RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers approved emergency legislation Monday allowing health insurance companies to renew plans that do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican proponents said it could help 250,000 Virginians whose insurance policies are slated to be canceled because they don’t meet the minimum requirements of the federal health care law.
“The public is screaming to have this done,” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell County.
Democrats mostly supported the bill, but questioned whether it would have much of an effect and whether the 250,000 figure was inflated. House Minority Leader David Toscano accused Republicans of not passing the bill earlier this year because they wanted to use the issue of canceled health plans against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in his re-election bid. Warner defeated Republican Ed Gillespie earlier this month.
“It’s a feel-good bill that doesn’t do much,” Toscano said.
A similar bill passed the GOP-controlled House earlier this year but did not pass the Senate when Democrats controlled the chamber.
Lawmakers also voted to scrap a plan to use $50 million from the state’s highway fund to help bridge a $2.4 billion budget gap.
The move was made to avoid potential repeal of a landmark 2013 transportation funding law passed under former Gov. Bob McDonnell, which increased taxes in order to pay for new infrastructure. Instead, lawmakers voted to have current Gov. Terry McAuliffe find an extra $50 million in budget cuts next year.
Lawmakers also approved several new judges for local courts, and had been set to appoint fill a vacancy to the Virginia Supreme Court and two to the Virginia Court of Appeals. But members of the Senate Republican caucus balked at voting on high court positions.
Judicial selection in Virginia plays out almost entirely behind closed doors, as lawmakers negotiate picks in private before taking a public vote. D. Arthur Kelsey, who currently serves on the Virginia Court of Appeals, was the only candidate for the Virginia Supreme Court to face public interviews Monday in front of a handful of lawmakers at a judicial committee hearing.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment said his members wanted to interview more interested candidates for both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals before voting on the new judges.
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