BY STEPHANIE TIPPLE
The Commonwealth of Virginia experienced a shift in government this month, new Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, took office on Jan. 11 in Richmond.
McAuliffe and his Democratic counterparts, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring head into their new position and the 2014 legislative session with many challenges ahead of them.
The hot topic of discussion in this legislative session is going to be the possibility of Medicaid expansion, according to Professor Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor and Director of the Center for Media and Leadership Studies.
Medicaid expansion will “give people who don’t have health insurance and are very poor an opportunity to get in to Medicaid by expanding the eligibility,” said Farnsworth.
Originally, the plan for this expansion was to require states to expand their Medicaid coverage, but the Supreme Court later stopped this, stating it pushed too far on state’s rights.
The expansion of Medicaid in Virginia could be a major economic boost for the Commonwealth.
“The state would get a lot of money…I think they get 100 percent in the first five years, and after that, 90 percent of the anticipated cost of expanding Medicaid,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth said that the business community supports the expansion of Medicaid.
“[The Medicaid expansion] has a lot of backing in the business community. It’s additional money for the state, and hospitals, particularly public hospitals, it gives them more revenue to supply their services,” said Farnsworth.
Despite this economic benefit, many Republican officials are openly against supporting this expansion.
“The Republican majority in the House of Delegates is very clear that they don’t like the idea. Basically any Republican who votes to expand Medicaid, because it’s part of the Obamacare package, is likely to be primaried, and likely to be defeated,” said Farnsworth.
In addition to the topic of Medicaid expansion, more gridlock reminiscent of Washington D.C. politics is likely ahead. “The Republicans today are much more conservative than the Republicans in the legislature twelve years ago when Mark Warner was elected. So the kind of compromise you saw with the Democrats and Republicans in the Warner years is unlikely to be repeated in the McAuliffe years.”
While some issues will be difficult to navigate with the partisan gridlock in the Commonwealth, there are some areas of agreement in the legislature, such as tightening of disclosure laws. This is a particularly relevant topic as former Gov. Bob McDonnell was recently indicted for a failure to fully disclose contributions.
“There’s a bipartisan agreement that the rules in Virginia for disclosure of donations are simply too loose and need to be tightened up,” said Farnsworth.
BY STEPHANIE TIPPLE