Northam signs bills, but sends budget back for tweaks
Governor Ralph Northam returned Virginia’s budget bill to the General Assembly today with some amendments, including $1 million in additional funds for the public health education campaign to prevent the use of marijuana.
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In all, Northam proposed 12 amendments that are language-only changes and five that will increase the budget by $6.3 million. One of those items transfers $3.3 million to the general fund, resulting in a net increase of general fund spending to just over $3 million.
The changes will decrease the unappropriated balance from $11.1 million to $8.1 million.
Northam also signed several bills today, including Del. Mark Sickles’ Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program to expand access to health care and lower insurance premiums. House Bill 2332 requires the State Corporation Commission to establish a reinsurance program. It promises to reduce health insurance premiums, especially for those who don’t receive federal subsidies. It will help offset premiums that average $650 a month.
He also signed HB 2137, sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Guzman, which would require employers to provide paid sick leave to home health workers who work at least 20 hours a week or 90 hours a month. The new law also prohibits employers from taking retalitory actions against employees who use the leave.
Another transformative piece of legislation, the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Bill, was signed by Northam on March 24. Also sponsored by Sickles, this bill directs the Department of Health to enter into a contract with a non-profit, likely Virginia Health Information, to collect and share prescription drug pricing from every carrier, pharmacy benefits manager and drug manufacturer. The idea is to provide prescription price relief to consumers.