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Legislative Update

August 4, 2014

In this update:
■ On Capitol Hill: House Votes to Sue President Obama
■ Campus Safety and Accountability Act
■ Virginia’s Excellence in State Public Health Law
■ DBHDS Commissioner Addresses Forum Attendees
■ Children’s Services: 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book
■ Circuit Court Opinions on Consumer Subsidies
■ Executive Branch Media Talks
■ State & Local Government Meetings 

On Capitol Hill: House Votes to Sue President Obama 

The U.S. House of Representatives has authorized its leader to sue the President of the United States. In a 225-201 vote, the House backed Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) in his decision to file a lawsuit against President Obama over his handling of the Affordable Care Act. 

All but five Republicans voted in favor of suing the President, while all Democrats voted against the proposal. Boehner and other Republicans have framed the vote in terms of Congress’ constitutional responsibility.

Although this is the first time a chamber of Congress has endorsed suing a president, individual members have sued the Commander-in-Chief before. Those lawsuits failed to gain traction in the courts. If Boehner decides to file his lawsuit, the speaker would have to prove the House has suffered from material injury – something that has never been granted in previous presidential lawsuits. If successful, Republicans would also have to prove their allegations can stand up to scrutiny under the law.

Campus Safety and Accountability Act

U.S. Senator Mark Warner (Virginia) and a bipartisan group of seven Senate colleagues including, Senators Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Dean Heller (Nevada), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), and Marco Rubio (Florida) – have introduced legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses. The eight senators have been working together for months to examine federal, state, and local policies, collect feedback from stakeholders, and craft bipartisan legislation. The Campus Safety and Accountability Act will help to better protect and empower students, improve reporting, training and best practices, and strengthen transparency and accountability of educational institutions. It will also help schools take proactive steps to protect their students.

Virginia’s Excellence in State Public Health Law

On July 23, hundreds of public health stakeholders participated in Virginia’s Excellence in State Public Health Law State Conference held at UVA’s Darden School of Business in Charlottesville. The conference, hosted by the Virginia Department of Health, consisted of workshops and seminars on public health. The goal of the program is to begin to develop solutions that will focus on ways to improve public services to benefit the people who rely on them.

First lady Dorothy McAuliffe joined a panel of public health experts to promote policies to ensure a healthier Virginia. Among the panel members included the state health commissioner, a state delegate and an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel also provided remarks. 

For more information, visit http://innovatevirginia.org/pages/home/.

DBHDS Commissioner Addresses Forum Attendees 

Debra Ferguson, the new Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), addressed the members of Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s (VHHA) Behavioral Health Forum at their July 25 meeting. Dr. Ferguson, who assumed her new role on April 28, expressed her appreciation for the role private psychiatric facilities play in the state’s mental health delivery system and her commitment to improving access to services. She described the internal processes DBHDS will be undertaking to identify core services that should be available across the Commonwealth, and a long-term strategy for funding them. In addition, Forum attendees were briefed by representatives from the Office of the Attorney General and DBHDS regarding changes to the civil commitment statutes that took effect July 1. Issues associated with the psychiatric bed registry also were discussed. 

Children’s Services:  2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual publication that assesses child well-being nationally and across the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The publication chronicles how children in each state are faring, using an index of 16 indicators across four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The report also provides national trends, comparing the latest data with mid-decade statistics.

Circuit Court Opinions on Consumer Subsidies 

Two U.S. appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings on whether consumers can get subsidies for health coverage bought on the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on a 2-1 vote, invalidated an Internal Revenue Service regulation that implemented a key piece of the 2010 health law. The regulation said subsidies for health insurance were available to qualifying consumers whether they bought coverage on a state or federally run exchange. Following, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond reached the opposite conclusion, unanimously ruling that consumers in states relying on the federal marketplace could receive subsidies.

This split between the Circuit Court opinions increases the chances the Supreme Court will ultimately consider the legality of the use of premium subsidies. The federal government has run some or all of the insurance exchanges in 36 states, including Virginia, and about 4.7 million Americans have purchased subsidized policies through the federal exchanges so far this year.

To view Governor McDonnell’s statement on the rulings, visit https://governor.virginia.gov/news/newsarticle?articleId=5577.

Executive Branch Media Talks

Visit the following links to access President Obama’s and Governor McAuliffe’s regularly scheduled media talks.

President Obama's Weekly Video Address

Governor McAuliffe’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
Henrico County
Chesterfield County
Hanover County
Goochland County

To view the university and health system’s legislative priorities, updates, legislative tracking lists, and more… go to the http://www.govrel.vcu.edu/.

The next update will be available during the week of August 10, 2014. For questions regarding this information, please contact VCU Office of Government Relations at (804) 828-1235 or govrel@vcu.edu.  

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