The General Assembly adjourned in late February.  We want to update you on how some of our legislative priorities fared during the Session:

Access to health care

  • Yet again, the General Assembly failed to expand Medicaid.  Without Medicaid Expansion, hundreds of thousands of Virginians will go without healthcare coverage.  Read our previous blog post on the importance of Medicaid Expansion in Virginia.

Family and child welfare

  • VPLC, with partners, worked on efforts to provide support to young people who age out of the foster care system at 18.  However, the final budget conference report cut funding to a program that would provide critical transitional services to youth aging out of foster care.

Domestic and sexual violence

  • Victims of domestic and sexual violence who seek protective orders in General District Court will not have to pay the fees for their abusers to have a Guardian ad Litem appointed as counsel.  Before this law passed, victims may have had to pay these fees, even though the victims themselves have no right to free counsel.

Public benefits and hunger

  • The Senate budget includes funding to increase TANF benefits by 2.5 percent.  It also includes funding to establish a back-to-school allowance program that would provide TANF families with school-age children an annual voucher to be used for purchasing school supplies and clothing.  The last increase for TANF benefits occurred in 2000, and the one before that occurred in 1985.  So an increase is well overdue.

Housing

  • A Bill was introduced in the House of Delegate regarding landlord/tenant rights. The Bill allowed landlords to put into their form leases a waiver of a servicemember’s right to postpone an eviction action brought against the servicemember and his or her family while the servicemember is deployed.  This pre-dispute waiver is contrary to federal law and unfair to servicemembers.  We explained the problem to the patron and he took it out of the Bill.  Read our blog post on this issue.
  • VPLC also supported a Bill that would have made it unlawful for housing providers to discriminate against veterans, including veterans who pay their rent with non-wage income (such as veterans’ benefits or a rent voucher).  As hundreds of Virginia’s veterans must rely on financial assistance such as vouchers to help them afford housing, we saw this Bill as a critical companion to the effort to end veteran homelessness in Virginia.  But faced with strong opposition to the bill from the Virginia Association of Realtors and apartment managers, the subcommittee that heard the bill chose to send it to the Housing Commission rather than advance it.  VPLC will continue to fight to get veterans a right to decent, affordable rental housing.

Elder

  • SB 750, a Bill that requires hospitals to give notice to patients, orally and in writing, if they have not been admitted as an inpatient but are in observation or other outpatient status, passed the House last week.  Once signed by the Governor, it will become law on July 1.
  • Thanks to the hard work of many, including VPLC, the conference budget report includes $500,000 in additional funding for the Public Guardianship Program.

Consumer

  • Payday lenders and car title lenders will continue to evade state regulations because the General Assembly did not close loopholes in Virginia laws.  This continues to create an unfair marketplace for consumers and lenders that follow the law.

Ethical reform

  • VPLC has been heavily involved in this year’s fight for legislation to bring fair redistricting and greater transparency to the Virginia legislative process. It looks like we are not going to be successful in redistricting reform this year but this is just the beginning. Under our current system: Instead of voters picking our legislators, it’s the legislators who carefully pick their voters. This is a huge conflict of interest for politicians to draw their own districts. We’ll continue to update you throughout the year on our transparency efforts and changes in redistricting reform.

To read our legislative priorities from the 2015 session, please click here.