Column: General Assembly Session Nears Adjournment

Column: General Assembly Session Nears Adjournment

With less than two weeks remaining on its scheduled adjournment sine die on Feb. 25, the General Assembly will be working overtime to resolve differences between the House and Senate on major issues, with reconciliation of differences on budget amendments being top on the list. Top on the list of budget amendment differences is the handling of the Governor’s amendments to the existing budget. As the Commonwealth Institute summarized the issue, “the Governor’s proposed budget amendments would let 245 corporations with taxable incomes over $10 million pay a lower tax than a starting teacher who makes $42,500 a year or a health care support worker who makes $31,400 a year.” I along with other House Democrats voted against the Governor’s amendments, but the Republican-controlled House included them in the budget. The Senate did not include them. Altogether the Governor proposed more than a billion dollars in tax cuts, none of which were accepted by the Senate. These cuts would take money away from critical funding needs in education, mental health, Medicaid, and public safety among others. A balanced budget must be presented before the Assembly’s work is finished for the year.

In a major step forward for health care reform, a House bill is likely to pass this session that would carry a $62 million dollar budget investment to ensure nursing homes are properly staffed with nurses and aides. The Senate defeated all abortion bans and restrictions. The House did not even put these bills on an agenda in order to protect their members who face close general elections from having a recorded vote on bills that would fail in the Senate regardless. The Senate passed a constitutional amendment that would put the right to reproductive freedom into the State Constitution, but it failed. In the House, efforts to remove outdated language from the State Constitution failed. Along with other House Democrats, I voted against two bills targeting transgender youth that passed the House on a narrow vote. They are likely to be defeated in the Senate.

This session of the General Assembly may be among the least productive in recent history. With the Republican House majority taking their lead from a presidentially aspiring governor it is picking up on popular conservative positions. Their efforts will be in vain as the Democratic majority in the Senate will stop their attempts to roll back progressive measures passed by the Democrats over the last two years.