How the Virginia Legislature spent the session

If the Virginia State General Assembly were a 3rd grader and had to write about what they did during the 2012 Legislative session what would they write?  “I spend a lot of the 60 days talking about women’s body parts and didn’t have time to pass a budget.”

 Virginia State Capitol buiding designed by Thomas Jefferson.

I was skimming through headlines on the Washington Post website yesterday when this caught my eye:  “Va. Assembly will adjourn Saturday without a budget”.  Of course Governor McDonnell immediately sent the Democratic caucus a letter blaming them for the failure.  I guess they submitted amendments too late so now there has to be a special session which will cost money.  According to the Richmond Times Dispatch

Earlier Friday, McDonnell released a letter to Senate Democrats in which he said he was disappointed that their caucus waited until the end of the session to forward additional amendments to the budget. McDonnell noted that an extended session will cost state taxpayers additional money.

McDonnell maintained that in addition to transportation, Democratic proposals would increase spending by more than $600 million over two years, and he challenged them to make corresponding amendments to reduce costs or raise revenue.

The amended House version of McDonnell’s two-year, $85 billion plan is in the Senate Finance Committee. Democratic senators — who defeated two previous budget proposals before the full chamber — have offered amendments to the latest House plan that would add approximately $450 million in spending.

Roughly $150 million would go toward public education and restoration of health services to the poor, while $300 million would go toward transportation and reducing the impact of tolls in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Democrats have also proposed that McDonnell abandon his bid to divert additional sales tax revenue to transportation in favor of indexing the gasoline tax to rise with inflation. They also say the state should pay for the costs of a new law that will require women to get ultrasounds before they can get an abortion

So in addition to money for public education and health services for the poor, the Virginia Democrats want the state to pay for women’s ultrasounds?  Now we are getting to what the General Assembly really spent their 60 day session doing:  Debating transvaginal and other types of ultrasounds for women who seek a legal medical procedure known as an abortion.

There have been many words written on the Virginia bill and many more spoken, but Andrew Rosenthal summed it up neatly in the New York Times.

The Virginia State Legislature has decided not to force pregnant women to undergo vaginal penetration in a medical office before they exercise their Supreme Court-sanctioned right to an abortion. I suppose this is a victory of sorts.

As a refresher: The Legislature was on the verge of passing a law compelling doctors to perform ultrasounds before abortions. The bill, as written, would have required many women to undergo a trans-vaginal procedure, the sort of coerced penetration that in other circumstances could be considered rape.

Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted to sign it to polish his right-wing credentials for the eventual national political bid that so many people expect him to make. But the backlash was too much for him— even in the angry, superheated national debate about abortion there are, apparently, some limits—and he prevailed on the legislature to tweak the bill.

An amended version, mandating ultrasounds while specifying that women can refuse the trans-vaginal kind, passed the House and won a 21-19 vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

Let me get this straight.  The Virginia General Assembly frittered away the session talking about an unnecessary medical procedure intervenes in the relationship between a woman and her doctor while somehow not passing a budget.  OK.  I know it is not that simple, but having spent many years hanging around the Virginia GA I can tell you they can get things done if they want to do so.  But I think the Republicans would rather impose a procedure they won’t pay for, cut health care benefits and education, than get serious about a budget that actually benefits people who live in Virginia.  Both sides are using the budget to push agendas, but the budget is really the only thing the Democrats have to use.  Since the Senate is tied at 20-20 and the Lt. Governor can’t vote on the budget, it is the only way Democratic members can get some sensible measures passed.

I don’t know enough about what is going on in the other budget proposals to comment, but it seems to me that if you mandate something, you need to pay for it.  And the Virginia General Assembly needs to find the money to pay for those ultasounds.