure that citizens have do-it-yourself options for trash disposal (AKA convenience centers). We also must ensure that residents have options for doorstep pickup if their driveways are inaccessible to large garbage trucks and, due to mobility restrictions, they cannot get their garbage containers to the end of their driveway.

All this is best accomplished by maintaining a transfer station in the county.  A transfer station is a facility that holds a state permit to take trash from commercial haulers.  Commercial hauling success is highly dependent on time and volume of trash. Smaller trucks cannot efficiently contain enough trash and transport it miles from the hauling route to make the business viable. A local transfer station helps maintain a competitive environment for haulers who run smaller trucks and offer more personalized service.

Currently the only option in the county for commercial haulers is the Ivy MUC (Material Utilization Center, AKA the Ivy Landfill). Unfortunately the equipment at the Ivy MUC is antiquated, inefficient, and not user-friendly for commercial haulers.  If Ivy is downgraded to a convenience center, by definition and state requirement commercial haulers cannot use it. Bringing the facility up to date is expensive but I believe necessary to maintain services for county residents.  Because trash collection is a core government service necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of county residents, I strongly believe we must maintain control over our options.  I like to think of maintaining a county transfer station as public-private cooperation to keep Albemarle clean. 

Recycling: Albemarle county residents lack good recycling options. Currently, if you get your trash picked up by a hauler in the county, most of you are told that your trash will be sorted at a transfer station. Some call it single-stream but it can more accurately be called commingled. If you put the spaghetti sauce in with the paper and the rest of the trash and it is then compacted in the back of a garbage truck, the rates of salvage and quality of salvaged materials go down. We have been looking at UVA, whose employees and students separate out all campus recyclables, as well our peer communities. We hope to have a comprehensive solid waste management plan available for the board to consider next summer. The plan should include both expanded opportunities for do-it-yourself recycling and curbside pick-up as well as more comprehensive services such as electronic waste recycling.  

If you would like to get involved in our solid waste planning please email me.

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The courts and your tax rate:  

Our courts are undersized for our population and do not meet modern security needs. There is currently a court renovation project underway to correct these deficits. It will involve the investment of approximately $43 million over a 7- year period and is based on a Downtown Renovation/Expansion option. This is the largest capital investment the County is anticipating during this period.  This estimate does not include any additional costs for parking, which could be as high as $3 million if building structured parking is included. This is particularly important given that projections indicate that a tax increase of at least 2 cents on the real estate rate dedicated to this required project will be necessary over the next three years. 

This is but a small sample of what the Board is working on. I hope to see some of you at the town hall meetings. Please join us with questions and concerns.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve our county!

Liz
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Liz Palmer
Samuel Miller District Representative
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
(434) 964-7876
lpalmer@Albemarle.org

You can signup for Supervisor Palmer’s email updates at her web site.

Read other updates from Albemarle’s Democratic elected officials.

LG1DAVID TOSCANO AND CREIGH DEEDS
Invite You to Join Them

with

Lawrence Gaughan
OUR Candidate for the 5th Congressional District

at the home of
Francis Fife and Nancy O’Brien
Oak Lawn
501 9th Street SW
Charlottesville, VA
on
Wednesday, October 22nd
6-8 PM
We need to send Hurt home
$25 for guests
$100 to sponsor

The 26th Annual Albemarle County Democratic BBQ is two weeks away on September 20, 2014. It will be held at Pen Park (1400 Pen Park Road, Charlottesville)

Get your tickets and sponsorships today!

The Barbecue is THE Democratic event of the fall election season! Join your Democratic neighbors for a great time: barn-burning speeches, great home-cooked BBQ from our Democratic chefs, and good music from Democratic musicians–all in a beautiful Albemarle County location.

Families welcome! Brings chairs and blankets and make it a picnic!

This year’s BBQ will feature a softball game at 5 PM pitting the Albemarle Democrats versus the Charlottesville Democrats.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Host:

Co-Host:

  • Dennis & Ann Rooker

Patrons:

Sponsors:

Friends:

  • Kate Acuff, Jack Jouett District School Board Member
  • James Taylor Beard
  • Lettie Bien
  • Madison Cummings
  • Fred Hudson
  • Joyce & Forest Kerns
  • Steve Koleszar, Scottsville District School Board Member
  • Bruce Kirtley
  • Bill Love
  • Dianne Martin
  • Diantha McKeel, Jack Jouett District Board of Supervisors Member
  • Diana Mead
  • Harriet Mohler
  • Cynthia Neff
  • Wren Olivier
  • Liz Palmer, Samuel Miller District Board of Supervisors Member
  • Linda Perriello
  • Jennifer Sulzberger
  • Abigail Turner & David Watson
  • Peyton Williams
  • John Zug, Candidate for Albemarle Clerk of Court (2015)

Find out more about sponsorships and tickets.

Invite friends and family to the event with Facebook.

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Our 26th Annual Albemarle County Democratic BBQ will be held on September 20, 2014. It will be held at Pen Park (1400 Pen Park Road, Charlottesville)

Sponsorships and tickets are now available.

The Barbecue is THE Democratic event of the fall election season! Join your Democratic neighbors for a great time: barn-burning speeches, great home-cooked BBQ from our Democratic chefs, and good music from Democratic musicians–all in a beautiful Albemarle County location.

Find out more about sponsorships and tickets.

Invite friends and family to the event with Facebook.

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Samuel Miller District Supervisor Liz Palmer sends  this update:

Dear Fellow Samuel Miller District Resident,

Albemarle County is seeking community input on the current draft of the Southern Development Area Master Plan. These neighborhoods, including Redfields, Mosby Mountain, Whittington and Mill Creek, are located in the Samuel Miller and Scottsville Districts. This plan will guide the future growth of these neighborhoods for years to come.

On Thursday, July 24th you will have a chance to hear an overview of the current draft of the Master Plan, provide input, and talk with county staff, along with Board Supervisors Jane Dittmar and me.

5:30 – 6:30 pm: review exhibits and talk informally with staff
6:30 – 9:00 pm: community input session

Location: Monticello High School Forum

Please see these links for details:

We’re trying to get the word out about this meeting, and if you know someone who lives in these neighborhoods, please consider forwarding this to them. I hope to see you there!

Because I know some of you bike in Charlottesville, here’s another opportunity for input:

http://bit.ly/1q3LWp8

Biking and Walking!

The City of Charlottesville is in the process of updating its 2003 Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, which is used to help make decisions about the planning, design and implementation of bike lanes, multi-use trails, and hiking trails in the future.

The first public meeting for this process was held on June 18th and another public input meeting on the draft plan will be held in mid-November. One additional way to provide input is to use an online interactive map the City has set up — the map will help identify needed improvements to existing biking and walking routes and highlight resident’s desired routes.

You will need to register and log in to use the interactive map. The process is quick and you do not have to be a City of Charlottesville resident to provide input.

Thanks,

Liz

———-

Liz Palmer
Samuel Miller District Representative
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
(434) 964-7876
lpalmer@Albemarle.org

You can signup for Supervisor Palmer’s email updates at her web site.

Read other updates from Albemarle’s Democratic elected officials.

Virginia’s new voter ID law went into effect on July 1, 2014. Since the law requiring photo identification was passed last May, there has been frantic activity on behalf of state election officials to publicize the law and come up with a design for the voter identification card that will be provided free to voters. [1] Any charge for a voter ID card would amount to a poll tax and therefore be unconstitutional. [2]

Governor Bob McDonnell issued an executive order stating that the Virginia Board of Elections should send out registration cards to all active voters, which helped to allay criticism that the new legislation would help to reduce votes of minority groups and the poor. This move alone cost $1.36 million, which caused some controversy and left some unconvinced of the Governor’s motives. The criticism was summed up by Donald McEachin, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman: ‘In this economy, as we have too few dollars for education, public safety and transportation, we should not be wasting valued monies to suppress voting. This is now a costly boondoggle and an affront to Virginians and the Constitution.’ [3]

Under the new law, it is not essential to present one of the new photo cards when going to vote. The new card is needed only for those voters who cannot show one of the other acceptable forms of ID. Only Documents with a photograph of the voter are acceptable when going to vote. The official list of these is extensive and includes a valid Virginia driver’s license, any photo ID card issued by an employer, military ID, US passport, any Virginia state, local government or federal issued IDA. [4] Voters needing the new ID card should apply to their local registrar. They will then receive the card in the mail.

Legal battles

Controversy still rages across the country about similar laws in other states. Currently 30 states have voter identification laws in some form and 12 require photo ID, while state judges have dismissed voter ID laws in Arkansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania. [5] In 2012, the US Department of Justice blocked legislation in Texas and South Carolina that would make presentation of a photo ID necessary before being allowed to vote. According to the Voting Rights Act 1965, which enforced the 15th amendment, all states must clear any plans for changing voting laws with the federal government before proceeding with legislation. [6]

Governor McDonnell addressed the current concerns about such changes, which reflect those of President Johnson back in 1965 and which moved him to push through the act. The Governor wrote in his executive order: “All eligible voters regardless of income, race, age and other factors should be able to have equal access to the electoral process and should be made aware of any changes that may impact on their ability to vote.” These concerns were made clear in April 2014 when Federal Judge Lynn Aldeman struck down the proposed Wisconsin voter ID law, agreeing with an earlier decision by a Wisconsin state judge. [7] One of the most compelling witness testimonies in the trial came from 54 year old former soldier Carl Ellis of Milwaukee, who had struggled for years with homelessness, alcoholism and depression. [8] He had wanted to get involved in the election process as an aid to recovery. With no birth certificate or other ID, it took him around two years before he was able to get a state ID with the help of a homeless shelter. [9] These are exactly the sort of people with a right to vote who have to be stopped from being caught in the net intended to prevent electoral fraud.

The Virginia law

Until now, if voters in Virginia were unable to produce identification at the polls, they were not prevented from voting but would have to sign a sworn affidavit saying they were who they said they were. However, under the new law, if a voter cannot show any photo ID, the situation has become more difficult. The voter will be given a provisional ballot. This is marked ID-ONLY and will not be counted until the voter has supplied a valid ID to the electoral board. The law allows until noon of the Friday after the ballot has closed for the voter to do this, either by mail, fax or in person. [10]

First time voters in a federal election who completed voter registration by mail without enclosing a copy of their valid photo ID are required to show it when they vote. If they are unable to this, they will be given a provisional ballot with the same rules for presenting their ID as above, except that they are permitted to appear before the Electoral Board with evidence to support a request for a one day extension.

While Republicans see the photo ID law as helping to protect electoral integrity, the Democrats and a number of civic groups remain concerned that it will make voting more difficult for minorities, especially if they have limited mobility and have problems traveling to the registrars’ offices. Assurances that the new system may include registrars and their staff making visits to voters, and the setting up of booths at public events where voters can have photos taken and file their registration forms, do not satisfy everyone. Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, said: “We remain deeply concerned whether the so-called ‘free-ID’ program can or will be implemented in a way that preserves the Virginia constitutional mandate that we have a uniform system of voting across the commonwealth.”

Sources

1. TimesDispatch.com. Virginia prepares for new photo ID law. Markus Schmidt, Dec 11, 2013. http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/virginia-politics/virginia-prepares-for-new-voter-photo-id-law/article_39b3e5d5-dd31-52f9-ae4f-19d550349ccd.html [accessed 06/17/14]

2. Cornell University Law School. US Constitution: 24th Amendment.http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxiv [accessed 06/17/14]

3. The Washington Times. New VA. Voter law makes it ‘tough to cheat’. David Sherfinski, May 20, 2012.http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/20/new-va-voter-id-law-makes-it-tough-to-cheat/ [accessed 06/17/14]

4. Virginia State Board of Elections. In-person voting.http://sbe.virginia.gov/index.php/casting-a-ballot/in-person-voting/  [accessed 06/17/14]

5. CNN Politics. Wisconsinvoter ID law struck down by federal judge.  April 29, 2014. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/29/wisconsin-voter-id-law-struck-down-by-federal-judge/comment-page-7/ [accessed 06/17/14]

6. Our documents.gov. Voting rights Act 1965.http://ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=100 [accessed 06/17/14]

7. The Judicial Watch Blog; Corruption Chronicles. Clinton judge rules voter ID law discriminates against minorities.  May 5, 2014.http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2014/05/clinton-judge-rules-voter-id-law-discriminates-poor-minorities/  [accessed 06/17/14]

8. Treatment4Addiction.com. Treatment programs for alcohol abuse.http://www.treatment4addiction.com/treatment/alcohol/ [accessed 06/17/14]

 

Senator Creigh Deeds sends  his latest newsletter with news from the the special session  at the General Assembly.

Dear Friend,

On the evening of the 23rd of June 2014, the General Assembly went back into session to consider the Governor’s vetoes to the budget. You will recall from my last missive that I suggested that the Governor could use his constitutional power to line item veto certain articles in the budget, specifically the punitive language that was inserted by the Senate to prevent an executive expansion of Medicaid, and sign the rest of the budget.

The Governor went a little further than I suggested and line item vetoed other matters as well, including the appropriation for the new Virginia Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Advisory Commission, a potential forced partnership between Chesterfield County and Petersburg City schools, and an appropriation that would prevent the Governor from filling vacant judgeships.

The Governor’s ability to line item veto the budget is limited by the Constitution of Virginia. In general, as I explained before, the Governor can sign legislation or veto legislation. With respect to the budget, he can line item veto certain portions. The Constitution of Virginia, specifically Article 5, Section 6, Subparagraph D provides that “[t]he Governor shall have the power to veto any particular item or items of an appropriation bill, but the veto shall not affect the item or items to which he does not object. The item or items objected to shall not take effect except in the manner provided in this section for a bill vetoed by the Governor.”

In the few cases that have been argued about the Governor’s veto, the courts have ruled that the Governor must veto an entire appropriation. He is not entitled to cherry pick language out of a specific item within the appropriation bill or budget.

Republican legislators were aware of the limitations and attempted to interweave the anti-Medicaid expansion language in such a way that the Governor could not strike it from the bill without striking the entire Medicaid program.

The Governor vetoed the amendment by striking the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) language from the budget. The MIRC was created as a compromise last year to establish a commission to reform our Medicaid program and provide a pathway to expansion once the reforms had been achieved. The MIRC has already fulfilled its responsibility to reform our Medicaid program, yet the commission members have not expanded Medicaid, so the continuation of the MIRC seems totally inappropriate and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Speaker of the House of Delegates ruled that the veto went beyond the scope of the Governor’s Constitutional authority and was not properly before the House for consideration. The Speaker claims his precedent from a ruling that former Speaker Tom Moss made in the 1990s. While I was in the House of Delegates during the 1990s while Tom Moss was the Speaker, I do not recall the specific ruling he made.

In spite of the specific language in the Constitution that an item does not become law if it vetoed by the Governor, unless that veto is overturned by a two-thirds majority of both houses, the Speaker’s ruling prevented a vote on the veto. He made a similar ruling with respect to the Governor’s ability to limit judicial appointments.

Now, instead of this matter being resolved by the democratically elected representative of the people, the legislature, the Governor will have to decide whether to pursue this issue in the courts.

The Special Session continues as the Governor’s appointments have been tied up by the newly Republican-controlled Senate, and the judgeships which are vacant still have to be filled. I would anticipate that the General Assembly will go back into session within the next two to three weeks to resolve these issues.

The Republicans used the new majority status to reorganize the committees. I lost the committee assignments – Finance and Rules – that I had gained earlier in the winter as well as my chairmanship. While it is true that most committees will not meet until next January, the move gives Republicans the ability to send their members to any interim committee meetings. The Finance Committee takes no action when we are out of session, but the Committee meets periodically to get information about the budget and the revenue situation. I expect the Rules Committee will also convene to reorganize the membership on study committees.

All of this action could change again depending on the results of the interesting contest underway in the 38th Senatorial District in southwest Virginia to fill the seat of former Senator Phillip Puckett. A Delegate from Russell County and a member of the Tobacco Commission, Ben Chafin, is the Republican nominee. The Democratic nominee is Mike Hymes. Mike is on the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and works in human resources for a coal company. The special election is set for the19th of August, and I anticipate that the race will be expensive, fast and furious.

It continues to be my pleasure to represent you in the Senate of Virginia. If I may be of assistance or answer any questions, please contact me at 434-296-5491 or district25@senate.virginia.gov.

Best,

Creigh

You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.

Read other updates from Albemarle’s Democratic elected officials.

Senator Creigh Deeds sends  his latest newsletter with news from the the special session  at the General Assembly.

Dear Friend,

Last week saw the passage of a state budget and also the potential demise of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Two dramatic events of the previous few days drove the results of the Special Session.

First, word leaked out gradually on June 6th and June 7th of the sudden resignation of Senator Phillip Puckett. His resignation restored the Republican majority in the Senate of Virginia, ensuring that Republicans controlled both houses of the General Assembly.

When I first heard about Senator Puckett’s resignation, I called him. Phillip Puckett has been a good friend of mine for a long time. I have eaten at his table, been a guest in his home, prayed in his church. He told me he was resigning to do what was best for his family and would not give me more detail. I trust Phillip and am certain that his decision to leave the Senate of Virginia was what he thought was right for his family. However, members of the General Assembly also have an obligation to the people they represent and to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Red flags appeared immediately. First, Republican legislators seemed more informed about what was going on than did Democrats. Republican senators were quoted in the papers about Senator Puckett continuing his service and a prominent Republican delegate from southwest Virginia, the Chairman of the Tobacco Commission, indicated that Senator Puckett was going to be considered for the position of Deputy Director of the Tobacco Commission. In fact, the Tobacco Commission had a meeting scheduled for last Wednesday and the only thing on the docket was the consideration of the hiring of a Deputy Director.

Second, in recent years Senator Puckett has maintained a focus on helping appoint his daughter to the bench. Republicans denied him the 21st vote necessary to have her elected as a judge based on a supposed tradition of the Senate not appointing family members to the bench. While I think such a policy makes sense, history suggests there is no such tradition. In the 1990s, former Delegate Ward Armstrong’s brother was appointed to the district court bench. Later, former Delegate Joe Johnson’s son went on the district court bench and was elevated a few years later to the circuit bench. I have never known of another senator to have a family member considered for a judgeship, but it is clear that there is no such tradition with respect to members of the General Assembly.

After Senator Puckett resigned and the public exploded, he withdrew his name from consideration for employment with the Tobacco Commission. The meeting scheduled for last Wednesday was cancelled.

Senator Puckett’s sudden resignation came at a crucial time in this budget standoff – when the pressure was on both sides to find a way to close the coverage gap and get a budget passed before the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The resignation means that Republicans have the majority in both houses of the legislature. They were able to pass a budget, and they now have the unfettered ability to elect judges.

The second event which turned the political world on its head in Virginia was the defeat of Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives in the Republican Primary in the 7th Congressional District. Eric Cantor was elected to the House of Delegates with me in 1991. I have known Eric for a long time and while we have disagreements on matters of policy, we have always been friendly to one another. His loss in the primary sent a shockwave through the Republican apparatus in Virginia and allowed the House Republican Caucus and the 17 members of the Senate Republican Caucus that opposed Marketplace Virginia, to put pressure on the three senators who have worked with the Governor and with the Democratic Caucus to arrive at a compromise on Medicaid expansion in Virginia.

Much speculation has centered on the strength of the Tea Party and its effect on the primary. The Tea Party is an important subset, a populist subset, of the Republican Party. However, my take on things is much simpler. I think Representative Cantor took his eyes off the ball and paid more attention to his job as majority leader than to the residents of the Seventh Congressional District of Virginia. While he had plenty of money in the bank, he did not have the field organization necessary to turn people out to vote in the primary After all, elections are pretty simple – you just need to get more people to vote for you than the other guy.

The end result of this tumultuous political week in Virginia was that the three Republican senators, described as moderate in the media, caved. Not only did a budget pass without Medicaid expansion, but interwoven into the budget is language aimed at preventing the Governor from trying to expand administratively.

The legality of the Governor expanding Medicaid without prior legislative approval has generated significant discussion and debate. The Constitution requires all monies spent by the Commonwealth, even flow through dollars from the federal government, be appropriated by the General Assembly. Last year, the House and the Senate, working together, agreed to put language in the budget to create the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) to reform Medicaid and set up a mechanism to expand Medicaid. The amendments adopted last week by the House and the Senate removed that compromise language from the budget. Medicaid expansion will now need approval from the majority of the General Assembly.

The Governor’s options at this point are at least threefold. First, he could sign the budget. The budget agreement that passed is balanced. The Medicaid language can be changed (at least theoretically) when we reconvene in January. Signing the budget will end this protracted budget debate and allow local governments to move forward.

The Governor could veto the budget. A veto would leave everything up in the air for the remainder of the month, and the General Assembly would likely be in session for many days trying to craft a compromise before the end of the fiscal year.

The third option is to use the line item veto to eliminate the new budget language that strips authority from the MIRC. Although the language is interwoven in the budget, in my view, this is the best option. Sign the remainder of the budget. Austerity cannot be prevented in a time of declining revenue. If the amended language is stricken, and the General Assembly fails to muster the two-thirds vote to override the veto, the Governor can continue to explore ways to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. At this point, there is not much for him to lose if he can find a way to line item veto the amendment out of the budget.

In the meantime, candidates are being chosen to fill Senator Puckett’s seat in southwest Virginia. Elections in that region are driven by the politics of coal. The coal field counties are areas that have seen significant population loss over the past 30 years and face severe economic challenges. I am convinced that we can find a Democratic candidate who can hold on to the seat. If we can accomplish that goal, we can restore balance to the General Assembly.

It continues to be my high honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. Should you have concerns, questions or views you wish to share, please contact me at (434) 296-5491 ordistrict25@senate.virginia.gov.

Best,

Creigh

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