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Transportation, Medicaid, photo ID among remaining issues

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Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 2:56 pm, Sat Apr 19, 2014.

The General Assembly still must resolve a few major issues with about two weeks until their scheduled Feb. 23 adjournment:

Medicaid: The House of Delegates and the state Senate have approved different packages of amendments to the state’s current two-year budget for July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2014.

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The Senate included an amendment that would allow Virginia to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians on Jan. 1 if the state is allowed to make significant reforms in how it delivers and pays for health care under the program. The House version of the budget requires General Assembly approval next year after reforms are put into place.

A conference committee will seek to reconcile differences in the spending plans.

Transportation: Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan is the only comprehensive transportation funding measure alive in the General Assembly, and its fate remains unclear after senators sent it back to committee on Tuesday.

McDonnell wants to replace the gas tax with increases in the sales tax and vehicle registration fees. Senate Democrats want to retain the gas tax and add additional sources of revenue.

Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, says relations in the Senate have thawed a bit since Wednesday when Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, ruled against a Senate Republican bid to rewrite Senate district boundaries.

Guns: Lawmakers will now decide whether to bar circuit court clerks from releasing information to the public about people who have received concealed-handgun permits. On Friday, a House committee passed a significantly altered version of Senate Bill 1335, sponsored by Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

In its initial form that passed the Senate, the bill would have barred a circuit court clerk from disclosing to the public information about a concealed-handgun permit issued to a person protected by a protective order.

The House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety approved a substitute to the bill that would bar disclosure of such information about anyone who has obtained a concealed-handgun permit. If the full House of Delegates passes the bill, it would go back to the Senate, which would have to approve the change before the measure could go to McDonnell.

School security: On Friday, McDonnell sent to the General Assembly eight bills relating to the recommendations of the school safety task force he established after the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

The measures would increase the punishment for straw-man transactions — when a person lawfully buys a firearm with the intent to give it to someone who isn’t allowed to buy one; require school boards to establish threat assessments teams; and create a new criminal offense for entering a school while armed or with an explosive device with the intent to commit a violent felony.

Voter ID: On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a tie in the Senate to pass a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID at their polling place. The legislation would not take effect until 2014. In January, a House subcommittee rejected a photo ID measure.

Nepotism: The Senate spending plan includes an anti-nepotism amendment that is not in the House package. Under the Senate measure local sheriffs, commonwealth’s attorneys, clerks and revenue officials would see their state funding cut by 10 percent if they hire relatives to work for them.

Meals tax: The Senate has passed legislation that would give Henrico and Chesterfield counties the authority to impose a meals tax without putting it to a referendum. Senate Bill 1311, sponsored by Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, faces an uphill battle Friday when it will be heard in a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee.

RMA: Legislation to give Chesterfield and Henrico equal representation to Richmond’s on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority Board of Directions passed the House with the city opposed. Richmond is expected to drop its opposition after the bill is amended in the Senate to protect the city’s rights in the RMA’s assets, including the toll expressway system and four parking decks.

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Staff writer Michael Martz contributed to this report.

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