December 9, 2013
In this update:
■ On Capitol Hill: Budget Negotiators Work to Reach a Final Agreement
■ Higher Education Innovations
■ Race for Attorney General Update
■ Election for the 86th District Seat
■ School and Campus Safety Week
■ Special Election Date Announced
■ Children’s Services: Basic Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act
■ Excellence in Virginia Government Awards
■ Executive Branch Media Talks
■ State & Local Government Meetings
On Capitol Hill: Budget Negotiators Work to Reach a Final Agreement
Negotiators on Thursday closed in on a budget deal, but Representative Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) and Senator Patty Murray (Washington) encountered last-minute resistance from House Democratic leaders who said any deal should be accompanied by an extension of expiring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million workers.
The deal would increase revenue by raising some fees and would shift some cuts away from domestic and defense programs, partly alleviating the across-the-board spending cuts imposed last year, which are set to worsen in 2014. Spending on defense and domestic programs would rise to about $1 trillion for the current fiscal year from $986 billion, the fiscal 2013 level that remains in effect under the continuing resolution passed in October. Absent a deal, further cuts would go into effect in January, and discretionary spending would be cut to $967 billion for fiscal 2014.
The agreement would also leave to future negotiations the big issues of curbing future spending increases in the fast-growing entitlement programs and the proper level of tax revenues. It also would not extend unemployment benefits set to expireDecember 28, or deal with impending cuts to Medicare health care providers.
But both parties clearly have an incentive to reach a final agreement before the House adjourns for the year on Friday. Democrats are eager to head off the next round of across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, set to take effect next month. Republican leaders, aiming to keep the political focus on President Obama’s health care law, want to avert another budget showdown on January 15.
Higher Education Innovations
The Obama administration is moving ahead with plans to waive certain federal student aid rules for a limited number of colleges that want to experiment with competency-based education and other innovative forms of higher education. The administration first announced in August that it wanted to use its “experimental sites” authority to pilot higher education innovations aimed at lowering costs while maintain quality.
Officials are soliciting suggestions on what those experiments should look like, according to a recent notice set to be published in the Federal Register. The Education Department said it wants to hear experiment proposals from colleges, businesses, philanthropies and state agencies. The suggestions are due by January 31, 2014.
For more information, visit http://www2.ed.gov/documents/college-affordability/notice-experimental-sites-initiative.pdf.
Race for Attorney General Update
Republican state Senator Mark Obenshain (Harrisonburg) has requested a recount in the race for Virginia attorney general. The State Board of Elections certified the results of the contest on November 25, with Senator Mark Herring (Loudoun) declared the winner by 165 votes. That result is well within the margin for the loser to request a recount.
Richmond Circuit Judge Beverly Snukals scheduled the recount for December 17 and 18 and agreed to allow Fairfax County to begin its recount December 16. Snukals also scheduled a tentative December 19 date for a recount court to rule on disputed votes in the recount.
Every ballot that can be recounted by hand will be, and those counted by optical scan machines will be run through the machines again. Virginia law also includes a provision that would allow the loser after a recount to contest the result in an unusual joint session of the state House of Delegates and Senate.
Election for the 86th District Seat
Democrat Jennifer Boysko has formally filed a petition for a recount in the election for the 86th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. After 21,000 votes cast, the state board of elections declared Republican Tom Rust (Fairfax) the winner by 54 votes, or a 0.26 percent margin.
Boysko’s petition, filed on November 3 in Fairfax County’s Circuit Court, sets in motion a court-governed procedure to have all ballots counted again — similar to the process underway in the election for Virginia attorney general. A preliminary hearing is expected soon.
School and Campus Safety Week
Governor McDonnell has proclaimed the week of December 9-13 as School and Campus Safety Week in the Commonwealth.
To mark School and Campus Safety Week, the governor will speak to students and state and local officials at a special event at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Student Commons Theater on December 11 at 10:30 a.m. The event will also feature remarks by VCU President Michael Rao, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Charles Klink, and VCU student Brendan Hood.
The governor has also declared December 13 as a Day of Mourning and called for a moment of silence and reflection at 9:30 a.m. on that day to honor those innocent students and teachers who lost their lives in the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December.
The governor’s full proclamation can be read by visiting the following link: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/viewproc.cfm?id=452.
Special Election Date Announced
Governor McDonnell has set January 7, 2014 as the date for the special election to fill the seat of Senator Ralph Northam, who was elected lieutenant governor and is resigning from the Senate effective January 11. Governor McDonnell previously announced that the special election to fill Delegate Onzlee Ware's seat in House District 11 will also be held on January 7.
Children’s Services: Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act
Sources have revealed that the House of Representatives may begin considering a new version of H.R. 2019, the Kids First Research Act of 2013, which is expected to be reintroduced as the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. The revised legislation would discontinue public funding for the presidential nominating conventions and authorize re-directing this funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support pediatric research. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Virginia) has identified supporting pediatric research as a priority. Recently, the President signed into law the Pediatric Research Network Act, which authorizes the NIH to develop a network of pediatric research consortia.
Excellence in Virginia Government Awards
On December 5, the Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA) were presented by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs to celebrate the accomplishments of Virginians who have made distinctive contributions to the practice of government and to the well-being of our communities and our citizens. Now entering its ninth year, the EVGA has become a hallmark of excellence for both VCU and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The 2013 Award recipients included the Honorable Lacey Putney (Lifetime Achievement); the Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (Public Private Partnership); Virginia Values Veterans (Innovation in Government); The Thrifty Spot, Mathews County Public Schools (Community Enhancement); Stephen Falden (Unsung Hero); and the Honorable Yvonne Miller (awarded posthumously).
Executive Branch Media Talks
Visit the following links to access President Obama’s and Governor McDonnell’s regularly scheduled media talks.
President Obama's Weekly Video Address
Governor McDonnell’s "Ask the Governor" Call-in Radio Show
State & Local Government Meetings
Visit the following links for information on official state and local government meetings open to the public.
The Commonwealth Calendar
Virginia’s Legislative Information System
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Richmond City Council
To view the university and health system’s legislative priorities, updates, legislative tracking lists, and more… go to the VCU Office of Government Relations’ website.
The next update will be available during the week of December 15th, 2013. For questions regarding this information, please contact VCU Office of Government Relations at (804) 828-1235 or by e-mail.
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