I'll be appearing on tonight's 5 and 6 o'clock evening news on WRIC-8 (Richmond's ABC affiliate), talking about the budget/Medicaid expansion battles between the Governor and the General Assembly. This is one of those complicated procedural battles that is really hard to explain in a 2-minute news segment. (I don't envy the reporter, Mark Tenia.) The basic gist:
- The Federal government is offering billions of dollars to states to expand Medicaid healthcare coverage for low income people.
- The General Assembly passed a budget that basically says that any attempts to accept this new Federal money has to be approved by them. (Because the Republicans want to reject the money.)
- The Governor used his line-item veto to strike that rule from the budget.
- The General Assembly could override that veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses (unlikely since the Senate is almost evenly divided). Instead, the Speaker ruled that the governor's line item veto was unconstitutional, and so ignored it. It didn't even go to a vote.
What's next? A court battle, probably. As I've already noted, the Governor probably did not have the authority to use his line-item veto in the way he used it. But the Speaker may not have the power to just ignore the veto and not let it go to a vote. Speaker Howell argued that his actions were "consistent with rulings made by past Speakers and opinions issued by the Supreme Court of Virginia," but we'll see.