The battle between the branches of the Commonwealth's government was brought to an abrupt halt on Thursday, when, after gaining control of the Senate, the new Republican majority passed a budget. After months of fighting over the issue, the budget includes a provision designed to bar McAuliffe from expanding Medicaid. He has seven days from the day he received the budget, or until June 22, to act on it, either signing it or vetoing it. This sudden turn of events was triggered by the resignation of Phillip Puckett of Russell County. With his resignation, the Democrats could no longer use the Lieutenant Governor as a tie-breaker, giving the Republicans a 20-19 majority (as opposed to the Democrats previous 21-20 majority, counting the LG).
The debate over internet taxation has taken center stage again in Congress. After the Senate passed their version called the Marketplace Fairness Act, the House Judiciairy Committee took up the issue yesterday to find alternatives to the Senate's plan and come up with their own legislation that would make the sales tax playing field fairer for traditional storefronts without saddling internet-only retailers with a burden. This issue has continued to grow as web-based retailers continue to take on a bigger role for America's consumers. States have argued that they are losing $23 billion per year in sales tax revenue not being collected because of a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that says a state may only collect sales tax from retailers with a pysical presence in that state.
Small businesses that sell all over the country are worried about how they would comply with the more than 9,600 state and local tax jurisdictions. This could be a major burdon on a small online retailer. Discussions include considering basing the tax on where the seller is located versus where the buyer is located, allowing for consistent understanding of the taxes owed no matter where the buyer is located. This is just one of many ideas that Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6th), is considering as they 'start winnowing down the proposals' to find an alternative that is suitable to both web-based and brick and mortar retailers.
The year is 2014, an even-numbered year, which means the General Assembly is working to pass a two-year budget. In odd-numbered years, amendments are considered to the budget. As the 2014 General Assembly session faces only a few days left, the negotiations over the budget are in full force. The General Assembly has been working through the Governor's proposed budget (Gov. McDonnell proposed this budget in December before leaving office) in the form of the 'Budget Bill.' In each house the budget bill is referred to committees which hold public hearings and committee debates. In the House of Delegates, the House Appropriations Committee reviews the budget bill. In the Senate, the budget bill is reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. After each committee's review, ammendments are added to the budget according to each committe and taken before the entire House of Delegates and Senate for approval. After the House and Senate vote on their own version of the budget bill, each bill 'crosses over' to the other house for consideration and is debated and voted upon again.
We are currently at this point in the process, where before the General Assembly adjourns for the session, a conference committee resolves the differences between the Senate and House versions of the budget. Once they have worked out the competing versions, the budget is sent to the Governor for approval.
The 2014 Budget Conferees
Senate: Democrats: Colgan, Howell, Saslaw
Republicans: Hanger, Norment, Stosch
House: Democrat: Joannou
Republicans: Cox, Greason, Jones, Landes, O'Bannon
Another Election, Another Recount
The results of Tuesday's Special Election provided a little more clarity in the battle for control in the Virginia Senate. In a special election to fill the vacated Senate seat of newly elected Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Northam, Delegate Lynwood Lewis (D), a four-term Delegate, holds a 22 vote lead over Norfolk businessman, Wayne Coleman (R). The razor-thin margin will most likely lead Coleman to call for a recount.
This is the first of two special elections to fill vacated seats from two Democratic Senators who won statewide, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring. If the results withstand a recount, the Senate will be 19 Democrats to 20 Republicans. The outcome of the second special election on January 21st will decide control of the Virginia Senate with the tie-breaking vote belonging to Democrat Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Northam.
In Roanoke, a special election to fill the House seat vacated by Democrat Delegate Onzlee Ware's retirement was held by Democrats with Sam Rasoul's victory. The VA House of Delegates will remain 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats.
A new study reveals that Virginia would be one of the biggest benefactors if the federal government allows drilling in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf to capture oil and natural gas. The three mid-Atlantic states will benefit the most: North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The study concludes that oil and gas development would mean:
Nearly 280,000 new jobs along the East Coast
$195 billion in private investment
$23.5 billion per year to the U.S. Economy
$51 billion in new revenue for the government
1.3 million barrells of oil per day (~70% of current output from the Gulf of Mexico)