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Legislative Update

General Assembly crossover update – VA Senator Mark Obenshain



Mark Obenshain

Having just completed crossover, we are officially halfway through Session. During the first half of the session, both chambers consider the bills filed by their respective members. Crossover is the date by which all Senate bills must be acted on and the Senate decides whether to pass them or not. We heard just under 1,000 bills in the past five weeks.

After crossover, we will be considering bills filed by delegates that won approval in the House.  Although delegates filed more than 1,600 bills this session, the Senate won’t have to consider nearly that many during the second half of session.  The House will have winnowed down its bills, approving only a fraction of the ones submitted by delegates.

Last week, I was honored to join the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, Governor Northam and House Courts Chair Rob Bell in announcing an historic criminal justice compromise effort that achieved the dual goals of further protecting victims of crime with enhanced restitution and doing the right thing by raising the felony threshold for larceny.  Our felony threshold for larceny has been at $200 for almost 40 years. This compromise, raised the threshold to $500. It is the right thing to do. Stealing is a crime that should and will be punished, but we are overdue in adjusting the level at which someone might be sent to prison for more than a year. On the restitution front, victims of crime don’t have lobbying firms advocating on their behalf.  By ensuring they will receive the restitution they deserve, including the millions collected that have gone unclaimed, we’re standing up for their interests.  I’m proud to be the Senate patron of the two restitution bills which upon passage, will be signed into law by the Governor.

The major focus of Session thus far has been health care. The Governor has proposed a massive expansion of the Medicaid program envisioned by ObamaCare to cover an ever expanding group of able bodied Virginians. My Republican Senate colleagues and I have been working tirelessly on a package of reforms designed to address the skyrocketing insurance premiums and to provide coverage options to many working Virginians who are being priced out of the health insurance market as a result of ObamaCare.

The Medicaid Program was never intended to be – and never designed to be- a substitute for health insurance.  It is instead, a reimbursement program for hospitals and health care providers to mitigate the costs associated with providing care for the most vulnerable (children, disabled, indigent.)  Our existing Medicaid program still has severe limitations, many of which were detailed in the JLARC December 2016 report which you can read here.  There are clearly those who would like to see a single payer government funded Medicaid style health plan provide universal health coverage for everyone. This approach, while well intentioned, is misguided and will inevitably lead to the rationing of health care seen in Canada and elsewhere.

The Senate Republicans have focused on restoring options and competition to the private health care and health insurance marketplace. Yesterday the Senate passed groundbreaking legislation as part of our Health Care Package to focus on the 80% of Virginians who are dealing with exorbitant premiums and staggering out-of-pocket expenses and to help those most in-need, including those waiting on ID/DD waivers. The package consists of four bills that will increase competition, lower premiums, provide lower costs for services, increase funding for mental health and opioid/addiction treatment, and make catastrophic care coverage available to more Virginians.  SB 964, SB 935, SB 915 and SB844 accomplish these goals.  I hope it will be the pleasure of the House to pass these critical initiatives and that Governor Northam will sign them into law.

In moving forward, Senate Republicans want to institute more reforms to Medicaid to include: a workforce requirement for eligible able-bodied individuals, personal responsibility measures such as participation in a Health Savings Account, and tying funding to performance-based review to ensure funds being spent and truly improving the quality of life for those in the program. The ultimate goal, however, should be to move more Medicaid recipients into the work force, self sufficiency, and into the private sector health care marketplace.

Since all Senate bills have been acted upon, that means some of my bills are advancing onto the House. SB 521, dealing with mandatory investigations of registered voters in localities where there are more registered voters than voting age individuals, was passed unanimously from the Senate. SB 523, deals with electronic pollbooks. This bill requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles share their database of photographs with registrars so that registered voters have a picture in their file. If they do have a photograph on file, they would not be required to present a form of identification.

Interstate 81 improvements in the Shenandoah Valley have been long overlooked.  My bill, SB971,  directs the Commonwealth Transportation Board to study I-81 improvements and to consider what revenue could be raised from potential tolls on heavy trucks to fund these improvements along this corridor. Almost half of statewide truck traffic runs along this interstate and about a fifth of crashes involve a heavy truck. With over 2,000 crashes per year, and 30 crashes a year with a clearance time greater than six hours, we must be willing to look at creative methods to find substantive solutions to this problem.

Finally, SB 568, will require public institutions in Virginia to share student loan information with students in order to help spread continued awareness of the potential consequences of overborrowing. Student debt is rampant both here in the Commonwealth and nationally. I believe that we as state legislators have a duty to help inform our students of the financial impact their borrowing decisions will have on their futures. Included in the yearly report that institutions will send will be amount borrowed, interest rate, estimated monthly payment and total amount paid by the end of the payment period.

To see the full list of the bills I am carrying this session, click here.

These past few weeks, we’ve had lots of visitors stopping by our offices in Room E502 of the Pocahontas Building. It was great to welcome the following visitors/organizations:  Rise for Youth, students from JMU and EMU along with members of the Virginia Interfaith Council, Copper Fox Distillery, Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Chamber CEO, Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Downey and students, JMU representatives, Rockingham Co. Board of Supervisors & County Administrator, Warren County Board of Supervisors and County Administrator, representatives from Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative & Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, and VAIL (Valley Associates for Independent Living).

We have four more weeks of session.  I always enjoy hearing from citizens in my district on issues that are important to you.  Feel free to email me at or call our General Assembly office at 804-698-7526.

Legislative Update

Goodlatte and Gowdy release transcript of interview with former Director Comey



WASHINGTON, DC – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) today released the transcript of the second day of former FBI Director James Comey’s interview before the Committees.

The transcript of Mr. Comey’s interview can be found HERE.

Background: In October 2017, the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee opened a joint investigation into decisions made by the Justice Department in 2016 and 2017. To date, the Committees have interviewed many key witnesses and have reviewed thousands of pages of documents.

Editors note: Royal Examiner thought this may be on interest to our readers.

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Legislative Update

Goodlatte applauds House passage of the 2018 Farm Bill



WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the statement below regarding the House of Representative’s passing the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018:

“It has been a privilege to serve as a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee and I am pleased to have voted today with my colleagues in the House to pass the 2018 Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is the most important piece of legislation affecting American agriculture.

Over the past five years, America’s farmers have persevered through a nearly 50-percent drop in net farm income. This legislation provides the stability America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities need. Further, the Farm Bill legalizes the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the list of controlled substances. The well-balanced reforms in this Farm Bill will strengthen business opportunities and provide stability for farmers and rural communities for the next five years.

It has been a true privilege to represent the interests of farmers in Virginia’s Sixth District. I look forward to seeing agriculture remain a vital part of the American economy.”

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Legislative Update

Senate passes bipartisan legislation Kaine cosponsored to strengthen veteran-owned small businesses



WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth to help entrepreneurs grow their small businesses and expand economic opportunity. The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, which now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow veteran small business owners to acquire equipment and property that the federal government no longer has a use for by adding veterans to the list of eligible recipients for federal surplus personal property, which already includes women and minority small business owners as well as Veterans Service Organizations.

“When the men and women who have tirelessly served our nation come home and begin new careers in their communities, we owe them our support,” Kaine said. “That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate has been easing servicemembers’ transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. I’m excited that this commonsense legislation brings us closer to that goal by helping veterans who own small businesses thrive and in turn strengthen their communities.”

Kaine has focused in the Senate on supporting veterans, servicemembers, and their families. He’s been a leader on efforts to reduce unemployment for veterans and military spouses and ensure those who serve our nation receive the health care and benefits they were promised. The first bill Kaine introduced in the Senate – the Troop Talent Act of 2013 – was a bill to ease the transition for servicemembers into the civilian workforce. This year, Kaine introduced two bills — the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 and the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 — to reduce military spouse unemployment and support military families. Key provisions of these two military spouse bills were signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The General Services Administration (GSA) has overseen distribution of federal surplus personal property for 15 years in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and State Agencies for Surplus Property (SASP) through the Federal Surplus Property Donation Program. When there is no federal need for excess property, SASPs disburse the property to eligible recipients who otherwise may have been unable to acquire it. This legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP), and the American Legion.

American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad has previously said: “The American Legion supports legislation that would give veteran-owned small businesses access to surplus federal property. Unclaimed surplus property costs the federal government millions of dollars to dispose of or maintain every year. This same surplus property may help small businesses offset the overhead expenses associated with opening a storefront or office, which benefits the United States.”

There are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses across the country, including approximately 76,000 in Virginia. As more Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans transition out of the military and begin their next career, this number will only increase.

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Legislative Update

Senator Tim Kaine: Our progress to combat Alzheimer’s disease



WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded Committee passage of legislation he introduced with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) called the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act. This legislation would build out the systems necessary to create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease and promote brain health. In addition to Kaine and Collins, the bill was also sponsored by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The legislation will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Kaine’s family, like nearly 150,000 families in Virginia, knows what it’s like to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Kaine has repeatedly called for action to combat this disease. During the HELP Committee’s markup of the legislation today, Kaine discussed how important passing the BOLD Act is to millions of American families.

“Everybody in this place has an Alzheimer’s story that’s directly related to their family. I have a sister-in-law who was diagnosed at age 54, and in just casual conversations with colleagues we all have these stories and that’s not just the United States Senate, that’s the entire American population,” Kaine said. “Over 150,000 Virginians have Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to grow by 35 percent in the next 10 years. And it’s interesting: 150,000 plus with Alzheimer’s, the number of family caretakers in Virginia is 460,000. So it’s about 3 family caretakers for every person that has Alzheimer’s and I think those of us who have experience know how complex the caretaking arrangements are and how much our caretakers need support. So I’m very happy to work together with Senator Collins on this.”

Ahead of the vote at the hearing, Ranking Member of the HELP Committee Senator Patty Murray said, “Alzheimer’s, which affects one in ten people over age 65, is a devastating disease. It is hard on patients fighting to hold on to cherished memories and a feeling of loss of control in their daily lives. It is hard on family members, on friends, on caregivers who are often the family members trying to help a loved on grapple with the day to day challenges of the disease while coping with their own grief and daily needs. This bill takes important steps to bolster our public health response to Alzheimer’s with new partnerships, new tools, and new efforts to build a better support system to ease the burden for families who are affected by Alzheimer’s.”

“The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act is an important step to bolster our public health response to Alzheimer’s, a devastating disease impacting millions of Virginians and other Americans,” said Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer, Robert Egge. “We are grateful to Senator Kaine for his support of the bill and his contributions to advance policies to improve the lives of all those affected by Alzheimer’s.”

This legislation would apply a public health approach to Alzheimer’s disease by establishing a modern infrastructure for the prevention, treatment, and care of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Coordinated primarily by the Centers of Disease and Prevention (CDC), it would establish:

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Public Health Centers of Excellence dedicated to promoting effective Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving interventions as well as educating public health officials, health care professionals, and the public on the most current information and research related to Alzheimer’s disease, including cognitive decline, brain health, and health disparities.

Cooperative Agreements awarded to State, Local, and Tribal Health Departments to develop and carry out evidence-based Alzheimer’s interventions, including supporting early detection and diagnosis, reducing the risk of potentially avoidable hospitalizations, improving caregiver support and care planning, among others.

Improved Data Analysis and Timely Reporting that would help ensure that data on Alzheimer’s, such as cognitive decline, caregiving, and health disparities are analyzed and disseminated to the public in a timely manner.

The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, and the National Association of Counties. Click HERE and HERE to read their letters of support.

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Legislative Update

Congressman Bob Goodlatte: Reflection on my time of service



Along the highways and byways in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, I’ve spent countless hours and over a million miles driving during my 26 years in the United States House of Representatives. During the weekly journeys from my home in Roanoke to my workplace on Capitol Hill and on all the trips in between visiting every corner of the Sixth District, I’ve reflected on the trust placed in me to represent more than 760,000 individuals. I learned long ago that in order to do the job, I would never forget the responsibilities of a servant leader. I’ve shared the experiences of my job through this weekly column. This will be the last of 1,350 of them.

Public service is a higher calling. America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and the men and women who’ve heeded the call to serve since our nation’s birth have understood those foundational guidelines. Those principles are in the words of countless American leaders, like those of General Douglas MacArthur: “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and compassion to listen to the needs of others.”

As I’ve served as Congressman, I’ve been mindful of the solemn responsibility to listen to and “stand in” for those constituents throughout the Sixth District. I’ve enjoyed meeting them in my offices, at events I’ve hosted and at community events like lawn parties and parades and festivals, and at the businesses and civic groups large and small I’ve been invited to speak to in the Roanoke Valley, the Shenandoah Valley, the Alleghany Highlands, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those constituents shared their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams with me; they’ve voiced support for my work and they’ve also let me know why they’ve disagreed with my positions. I’ll be forever thankful for witnessing each of them express themselves as active participants in our Constitutional republic.

My service in the Sixth District also required paying close attention to constituent needs related to government agencies. Every day presented an endless variety of requests for assistance. I’ve been here to assist folks who needed help with federal benefits, the status of tax returns and immigration paperwork, and expediting passports for long-planned family adventures. I’ve helped arrange and even accompanied constituents on tours of the United States Capitol. Through the years, I’ve hosted hundreds of town and tele-town hall meetings. I’ve drawn attention to what I considered government wrongdoing affecting my constituents’ well-being and then shared in my constituents’ relief when problems that lingered for years were resolved. I’ve also visited with each and every young man and woman whom I’ve nominated to our military academies, glimpsing in each one of them the future of what it means to serve our country.

I’ve been moved many times over by the unique opportunity to have served in the world’s longest-serving deliberative body. It’s allowed me to work with colleagues in the House with whom I now share lasting friendships and for whom I will always have unending respect. We each chose to devote a portion of our adult lives to debating the issues and then setting out to create legislation on a myriad of subjects – supporting our military; making it easier to participate in our dynamic economy; and promoting the freedom to live, work, worship, and play in the land of the free.

From the start of my service in Congress, I’ve been joined by another set of colleagues – my staff. The individuals who have worked for me in Washington, D.C. – including on the
Agriculture and Judiciary Committees – and in my Roanoke, Lynchburg, Staunton, and Harrisonburg offices are devoted men and women, plain and simple. They are my eyes, ears, and
even my voice in representing me by fielding phone calls, greeting visitors, and attending countless meetings and events when I can’t be present in the Congressional district that I’m thankful to call my home. I’ve been fortunate to hire those folks – my fellow public servants. I’ve been moved by their breadth of knowledge, their advice on complicated issues, and their abiding commitment to helping my constituents. I will be forever grateful to them for choosing to join me in the public arena and for their unending support.

And from the moment I made my decision to first run for Congress until I announced I would step aside at the end of my present term, my family has served as my bedrock, the essence of why I could choose to serve as an elected official and, now, to enter a time of reflection and some relaxation before I move on to a new venture. With the eternal love of my wife Maryellen, my daughter Jennifer, and my son Bobby — and more recently my son-in-law Matt and my granddaughters — I’ve dutifully reported to Capitol Hill for going on 26 years.

Soon, I’ll make my final drive from my offices in the Rayburn House Office Building for one last work-related trip through what I consider the most beautiful and friendliest Congressional district in the country. I offer my deepest heartfelt thanks to those who elected me to serve in the House of Representatives. It’s a privilege a select few have been entrusted with in America’s history. I was blessed to be able to serve for a quarter century plus one year and to do deeply rewarding work from my first day in Congress. It’s been the honor of my life to have spent this time in service.

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Legislative Update

Army Captain Andrew Patrick Ross from the Shenandoah Valley was one of three servicemen killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday.



Photo courtesy of DoD

WASHINGTON, DC –Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the statement below regarding the passing of United States Army Captain Andrew Ross:

“It saddens me to recognize Captain Andrew Patrick Ross, one of our United States who grew up in Lexington, Virginia, within the heart of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Captain Ross approached me when he sought an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He was a remarkable candidate for nomination and shone brightly during my interview with him. Having met Drew personally, his success while enrolled and his graduation from West Point came as no surprise. He excelled in the military, earning the honors and decorations of two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal, among others, and became a distinguished member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), the Green Berets.

Captain Ross will also be remembered among his friends from the Lexington community and his fellow Rockbridge County High School students. His leadership on the soccer field and his example when leading graduating seniors from the class of 2011 during the Pledge of Allegiance are examples of his dedication and commitment to excellence.

Those cherishing his memory most will, of course, be his family. My heartfelt condolences go out to each one of them.

Drew Ross not only answered the call of his country to protect the freedoms we all so cherish, he paid the utmost price to guarantee freedom for others. Drew gave his life to make our nation stronger and safer for those of us who remain and for generations to come. My prayer is that his family will be comforted during this difficult time and knows that we will hold fast to the example of Drew’s noble service.”

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