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Legislative Update

September 8, 2014

In this update:

■ On Capitol Hill: A Closer Look at Harkin’s Approach

■ Obama’s Plan to Expand Income-Based Repayment

■ Tackling the Student Debt Tour

■ Governor McAuliffe Launches Health Care Plan

■ Town Hall Meetings to Discuss Commonwealth Coordinated Care

■ Children’s Services: Health Care and Related Support for Military Children

■ Executive Branch Media Talks

■ State & Local Government Meetings

■ Legislative Fun Fact: Virginia’s Great Seal


On Capitol Hill: A Closer Look at Harkin’s Approach

Details behind Senator Tom Harkin’s (Iowa) discussion draft include hundreds of proposed changes to the higher education law. His proposal takes a much different ideological approach to key aspects of higher education policy.

While Representative Kline's package of bills focuses more on eliminating federal regulations in order to save taxpayers and students money, Harkin's draft largely focuses on protections and savings for students. His vision is reflected with provisions that would allow students to discharge private student loan debt in bankruptcy, eliminate origination fees on federal loans, and control practices of some for-profit colleges. In fact, the only real similarity between the two emerging proposals is that they would increase the flexibility of the Pell Grant program, provide better information on costs to students and parents, and strengthen financial aid counseling.

Importantly, as the Education Department is set to release new regulations regarding teacher preparation, Harkin's proposal would authorize several programs to reform and improve teacher and school leader preparation, including a new grant for states to assess such programs. It also would leave intact a slate of programs, known as TRIO, that help low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school through college.

A final version of the proposed reauthorization is expected to be released sometime this fall. Notably, the higher education effort is likely to be Senator Harkin's last major policy lift in the Senate, as he is set to retire at the end of this year.


Obama’s Plan to Expand Income-Based Repayment

The U.S. Department of Education has announced it will hold two public hearings this fall on President Obama’s plan to expand his federal income-based repayment program for student loans. The Department is expected gather a panel of higher education stakeholders early next year to write the regulations needed to proceed with expanding the program. The President has asked Congress to expand his income-based repayment program, known as Pay As You Earn, in his past two budget requests, but lawmakers have not acted on it. Republicans criticize the expansion of the program and question the administration’s legal authority to make the changes on its own without Congressional approval.

For more information, visit https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2014-20977.pdf.


Tackling the Student Debt Tour

On Wednesday, September 3, Senator Mark Warner visited VCU as part of the Tackling the Student Debt Tour – where he will travel the Commonwealth discussing the need to advance solutions to the student debt crisis. At each stop, Warner talks in depth about his bipartisan work to address the growing student debt crisis. He also discusses his Employer Participation in Refinancing Act, which he introduced with Republican Senators John Thune and Kelly Ayotte. The bill allows for employers to assist their employees in reducing their student loan debt by strengthening employer-provided education assistance programs. Warner said that immediate plans could include capping tuition repayments at 10 percent of income, paying a pre-tax deducted from employment checks capped at $5,000, and options to refinance loans.


Governor McAuliffe Launches Health Care Plan

Governor Terry McAuliffe has launched A Healthy Virginia, a 10-step plan to expand healthcare services to over 200,000 Virginians. This plan is an unprecedented action by any governor in Virginia history and includes authorizations of four emergency regulations, one executive order, and innovative and creative solutions to expand healthcare to Virginia veterans, children, and families. Included in the plan are the following steps:

  • Step 1: Covering people with serious mental illness;
  • Step 2: Improve the coordination of care for adults and children who are already covered by Medicaid and have a serious mental illness;
  • Steps 3 & 4: Sign up more Virginians for the Federal Marketplace, Medicaid, and FAMIS;
  • Step 5: Open up FAMIS for eligible state workers to insure their children;
  • Step 6: Provide dental benefits to pregnant women in Medicaid and FAMIS;
  • Step 7: Launch an innovative new website to inform Virginians of their coverage options and help them enroll;
  • Step 8: Accelerating access to quality health care for our veterans;
  • Step 9: Take bold actions to reduce deaths from prescription drug and heroin abuse; and
  • Step 10: Aggressively pursue Federal grants that can bring new dollars into Virginia for health care.

For more information, visit https://governor.virginia.gov/media/3096/a-healthy-virginia-report-final.pdf.


Town Hall Meetings to Discuss Commonwealth Coordinated Care

Throughout September, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) are hosting town hall meetings to discuss Commonwealth Coordinated Care (CCC), the new program for patients who are covered by both the Medicare and Medicaid program. On Monday, September 15, from 10 a.m. – 12 noon, VHHA is hosting a meeting at the VHHA headquarters located at 4200 Innslake Drive in Glen Allen. The meeting will include representatives from DMAS and the Medicare-Medicaid Health Plans.

For more information, visit http://www.dmas.virginia.gov/Content_pgs/mmfa-isp.aspx.


Children’s Services:  Health Care and Related Support for Military Children

The TRICARE for Kids Stakeholders Coalition – comprised of Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) along with pediatric provider organizations, military and veteran service organizations, disability groups and military families – has released an initial response to the analysis of the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA), TRICARE for Kids report. The Coalition's Study on Health Care and Related Support for Children of Members of the Armed Forces, sets forth substantial opportunities for the DHA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to work with Congress and the Coalition to make short and longer term improvements to children's health care policies and practices; including increased transparency and collaboration, meaningful utilization of data, improved reimbursement, and specific recommendations for children's care models to improve coverage, access, and quality of care for children of military families. Additional stakeholders have endorsed the response and CHA is now joined by 13 allied organizations. A Coalition meeting with the DoD to discuss next steps is planned for mid-September, and CHA has been invited to brief The Military Coalition about its leadership on the TRICARE for Kids initiative.

For more information, visit http://www.childrenshospitals.net/AM/Template.cfm?Section=N_A_C_H_News_and_Resources&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=71361


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 - http://www.virginia.gov/connect/commonwealth-calendar

Virginia’s Legislative Information System - http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?141+oth+MTG

Virginia Regulatory Town Hall - http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/meetings.cfm?time=future

Richmond City Council - http://www.richmondgov.com/CityCouncil/index.aspx

Henrico County - http://www.co.henrico.va.us/supervisors

Chesterfield County - http://www.chesterfield.gov/calendar.aspx?id=9753

Hanover County - http://www.co.hanover.va.us/board/mtgagmn.htm

Goochland County - http://www.co.goochland.va.us/Departments/Departments(AF)/BoardofSupervisors.aspx


Legislative Fun Fact: Virginia’s Great Seal

 Virginia’s great seal, imprinted on two metallic discs two and one-fourth inches in diameter, is affixed to documents signed by the Governor and intended for use before tribunals or for purposes outside of the jurisdiction of Virginia. The lesser seal, a smaller version of the obverse side of the great seal (one and nine-sixteenth inches in diameter) is used on commissions for gubernatorial appointees and notaries, and to authenticate the signature of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.


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The next update will be available on or after September 15, 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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