March 8, 2014
Associated Press/ WCAV-TV
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia state lawmakers are headed home without having passed a biennial budget.
The General Assembly's 2014 regular session came to end Saturday with lawmakers deadlocked on whether to accept federal Medicaid funds in exchange for providing publicly funded health insurance to as many as 400,000 low-income residents.
Republican Delegate Rob Bell says there are plenty of other issues that need that spotlight.
"We're having this huge dispute over the medicaid expansion but let's put that aside and then we can let the local governments get to their work. Make sure that we have funding for police, the schools, the colleges, the roads, all the things the state government funds without having it get wrapped up in the Medicaid fight," says Bell.
Lawmakers passed several other measures with bipartisan support Saturday, including legislation aimed at improving the state's mental health services and tightening ethics rules for state lawmakers.
Mental health, an issue that had grown out of the tragedy surrounding Senator Creigh Deeds and his son Gus' mental illness that led to his suicide.
"What the bills did is that they said if you can't find a bed, we will have a "bed of last resort" at the state hospitals. To do that we needed more capacity. It's not inexpensive to pay for the additional capacity but we're going to offer more beds and that'll be the last resort, so it doesn't happen again," says Bell.
The General Assembly also voted to reduce the number of standardized tests students in elementary and middle schools will have to take and to delay implementation of a new A-F school grading system by two years.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called a special session to pass a budget on March 24.