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Northam: Gun control, Medicaid among priorities for 2018

Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) speaks with Loudoun Times-Mirror Managing Editor Trevor Baratko during a Times-Mirror event in October 2017. Times-Mirror/Chuck Moore
Democratic Gov.-elect Ralph Northam says expanding Medicaid in Virginia and implementing universal background checks for gun buyers will be two of his top legislative priorities after he takes office this weekend.

Northam spoke with outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a press conference Tuesday, one day before the start of this year’s General Assembly session. The two laid out a joint legislative package they said they had worked on together.

“It is nonpartisan. It is commonsense,” Northam said of the package of bills. “It is something that I think ... will have support from both sides of the aisle.”

McAuliffe has pushed unsuccessfully for four years to expand Medicaid, a key component of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. The GOP-controlled General Assembly has opposed it, calling it fiscally irresponsible.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picks up almost all of the cost, gradually phasing down to a 90 percent share.

Democrats in the legislature have also previously pushed unsuccessfully for universal background checks, including mandatory checks at gun shows.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist and former Army doctor, campaigned heavily on gun control and Medicaid expansion. The November election results show Virginians support the proposals outlined Tuesday, he said.

The 60-day legislative session begins Wednesday. Lawmakers will be tasked with passing the biennial state budget in additional to tackling other issues.

Along with McAuliffe, who did most of the talking at the press conference, Northam also endorsed expanding absentee voting and increasing the threshold for what’s considered felony larceny from $200 to $1,000.

A similar effort to raise the threshold failed last year.

They are also calling for a ban on the personal use of campaign funds.

Federal law and the laws in most other states have campaign contribution limits and prohibitions on lawmakers spending campaign funds for personal use, but Virginia’s campaign finance system is largely unregulated. Lawmakers can accept donations of any size and spend the money on anything they want, including themselves.

Also among the proposals: a bill that would adjust a carbon cap-and-trade program announced in November, giving the General Assembly a say in how the revenue is allocated.

Another bill would create new requirements for student loan servicers and create a state ombudsman for student debt who would help borrowers understand their payment options and keep them on track.

Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate and, unless Democratic challenges in two extremely close races result in a last-minute change, they’ll also control the House. It remains to be seen what level of GOP support the measures will have.

“Over the coming weeks we will continue to roll out a robust agenda to help better the lives of the people we serve,” said Parker Slaybaugh, spokesman for Del. Kirk Cox, who is slated to be speaker should the Republicans maintain their majority.

GOP leaders in both chambers have previously suggested a willingness to expand health care coverage but have said it likely won’t come in the form Democrats are calling for.


RE; CHRIS MCHALE:  There is no moral equivalency between owning a gun which can be used by a felon to commit another felony and voting.  The constitution does not say that we must allow amendment 1 because we have allowed amendment 9 or 10 or 2. 

Now,your argument does make sense in the following instance: if a felon was convicted of voting fraud, then he should not vote again.  That is the true equivalency.

The biggest problem with universal background checks is that there’s no way to implement it without having 100% gun registration.  Think about it: How would the cops know that a gun a person has wasn’t sold with a BG check?  They would have to know what serial numbers were/were not transferred to specific people with a background check.  That’s a gun registration database. 

For enforcement of universal background checks to work, the government would literally need to be able to match a social security number to all the firearm serial numbers that a person owns.

Gun registration has historically been opposed by gun owners because it has always been followed by gun confiscation.

loudouncommonsense - The argument against allowing a felon to buy a gun is that the felon has given up his rights when he was convicted of the crime for which he was charged. This is an argument I agree with 100%.  The argument in favor is the same that allowed felons to regain their voting rights which is that once they have completed their sentence they are rehabilitated and pay their debt to society.  An argument I don’t agree with and we can’t have it both ways.

I’m just curious if all of the people calling for background checks for gun purchases have purchased or attempted to purchase a gun in the last several years.

yep get used to it! #metoo

Fred Wrote “Northam better find new priorities, because Gun Control and Medicaid are dead ends.”  An AP poll in April asked VA Voters what were their main issues for the off year elections.  The two biggest topics, combined, with 56% of respondents, were Healthcare and Gun Safety.  A NBC News exit poll on election day 2017 found the same two issues dominated voters when asked what were the issues most important for you?  If the Republicans cannot see the tide has shifted, and see that critical eyes are open and focused,  then we will have another blowout in 2019 in the VA Senate races.  After what happened in November, they can’t be that blind (but they’ve done stupider things).  Gun Safety and Healthcare are what the voters want as priorities.  Anything less will be great motivations for the 2018 elections (I am looking at you, Sean Hannity’s BFF Barbara Comstock), and more importantly, in this case, the 2019 VA Senate races. 


This is the same crowd that went around for weeks babbling about elections having consequences as Trump squeaked into the White House.  Better start getting used to it…

I’d like to see Northern VA(Loudoun) get more of our tax money back for schools.

I agree with garyB on the bullying. We had an individual not completing tasks, he always had excuses or worked on other things that weren’t a high priority. Come to find out he went to HR claiming he was being bullied by his manager(and others). So the whole team had to waste time to meet with HR(and CEO) individually. The guy claiming he was being bullied was let go right before Christmas.

How about defining the problems before trying to explain away how any measure is good or bad? Keeping weapons away from mentally deranged individuals would be a good start but that never gets done if all you do is focus on new purchases. Making sure all people have access to affordable health care might be a good start so lets focus on the AMA and why it costs $300 plus dollars to even see a Doctor or thousands to go into a hospital for part of a day. Isn’t the AMA a monopoly? Why can’t nurses openly practice medicine as long as they disclose their practice limitations? As far as taking funds unreasonably lets start with the State of Virginia taking well over $200 million per year from Loudoun’s portion of sales tax receipts supposedly for education just to re-distribute those funds to counties which have dramatically lower property tax than Loudoun does. How about making a list of well defined problems and actually resolving them? Let’s include VDOT doing its job too!
Bob Ohneiser Esq.

can anyone tell me why a felon should be able to buy a gun from a private citizen without a background check?

If he wants to take away our guns (as he has stated) and our ability to defend ourselves, then we demand that he forgo armed police protection.

Virginia already requires a background check to buy guns for starters.  Second…since he has been a doctor…how about he raises the Medicaid fee schedule before expanding the program.  Virginia has one of the lowest Medicaid fee schedules in all of the United States.  That’s why not all doctors take Medicaid patients…it costs them money to treat their patients.

Northrop’s “common sense” is anything but sensible.  It’s brain dead.  A free people have the right to own weapons.  And, law abiding citizens should be able buy or trade weapons without government interference. 

You can better protect people from felons by recinding the voting priveledge that Dems cinically gave them last year to increase Democrat votes (for things like Medicaid a welfare program).

Both of his priorities expand Government at the expense of honest working people.

LoudounCitizen- can you define “workplace bullying?” There is a reason why we have protective rights for disabled, minorities, sexual harassment, etc. You can easily define what inappropriate conduct is. Who is going to define what bullying means the government? This gets dangerous when you start calling for new “protection” for something that is subjective. Maybe instead of complaining about being “bullied” people should act like adults and find a better place to work. What you consider bullying is probably much different then what I think it is. I am sure we could agree on what sexual harassment looks like.

The Gov’s priorities are all messed up….oh well, thankfully there is an opposite party in the legislature….

Northam better find new priorities, because Gun Control and Medicaid are dead ends. If he was a smart man, he would make infrastructure a priority and would find willing support on the Right to back his project.

If he wants to be truly non-partisian, then how about work requirements for those able bodied receiving medicade and enforcement of e-verify.

The state GOP is right regarding Medicaid expansion. Just because there is reduced cost to the state the payer, whether federal or state incomes taxes, is always the same ... me.

There are so many issues that need to be addressed by our new governor and legislators. Another important need is stronger protection for all Virginia employees against workplace bullying and abusive conduct. The Healthy Workplace Bill fills the void for addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, without regard to protected class status. The current law does not protect bullying targets or encourage employer prevention.

Most instances of severe workplace bullying, especially those unrelated to protected class status (sex, race, disability, etc.) and whistleblower retaliation, fall between the cracks of existing employment law.

Let’s do our part to create a healthy work environment where all employees are treated with dignity and respect to foster a more civilized environment and teamwork for a stronger economy. Does your organization/company have personnel policies that address workplace bullying and harassment? Do they enforce the policies and is there accountability? Is there ongoing training? The EEOC recently addressed this. OSHA also has policies. All employees have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in all working environments, large and small.

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