Legislature Rejects McDonnell Amendments Cutting Public Broadcasting
Governor McDonnell said he was happy that most of his 218 amendments were adopted by the General Assembly, but unhappy at some actions taken in the one-day reconvened session yesterday. He still can exercise his line-item veto power on budget items.
The House and Senate both agreed with Governor McDonnell’s recommendation that fines for speeding go up by one dollar for each mile per hour over the speed limit. The amendment would help fund some of the Governor’s new economic incentive and job-creation initiatives, including another measure passed by the Legislature yesterday, a $6 million increase to the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, which is used to lure out-of-state businesses to relocate to Virginia.
The Senate voted 20-19 in favor of a measure that would limit State Medicaid funding for abortions to instances where the life of the mother is in danger, or cases of rape or incest. The House also approved the amendment on a vote of 64-30. Both chambers voted to reject Governor McDonnell’s amendment stripping localities of the option of requiring employees to pay a percentage into their pension fund.
One of McDonnell’s more controversial amendments was the complete elimination of state funding for public broadcasting over four years. Republican Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta.
Landes: I do not believe, even though I listen to public radio and I listen to, and watch, public TV, I don’t see how the argument can be made that this is a core government responsibility. I find natural resources, find public safety, I find education, I find all sorts of things in our state constitution, but public TV and public radio were not one of them.
Republican Delegate John Cosgrove of Chesapeake:
Cosgrove: This is money that we have been spending, we shouldn’t have been spending for years. And the idea that we’re going to listen to NPR and get an unbiased approach, I think, is about as reasonable as saying we’re gonna get that from MSNBC or FOX news. Ain’t gonna happen. The truth of the matter is, our budget is very tight, public broadcasting is a wonderful thing, but like all arts throughout the centuries, it’s becoming more and more of a quasi-government function, I don’t think so. Personally, I’m gonna support teachers and I’m gonna support policemen, before I’m gonna support Bert and Ernie.
Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan of Richmond:
McClellan: The media room used to be full of correspondents covering the General Assembly. If you go down there now, it’s pretty much a ghost town. I think we now are down to one cameraman and one radio correspondent that covers the General Assembly year-round. And the radio correspondent is with public broadcasting. The profit media, focused on their bottom line, has decided it is in their best interests not to expend the resources to cover what we do. It is left, really, to the public broadcasting, which is not encumbered by the bottom line of profit-sharing, but can focus on informing the public and educating the public on a wide variety of things, not the least of which is what we do here. My concern is, if we phase out state funding of it, they will not have the funding to continue, and if they die, a little bit of our liberties will die as well, because we’ll have darkness where we have tried to shine the light.
State funding for public broadcasting in Virginia comes from two funds, one of which is earmarked for education in public schools. The other goes toward general expenses. While the House voted in favor of maintaining the education portion and against the other fund, the Senate voted to keep both funds intact, killing the Governor’s amendment.
The General Assembly also approved a measure that would stipulate that Viagra and similar drugs would not be covered under State health plans.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square