Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) issued the following statement Tuesday on the upcoming special session of the General Assembly:
“The General Assembly will convene at Noon on Thursday, September 18 to consider budget legislation, elect judges, and debate Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Throughout the budget stalemate, I along with other House Republican leaders promised to hold a full and fair debate on Medicaid expansion during a separate special session after the budget was passed. I announced in July my intention to do that by reconvening the House this week.
“In order to ensure that every member of the House of Delegates has an opportunity to participate in this debate, I will refer all Medicaid-related bills to the House Committee on Rules. They will be moved to the floor without a specific recommendation. Then, all legislation will be vetted, debated, and acted on through the regular course of business.
“Since January, every member of the House of Delegates has had the opportunity to hear from his or her constituents on this issue. The public has had months to offer input and make their opinions known to legislators. This special session will afford every member the opportunity to represent their constituents and make their own position on this issue very clear.
“This process is completely consistent with what I and other House leaders called for this spring and what we announced in July.
“My position on Medicaid expansion has not changed. Medicaid needs to reformed, not expanded. Virginia cannot count on Washington to foot the bill indefinitely and Virginia taxpayers will eventually be stuck with the tab. Expansion would dramatically change Medicaid from a safety net for the most vulnerable to a government-run, welfare entitlement program at the cost of nearly $2 billion per year.
“House Republicans are committed to reforming Medicaid, improving access to quality health care, and strengthening the safety net. We look forward to continuing to discuss these ideas down the road, but the primary purpose of this session is and always has been to debate Medicaid expansion. We promised the people of Virginia a full and fair debate and that is what they deserve.
“In addition to this important debate, the General Assembly will also act on the bipartisan budget agreement that Governor McAuliffe, Majority Leader Kirk Cox, Chairman Chris Jones, Vice Chairman Steve Landes, the Senate, and I announced yesterday. As I said then, acting sooner rather than later is important for Virginia’s economy and necessary to protect our state’s Triple-A bond rating. The General Assembly will also act to fill vacant judgeships in accordance with our constitutional duty.
“Altogether, the Medicaid expansion debate, the budget, and judges make this special session very necessary. These are all important tasks worthy of our time and attention. Anyone who says otherwise is being counterproductive in an attempt to score political points.”