Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has issued an opinion challenging the constitutionality of a proposed legislative commission that would oversee the process of Medicaid expansion, a development that could scuttle chances to finalize a revised state budget and pass a state transportation funding package.
In an opinion issued late Friday, the conservative attorney general wrote: “It is my opinion that the General Assembly may not delegate legislative authority regarding budget or other matters to a committee composed of a subset of members of the General Assembly.”
The opinion was requested by Republican Del. Ben Cline of Rockbridge County, who had criticized a proposal to have a 10-member legislative commission oversee a conditional expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal health care reform law. House and Senate negotiators agreed to the structure on Friday. Democrats sought assurances that Gov. Bob McDonnell would not thwart the deal before voting a compromise transportation funding bill that the House of Delegates passed on Friday.
It was unclear this morning whether Cuccinelli’s opinion will torpedo prospects for passing a revised budget and a transportation bill today, which is supposed to be the final day of the General Assembly session.
Budget negotiators said this afternoon they have an agreement on budget language that should address Cuccinelli’s concerns.
Cline declined to comment on Cuccinelli opinion or why he requested it, saying: “The letter speaks for itself.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor’s office is reviewing the opinion and reiterated the governor’s position that transportation and Medicaid expansion are separate issues.
“Medicaid and transportation are not connected, and are two completely different policy issues. Some may want to tie the two together, the Governor will not,” Martin wrote in an email. “Yesterday, the transportation bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats came together to vote for better roads and a stronger economy. This is the closest we’ve been to passing a long-term transportation funding plan for Virginians in 27 years. It is time to act to improve transportation in Virginia, and this is that opportunity. We urge the Senate to vote on the transportation bill today. This is the last day of the session, and the Governor also expects legislators to pass a budget today as well.”
– Michael Sluss