Local Commentary

Delegate Jim Scott’s Richmond Report

The 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly is nearing its scheduled end 45 days after it began.

Unfortunately, however, we will not be able to finish on time because of the economic uncertainty Virginia and the nation face.

While House and Senate Budget conferees have begun meeting, there is no sign of an agreement on the two very different versions of the Budgets each body has approved. There is agreement that the Federal economic stimulus package must be included in the Budget, but there is considerable concern about the “strings” that might be attached to acceptance of Federal funds.

Shortly before the stimulus package was considered by Congress, it passed an expansion of the Federal health insurance funding for children and families with incomes up to twice the Federal Poverty Guideline of $20.000.

The program, known as SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, was initiated in the Clinton Administration, but President Bush vetoed an increase almost identical to the one just passed with support from such conservative Senators as Oren Hatch from Utah and Charles Grassley from Iowa.

Unlike the Medicaid program, which includes a requirement for a dollar-for-dollar state matching appropriation, the SCHIP program increase just approved with a filibuster-proof margin provides two Federal dollars for every Virginia dollar.

One the most outspoken opponents of the SCHIP increase was Virginia’s Representative Eric Cantor. Cantor helped to sustain President Bush earlier increase veto, and he aggressively opposed the latest bill to offer insurance to very limited income families and children. No Virginia Republican, except Frank Wolf, voted with President Obama to increase the number of poor children and families covered.

Now the question is whether the Budget conferees will take advantage of this unique opportunity to provide health insurance to almost all Virginia children on free and reduced-price lunch in Fairfax County, Falls Church and other Virginia schools.

A sad day for Sudan

How can the Virginia General Assembly help the people of Sudan?

Legislatures throughout the Country are being asked to help implement an initiative of President George Bush to pressure the government of Sudan to stop the slaughter of its citizens.

A few days ago, the House Appropriations Committee considered a bill introduced by Delegate Shannon Valentine of Lynchburg to apply economic pressure to American businesses to stop contracting with the government of Sudan. Several states have passed legislation establishing a list of those businesses that have agreed not to do business with Sudan until the genocide ceases.

The Appropriations Committee approved the measure by a few votes, but the Delegate Clark Hogan from Halifax County took individual Republican members aside and “persuaded” them to change their vote. One moved to reconsider the first vote, and the bill died on a vote of 13-9-a sad day for Sudan-and for Virginia.