In this update:
■ On Capitol Hill: President Obama 2015 Budget Proposal
■ Proposed Rules on Political Activity
■ Mayor Dwight Jones Considering DPV Chair
■ Attorney General Three-Member Review Panel
■ State Budget Impasse Looms
■ Dogs on Call Program Visited the General Assembly
■ Children’s Services: State-Level Advocacy for CHIP Reauthorization
■ Executive Branch Media Talks
■ State & Local Government Meetings
On Capitol Hill: President Obama 2015 Budget Proposal
President Barack Obama has sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget that would funnel money into road building, education and other economy-bolstering programs. Included in the plan is a small funding increase for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
NIH would be funded at $30.2 billion, a $200 million increase from 2014, and additional funds set aside for Alzheimer's research and DARPA. An additional $462 million would be set aside for developing "medical countermeasures," that protect from the harms of chemical, biological and other modern-day weapons, with yet more money going into the government's current research program on the subject. Several Institutes within NIH would see small decreases under the Obama budget, including programs that fund research on cancer and diabetes.
NSF would receive a 1 percent funding increase to $7.3 billion. The funds include several small research initiatives, including $362 million towards clean energy research and $151 for towards advanced manufacturing research that could be conducted in partnership with the private sector.
The budget proposal highlights stark differences with Republicans, who favor a reduced government role in promoting economic opportunity. It is all but certain to be rejected by the Republican-controlled House and stands little chance of passage. However, it sets out the Democratic president's policy priorities ahead of November congressional elections, in which the Democrats hope to keep control of the U.S. Senate and avoid losing ground in the House.
Proposed Rules on Political Activity
A coalition of higher education associations on Thursday urged the Obama administration not to apply to colleges and universities its proposed rules on political activity by certain tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have been seeking public comments on their proposal to more clearly define what constitutes political campaign-related activity at “social welfare” nonprofits, which are organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code. Those organizations are permitted to engage in some campaign activity, but government watchdogs say the blurred lines are allowing an influx of secret money into politics that has a corrupting effect.
In proposing new standards at those 501(c)4 organizations, the Treasury Department and IRS also asked for input on whether they should apply the same definition of political campaign activity to 501(c)3 organizations, which include most nonprofit colleges and universities. Colleges and universities, like all 501(c)3 nonprofits, are completely prohibited from engaging in any "political campaign intervention" as a condition of their tax-exempt status.
To view the proposal, visit http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-29/pdf/2013-28492.pdf.
Mayor Dwight Jones Considering DPV Chair
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is considering a bid for Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPV). According to Jones’ Deputy Chief of Staff Don Mark, current DPV chairwoman Charniele Herring is planning to step down at a March 15 meeting. Her replacement would be voted on at that time. Mark has also said Governor McAuliffe supported Mayor Jones for the new role. Jones would remain as mayor of Richmond while serving as DPV chair.
Attorney General Three-Member Review Panel
A newly created three-member review panel is charged with identifying efficiencies and needed reforms in the attorney general’s office. The panel’s job is to determine whether taxpayer dollars are being efficiently spent and comply with the law and standards of legal ethics and professionalism, including budget management and finance, the execution of the office’s responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act and the Conflict of Interest Act, use of outside counsel and information technology infrastructure. The panel consists of nonpartisan individuals with expertise in managing large organizations in the legal industry, the public sector, and the private sector. It will be chaired by Bill Leighty, managing principal of DecideSmart, a former chief of staff to Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and a former director of the Virginia Retirement System. Leighty will be joined by W. Taylor Reveley III, president of the College of William and Mary, and Katherine Busser, executive vice president and central Virginia market president of Capital One.
State Budget Impasse Looms
The House and Senate Budget Conferees are currently working to reconcile the two versions of budget proposals into a final State Budget for 2014-2016. Legislators in both chambers and in both parties agree that it may be difficult to finalize a spending plan, primarily because of the differences on Medicaid. A deadlock on the issue could force the General Assembly session, slated to end March 8, to run into overtime. Conferees must decide whether or not to expand Medicaid in Virginia this year. In addition, they must determine what form of expansion will be acceptable to both chambers. Republicans in the House are opposed to Medicaid expansion, agreeing Washington cannot afford to keep its promise to pick up most of the $2 billion-a-year cost. Democrats and a few moderate Republicans in the Senate support expansion through a market-based model, using the Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance plans.
Dogs on Call Program Visited the General Assembly
On February 25, therapy dogs and their trainers from the Virginia Commonwealth University Dogs on Call program visited the General Assembly this week, receiving recognition for the aid they provide. Recognized at the State Capitol by Senator Walter Stosch, the dogs visited the Senate floor and the offices of many state lawmakers.
The Dogs on Call Program is part of the VCU School of Medicine’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction. In his introduction on the Senate floor, Stosch noted that the 35 therapy-dog teams, which consist of dogs and their trainers, visited more than 2,000 hospitalized patients in 2013 and more than 3,000 families and staff. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who was presiding over the Senate session, also praised the therapy dog teams.
Children’s Services: State-Level Advocacy for CHIP Reauthorization
The state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the March of Dimes (MOD) are expected to begin circulating sign on letters within the next two weeks to begin state-level advocacy for CHIP reauthorization. Also available is an open letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, co-signed by more than 400 organizations from across the country, urging leaders to reauthorize CHIP.
To view a copy of the letter, visit http://www.firstfocus.net/sites/default/files/CHIP%20Sign-On%20Letter.pdf.
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
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