Did Cuccinelli just blow-up the transportation deal?PoliticsVirginia

The last day of the session just got a heckuva lot more interesting:

Agreement on a landmark transportation package and amendments to the state budget could be in jeopardy following a late-hour legal opinion issued Friday by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that questions the constitutionality of a pending deal that would allow the commonwealth to move forward on the expansion of Medicaid.

Bipartisan agreement on the transportation deal in the Virginia Senate was halted Friday when Senate Democrats insisted on a letter from Gov. Bob McDonnell stating that the governor would agree to a committee to oversee the legislature’s action on Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, and a promise not to veto any language governing expansion in the budget bill.

This agreement was the fig leaf Democrats have insisted they needed before they could go along with the transportation bill.

But while lawmakers were closing in on a deal, and a letter from McDonnell, to allow legislative action to move forward on transportation, Del. Ben L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, the co-chairman of the Conservative Caucus, asked Cuccinelli whether the General Assembly, as part of enacting the budget, could delegate the authority to make spending decisions regarding Medicaid to a smaller “sub-group of elected officials, including members of the General Assembly.”

What’s the opinion say? Basically, this:

“It is my opinion that the General Assembly may not delegate final legislative authority regarding budget or other matters to a committee composed of a subset of the members of the General Assembly.”

As big a deal as this should be, Demcorats are also brushing it off:

House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said the attorney general’s opinion does not address the central issue in the proposed Medicaid expansion budget amendment.

“I think if you ask the wrong question, you’ll get the wrong answer,” Toscano said.

“I don’t think the Cuccinelli letter really has much relevance to the details of the language in the conference report. It has a lot of political implications.”

That would seem to indicate that for Democrats, at least, the light is still green, and they can go ahead and vote for whatever deals they’ve struck with the Governor and Republican leaders.

And there’s every reason to believe that the transportation bill, at least, will win Senate approval. sources told me Friday night that between nine and 12 Republicans could vote against the bill. Democrats would have to provide the winning votes and, despite Cuccinelli’s letter, there is no indication right now that the Democrats will fold.

Update

Looks like a new deal is in the works to smooth passage of just about everything:

Update 2

Now Sen. Tim Kaine is joining the fray:

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaunkenney Shaun Kenney

    SO HB2313 may meet the same fate as HB3202? Glorious… but not before Virginians have totally lost faith in the Republican Party.

    • NormLeahy

      Looks like the skids have been greased, Shaun. This thing passes. only a question of margin now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/shaunkenney Shaun Kenney

        Damn……

        • pinecone321

          If I understand correctly, even if Cuccinelli believes at least parts of the plan are unconstitutional, as the state Atty. Gen. he can’t do a thing about it. Is that correct?

  • Lovettsville Lady

    Isn’t it grand that republicans in Virginia are counting on democrats to pass their massive tax increase plan? Nine to 12 republicans are off the hook if they can get that many democrats to carry their water and vote for the bill. It should be all 20 republicans voting against this monstrosity. I have completely lost faith in my party. Why support republicans when they go to Richmond and behave like democrats? A pox on both their houses.

    • EricMcGrane

      The moment McDonnell signs the bill into law will mark the end of the republican party in Virginia….at least for some time.

      • Xerxes

        Totally agree! What good is this Republican House of Delegates with 68% control? Might as well prefer a Democrat majority now. There is no difference anymore.

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