Monday, February 18, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus Protests Voting Barriers


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                         Contact: Lisa Guthrie; (804) 240-1976

February 18, 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                 




Richmond – Today, members of the Virginia General Assembly Progressive Caucus spoke out against bills which erect more roadblocks to exercise the right to vote.


Voting is a fundamental American freedom. Senator Obenshain's SB1256 will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to vote by mandating voters show a specific kind of ID at the polls, a kind of ID these politicians know many voters don't have.

SB1256 will disproportionately affect seniors, students, low-income, and minority voters.

Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. We're all concerned about election integrity but the real threat is politicians who are trying to change the rules to rig the outcome.

Senator Donald McEachin expressed outrage stating, "Just six months ago, we spent $2 million to educate voters about changes to the voting laws. Now we want to change the laws again, and for what? To make it harder for more people to vote? These frequent rule changes don't make our elections safer. They confuse and discourage voters, who can longer have confidence that they have the right ID to be able to vote."

"Virginia has an ugly history of suppressing the vote and these bills will deny Virginians the right to vote.  Even if the ID from the registrar is free, there are hidden costs to the voter to get the documents necessary to prove their identity.  That is in essence a poll tax," stated Delegate Jennifer McClellan.

On another one of Senator Obenshain's bills, SB 1077, Delegate Bob Brink objected to yet more restrictions to voting.  "Using the SAVE database to verify the citizenship of registered voters wrongfully targets naturalized citizens whose SAVE records can be years out of date. Forcing individuals, who have properly navigated our complex immigration system and become US citizens, to prove their fundamental right to vote is outrageous."

We've never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn't start now.

Voting is the one thing that brings us all together and makes us equal as Americans.



Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus

Thursday, February 7, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus on Medicaid


For Immediate Release:                                       Contact:  Lisa Guthrie; (804) 240-1976

Thursday, February 7, 2013                     

Richmond – Virginia families deserve the same health security offered to every other state under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  But some in Richmond are going in the opposite direction by putting political interests  first.  The House of Delegates today rejected amendment language that would have accelerated Medicaid expansion and reform and instead adopted budget language that requires additional conditions and a delayed implementation that would prohibit expansion before July, 2015.  However, the Senate followed the solutions advanced by the Republican Senate Finance Chairman, Walter Stosch (SD 12) and adopted budget language that allows implementation flexibility as early as 2014.

Each day of delay means Virginia loses about $5 million of federal funding.  This funding is OUR federal tax dollars which would support health insurance and our hospitals, create 30,000 jobs, and boost Virginia's economy.

Medicaid expansion will save money, improve health, and even cut death rates right here in Virginia.  Expanding health coverage to more children and adults means saving money, saving lives, and a stronger and healthier Commonwealth.

Virginia Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Delegate Patrick Hope (HD 47) spoke out on the limitations in the budget.  "The House-passed budget is fundamentally flawed because it contains language to delay Medicaid expansion until July 2015. Denying over 300,000 poor families and children and costing Virginians over $3 billion is not only mean, it is fiscally irresponsible.

While the Virginia Progressive Caucus strongly supports reforming and expanding Virginia's Medicaid program, we can and should do these things simultaneously.  My budget amendment to the House budget on Medicaid expansion would have done just that. It makes no sense to reform the program with half of the poor in and the other half out."

Senator Donald McEachin (SD 9), a member of the Virginia Progressive Caucus, emphasized the $2 billion in economic benefits from Medicaid expansion and called for legislators to "put aside our narrow partisan differences in favor of the Commonwealth's interests.  We applaud Senate Finance Chairman Walter Stosch for his leadership in advancing an amendment today that seized an historic opportunity to expand health care coverage for thousands while also providing a competitive advantage for our businesses."

The Medicaid solution is paid for with federal tax dollars for the first three years, so if Virginia chooses not to fully implement the program, people in California and Massachusetts will be receiving the benefits that we paid for. After the first three years, the federal government will pay for up to 90% of the costs, with the state chipping in for the rest. Even after that, the cost of the program will be offset by the additional dollars that will be spent in the state in the health care industry.

The Virginia Progressive Caucus calls for budget conferees to enact a bipartisan budget that begins implementation of the expansion in 2014.                                                           










Friday, February 1, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus Concerns on Transportation Proposals

For Immediate Release                                                                                         Contact:  Lisa Guthrie; Executive Director

January 30, 2013                                                                                           (804) 240-1976;

Virginia Progressive Caucus Outlines Concerns on Transportation Funding Proposals

Today leaders in the legislative Virginia Progressive Caucus spoke out on transportation funding proposals on a number of concerns that stem from the source of the new revenue and the missing pieces on spending priorities. 

Caucus Co-chairman, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-HD 47), raised several points.  "While much has been said about the amount of revenue that HB 2213/SB 1355 would generate, there has been little attention paid to requiring better accountability on how the funds improve mobility.  New funding needs to be accompanied by fundamental reform of VDOT and its project planning processes in order to solve the Commonwealth's transportation crisis."

HB 2213/SB 1355 does advance several positive steps for transit and rail – most notably the establishment of a small dedicated, sustainable funding source for passenger rail that is required to sustain federal funding for intercity service.  However, since 2010, the General Assembly has accelerated appropriations of nearly $4 billion in funds – including $3 billion in bonded funds – to finance major transportation projects that often fail to address the core congestion problems of the state.  Northern Virginia alone needs at least $1 billion a year to address its dire transportation needs.

Most prominent among misdirected priorities is Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg which would cost over $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds plus tolls.  The current Route 460 carries just 11,000 trips per day.  "The new US 460 Bypass is estimated to support  5500 trips per day.  "Traffic studies for a new Costco on Rt. 1 in Fairfax County show that the store would create as many trips as this 1.5 billion dollar road" said Delegate Scott Surovell.  Without assurances that substantial funding will go to local transportation projects, our communities' needs will go unmet.

Despite the major injection in revenue, little progress has been made to resolve long-term problems.  The General Assembly should review the return on investments in transportation to date.  Improved project selection, with greater transparency and General Assembly oversight, will avoid funds being wasted on projects that do little to alleviate congestion in Virginia's most troubled transportation districts.

Caucus member Delegate Scott Surovell (D-HD 44), cautions that HB 2313's grab of existing General Fund resources could underfund current General Fund programs by $49 million in FY 2014 and as much as $283 million in FY 2018.  A better alternative, in addition to adjusting or indexing the gas tax to inflation, would include the elimination of reliance on funding from General Fund programs.  Delegate Surovell states, "Eliminating the statewide tax on gasoline is bad economics and bad transportation policy.  It cuts the sensible tie between transportation use and funding, forcing Virginians who drive less to subsidize those who drive more, hurting seniors and low-income individuals, carpoolers, transit users, and those who live closer to their jobs."

                Senator Adam Ebbin, Caucus co-chair, adds, "We should retain and even increase the gas tax so we can share the costs of transportation improvements with vehicles passing through Virginia from out of state.  To force Virginians, even those who don't drive, to cover the costs alone is shortsighted.  There is evidence from other states that taxpayers will likely only see a partial reduction in gas prices." Estimates show that 30% of cars on interstates are from out of state and traveling through Virginia on our highways.

"The Governor's plan only funds about 10-15% of our present long-term transportation funding shortfall," said Delegate Scott Surovell.

The Virginia Progressive Caucus emphasizes that reforms and revenue are both needed to address Virginia's serious transportation crisis.



Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Video of VA Progressive Caucus press conference; 1-23-13

Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus

Virginia Progressive Caucus Releases 2013 Agenda


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                       Contact: Lisa Guthrie; (804) 240-1976

January 23, 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                     



Announced Goals Include Voting Rights, Medicaid Expansion, Immigration


Richmond – Today, members of the Virginia General Assembly Progressive Caucus announced their agenda for 2013.


The Progressive Caucus released policy goals in areas including gun safety, electoral reform, education, health care, and immigration. In the words of co-Chairman of the Progressive Caucus Delegate Patrick Hope, "The legislative agenda of the Virginia Progressive Caucus will focus on policies that continue to promote Virginia's economic growth and protect civil liberties and freedoms. We will aggressively fight back attempts to undermine Virginia's ability to compete in the 21st century economy and take away hard fought gains in human and civil rights." Senator Adam Ebbin, also a co-Chairman of the Progressive Caucus, echoed Delegate Hope's sentiments and noted that "It is quite appropriate that the Progressive Caucus take even deeper root in Virginia's General Assembly."


The Caucus will take positions on individual bills on an ongoing basis. These positions will be posted online at as they are announced.


The policy goals of the Progressive Caucus include the following subjects on which Caucus members released statements:


Protecting Access to Education. Education is the cornerstone of any successful society. To ensure the continued success of our Commonwealth in the 21st century, we must have a topnotch public education system, from pre-k through higher education and vocational training. We cannot achieve these necessary goals by taking resources from public education and giving it, as a band-aid, to transportation.


Promoting Healthy Families. By expanding Medicaid eligibility, we can ensure that 420,000 more Virginians will be able to live without the fear that getting sick will break the bank. The Affordable Care Act and our federal tax dollars already pay for it. When people without health insurance end up in the emergency room, not only are they there with expensive medical emergencies that might have been preventable, but that cost is built in to the premiums of people who do have insurance. By implementing a Medicaid solution and getting more people insurance, we all pay less.


Protecting Women's Health and Reproductive Rights. Legislation that restricts a woman's right to choose will not help Virginia businesses, make college more affordable for young adults or make our streets safer. It is unnecessary and amounts to an attack on personal freedom which could have many unintended consequences.


Welcoming New Americans into our Community. Immigration is an essential part of the American dream—the dream for a better life, higher education, and an opportunity to succeed. While working to achieve this dream, immigrants contribute to our economy and the Progressive Caucus will put their concerns ahead of politics.


Expanding Access to Democracy. Bills designed to suppress voting rights have a disproportionate impact on minority communities, the elderly, and the poor. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, whose history is scarred by the legacy of Jim Crow, we have a special responsibility to oppose any efforts to restrict one of our most fundamental rights. We owe it to those who fought, and indeed died, to ensure the right of all citizens to vote.


Protecting and Preserving Our Natural Resources. Our commitment to a healthy environment is a measure of our investment in Virginia's economic future. We must protect the natural resources we need for a healthy and prosperous future, chief among them our air and our water. Water source reliability and quality is key to maintaining the businesses we have worked so hard to attract. Furthermore, we must not subject our citizens' health and safety to short-term corporate interests.


Fair Civil & Criminal Justice System. Virginia is the birthplace of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which laid the groundwork for the Bill of Rights. Our heritage demands that a civil and criminal justice system that is fair to all. We support the automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who have served their time.


Investing in Infrastructure. Virginia's businesses need adequate infrastructure to get goods to market and workers to their jobs.  Home front investments in infrastructure are needed but the Governor's transportation proposal diverts resources from core public investments and places more of a financial burden disproportionately on our most vulnerable. If this kind of policy had been in place in recent years, lawmakers would have had to cut even more from education, public safety, health care, and other services funded through the General Fund.


The Virginia Progressive Caucus was formed in February 2011 to fight for the interests of the average citizen and to educate the public on progressive issues.

Members of the Virginia Progressive Caucus:

Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington-47th District), co-Chairman of Progressive Caucus

Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria-30th District), co-Chairman of Progressive Caucus

Delegate Mamye E. BaCote (D-Newport News-95th District)

Delegate Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington-48th District)

Delegate Betsy B. Carr (D-Richmond-69th District)

Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-31st District)

Delegate Matthew James (D-Portsmouth-80th District)

Delegate Mark L. Keam (D-Vienna-35th District)

Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church-38th District)

Delegate Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria-45th District)

Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton-2nd District)

Delegate Alfonso H. Lopez (D-Arlington-47th District)

Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond-71st District)

Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico-9th District)

Delegate Delores L. McQuinn (D-Richmond-70th District)

Delegate Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Henrico-74th District)

Delegate Kenneth R. Plum (D-Reston-36th District)

Delegate James M. Scott (D-Merrifield-53rd District)

Delegate Scott A. Surovell (D-Mount Vernon-44th District)

Delegate Roslyn C. Tyler (D-Jarratt-75th District)

Delegate Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton-92nd District)

2013 Agenda


Virginia must prepare the next generation of American innovators by investing in 21st century schools

·         Fully fund our constitutional obligation to provide a quality K-12 public education

·         Oppose vouchers and other programs that divert public dollars away from public schools

·         Ensure just and competitive compensation for Virginia's educators

·         Support measures to curb bullying in our schools  (support SB 951-Favola)



Virginia must protect the health and safety of our communities and secure our bountiful natural resources and landscapes that support Virginia's economy and contribute to our unique character and way of life

·         Keep the ban on uranium mining (Oppose SB 919, SB 1353-Watkins; Oppose HB 1804, HB 2330-Miller)

·         Support and incentivize renewable energy (Support SB 1269-McEachin; Support HB 1946-Lopez; Oppose SB 1339-Saslaw; Oppose HB 2261 – Kilgore)

·         Protect water quality

·         Continue land preservation tax credits (Oppose HB 2253-Albo)


Gun Safety

Virginia should act now to make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns and easier for police and prosecutors to stop them.  Background checks are the only systematic way to stop felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people from buying guns.

·         Support adding "firearms show vendor" requirements at gun shows (Support SB 1001-Marsh)


Good Government
Voting restrictions and gerrymandering threaten Virginia's democracy. The Commonwealth must ensure all Virginians have a voice at the ballot box.

·         Support nonpartisan or bipartisan redistricting (Support SB 724-Miller; SJ 303-Deeds; HJ 663-Carr)

·         Expand voting access for eligible citizens (Support SB 967; HB 1471)

·         Oppose suppression of voting rights (Oppose SB 719-Black; SB 1256-Obenshain; HB 1787-Bell)

·         Support restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who have completed their sentences (Support SB 266-Lucas; HB 1905 – Carr)


Health Care

Everyone needs health care at some point and Virginians shouldn't go bankrupt trying to get it. We must expand access to affordable health care options through consumer-friendly implementation of health care reform and protect access to Medicare and Medicaid.

·         Support Medicaid expansion to cover 420,000 more Virginians under the Affordable Care Act

·         Protect home and community-based services



When it comes to immigration, we need workable solutions that uphold our nation's values and moves us forward together. We need a system that is fair and effective for everyone. Proposed anti-immigrant laws are impractical, violate our values, and divide our communities. We need real solutions so that people can contribute and participate fully in American economy and society.

·         Support expansion of in-state tuition eligibility to students who have provided an affidavit to the public institution of higher education for which he has registered stating that he has been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Support SB 1233-Ebbin; SB 1090 – McEachin; HB 1490-Kory; HB 2159-Lopez)


Reproductive Health Care

Women's access to critical health services and information shouldn't be obstructed by ideologically driven legislator-activists. The choice to terminate a pregnancy is a difficult personal decision – not a government decisions – that should be left to a woman, her family, her health care providers, and her faith.

·         Support optional ultrasounds (Support SB 1332-Northam)

·         Support the "grandfathering" of abortion facilities constructed before July 2013 (Support HB 2163-Sickles)

·         Support the definition of "birth control" as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Support HB 1644-Watts)



Virginia needs comprehensive transportation funding that provides for adequate maintenance, transit and rail, and new construction in corridors that will significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled.

·         Oppose diversion of General Fund dollars necessary to fund public safety, education, and other core public services

·         Oppose increasing the sales tax because it disproportionately impacts Virginia's most vulnerable citizens

·         Oppose tolling of existing highways without General Assembly approval (Support SB 977 – Lucas; HB 2258- James; HB 1460-Tyler)


Workers' Rights

Our future depends on working families, and we have a responsibility to ensure that all Virginians can lead safe, secure, and rewarding lives. Economic security starts with good jobs, and Virginia's workers are ready to go back to work. Our lawmakers must ensure that Virginia is worker-friendly, not just business-friendly.

·         Oppose "secret ballot" constitutional amendment (Oppose HB 1385-Comstock; HJ 611-O'Bannon)

·         Fully fund and protect the Virginia Retirement System

·         Oppose an unnecessary "right to work" constitutional amendment  (Oppose SJ 293-Black; HJ 536-Bell)

·         Support protection of an employee's existing private right of action for unpaid wages (Support SB 816- McEachin; HB 1729-Toscano)

·         Support nondiscrimination in state employment (Support SB 701-McEachin)


Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus