Last night, Del. Paula Miller (D-87th) and state Sen. Ralph Northam (D-8th) held a town hall meeting for their constituents in Norfolk to talk about the upcoming General Assembly session.
Sen. Northam opened up the meeting by making mention of the massive budget overruns ($40 million) the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) light rail system is facing. He also spoke on the biggest issues the GA will tackle this year: the state budget and-as always-fixing transportation. Speaking about the indoor smoking ban that became law last year, Northam said he also submitted a bill that would ban adults from smoking in cars with their children present (several states and cities nationwide have passed similar laws; Northam’s bill died in the House of Delegates). On healthcare, Northam praised both the current healthcare system, and access to it, as “good.” He expressed concern that federal healthcare bills did not adequately address costs. Northam criticized Gov.-elect McDonnell’s plans for transportation funding, stating they would not bring immediate revenue.
Del. Miller opened up her time with a brief budget talk, speaking mostly on the general fund and the cuts already in place. She also spoke on cuts that she anticipated would be forthcoming. One of the things she said she’d be working on during the upcoming session was a bill requiring juvenile justice officials to share info on youth gang involvement with other law enforcement agencies and officials.
The Q&A period featured many questions on transportation and ways to “raise revenue” (i.e. taxes) for improvements. One attendee stated that, in his view, tax increases weren’t optional-a statement Northam agreed with. Miller remarked that even if the GA voted for everything McDonnell proposed, it still wouldn’t be enough for needed transportation projects. Vivian Paige asked if either official would support raising the state’s debt ceiling to issue more bonds for transportation work; neither would.
I asked Miller if she would support Del. Bob Marshall’s Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act; she said she hadn’t seen the bill (a few minutes later, an attendee told Miller that if she supported anything Marshall submitted, they’d reconsider supporting her). Another question on healthcare asked about proposed funding cuts to local hospitals to pay for healthcare reform.
Other notables in attendance-Chuck Smith, who recently withdrew from the Republican contest in the 2nd district. None of the other current candidates attended.