New legislators bring bipartisan compromise to General Assembly

Updated: Feb. 14, 2018 at 5:48 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The 2018 General Assembly session is now half over and Republicans and Democrats say they're seeing more bipartisan compromise than they have in a while.

They say it's due to having a new governor and a new House speaker, and to Democrats winning enough seats in the House to have a near-majority.

Republicans shot down Medicaid expansion bills the last four years.

But this year, the Senate voted to expand Medicaid to 20,000 more mentally ill, addicted, disabled, and chronically ill Virginians if it's funded in the budget.

House Republicans say they've put money in the budget to help cover Medicaid expansion, while passing a bill to seek federal approval of a work requirement for recipients.

"We have the Jason Miyares bill which has what we think are very key education and work requirements. We've had two productive conversations with the governor," said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R - Colonial Heights),

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, echoed the sentiment.

"I'm confident in the next few weeks we'll have a plan that's good for both parties and most of all good for the Commonwealth of Virginia," he said.

Another area both parties have found compromise is on regulatory reform. Both the Senate and House have passed bills to overhaul the rate-setting process for Dominion Energy.

It would let the utility keep millions in earnings, rather than return it to customers, if it invests in grid upgrades and renewable energy. The House added an amendment to prevent Dominion from double dipping by raising rates for these upgrades.

"I had concerns with the initial bill," said Northam. "We had concerns about rate payer relief. I wanted more emphasis placed on green energy, renewable energy, and also more oversight."

Added Delegate Terry Kilgore (R - Scott County): "All in all it's a good bill that ends the rate freeze and puts money back into customers pockets and sets a new way forward on how we do investments in Virginia."

The two parties also worked together on a criminal justice bill. Democrats got to raise the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500, while Republicans got a requirement that victims will get full restitution.

"I haven't seen this much bipartisan support in a long time," said Northam.  "I think its good for Virginia, its really a breath of fresh air."

All of these bills have now crossed over into the other chambers for a vote. Those that pass will go to the governor's desk.

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