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Weekly Article from Senator Puller

Contributed by Senator Toddy Puller

Virginia SealThe 2014 General Assembly session has come and gone…sort of. While a great many things were accomplished this session, we adjourned on March 8th without a budget. Governor McAuliffe has set a special session for March 24th. Details on this special session are still being hammered out.

The sticking point is accepting federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, or purchasing private insurance through Marketplace Virginia. As I stated on the Senate floor and in previous articles, I am in favor of expanding health care coverage in Virginia and closing our coverage gap. I have heard from many of my constituents on this issue and the majority of you agree we must close the coverage gap and keep our tax dollars in Virginia, helping Virginians gain access to insurance. To those who want to separate this out from the budget, I say that is short-sighted and not practical. The money we will receive from the federal government—which is our tax dollars returned to us—will free up millions of dollars for teachers, police and firefighters, roads and other currently underfunded projects. How can we separate out the two?

I will be holding a town hall on closing the coverage gap with Del. Scott Surovell on Saturday, March 22nd, at 11 a.m. at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center in Alexandria. Secretary Bill Hazel will be on hand to give a short presentation and answer questions.

I was able to get five bills passed this year, plus one more bill that, as it worked its way through committees, we realized there was a simple solution we could work out without passing legislation. The five bills headed to the Governor’s desk are: 

SB 11: Absentee voting and procedures; secure return of voted military-overseas ballots

Allows for return of absentee ballots by secure electronic means for active duty, overseas military personnel. This bill was SB 830 in 2013 and improved upon by the Cybersecurity subcommittee of JCOTS. This has been a top priority of the Joint Leadership Commission on Veteran Service Organizations [JLC] for several years. There was broad, bi-partisan support for this bill, as well as the support of the Governor and his staff. However, the House of Delegates amended my bill, adding a reenactment clause so that if, after the working group establishes the procedures and proves the system is secure, we will have to go back to the General Assembly again in 2016 to get the bill reenacted and finally passed into law.

SB 60: Joint Commission on Health Care extends sunset provision

Extends the sunset provision for the Joint Commission on Health Care from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2018. I am currently the chair of this commission.

SB 201: Health insurance; prescription drug formularies, notices

Requires any health insurer in Virginia that applies a formulary to specialty-tier prescription drug benefits provided to provide 60 days written notice to each individual covered under that policy when a drug, or drugs, are moved from one tier to another. My bill and the companion, HB308 (Del. Dance) were amended for 30-day notice instead of the desired 60 days. While this is a good first step, I will keep fighting for the full 60-days notice that the patient advocate groups and pharmaceutical companies have been fighting for.

SB 481: Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program; residency requirements

Extends requirements for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, for spouse or children of soldiers killed or 90%+ disabled, who can prove they lived in the state of Virginia for at least 5 years can be eligible for the education benefits. Currently families must establish residency and maintain that for at least 5 years.

SB 605: Alcoholic beverage control; mixed beverages license for Virginia State Fair

Updates the license for the Virginia State Fair and county fairgrounds with lower square footage requirements in regards to liquor licenses to sell mixed beverages. I worked with Del. Dave Albo on this legislation and it will benefit Northern Virginia and the 36th district by allowing the Prince William County fairgrounds to start a beer garden, drawing in more visitors.

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