Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th) will put an emphasis on legislation related to mental health services and education when the General Assembly convenes in January, he told members of the Del Ray Citizens Association Monday night.
The former Alexandria city councilman also said there will be legislative efforts to place key segments of power lines underground, something that should appeal to the more than 2,000 city residents who lost power during this week’s inclement weather (Dominion Virginia Power reported the outages were down to 21 in Alexandria on Tuesday evening).
Krupicka, who was elected to his first full term in November, anticipated the biggest fight in a divided state house will likely surround Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s effort to expand Medicaid.
As many as 400,000 Virginians could gain coverage in expanding the federal-state program that provides health insurance to the poor and disabled, but Republicans have been critical of McAuliffe’s plan because of potential long-term impacts to state finances.
McAuliffe will have to gain support from Republicans to pass the expansion, Krupicka said.
“There’s the Obamacare beef and the second beef is what if the federal government stops paying for it and we’re stuck paying for it,” Krupicka said. “The Chamber is very strongly in favor of Medicaid expansion and we’re already paying for it. Right now, we’re funding other states. It doesn’t make any sense. If we’re paying for it we should benefit from it.”
Krupicka said he will continue to put an emphasis on mental health services legislation, something that has been a big issue in the state house since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. The November incident where Austin Deeds attacked his father, state Sen. Creigh Deeds, and then killed himself has amplified the discussion, Krupicka said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) proposed more than $38 million in state funding over the next two-year budget cycle for mental health care services, according to the Associated Press.
“We don’t have enough beds or enough systems in place to support people,” said Krupicka, who is drafting four bills related to mental health services.
On education, Krupicka said he is drafting legislation to reform Standards of Learning tests and reducing the amount of high-stakes testing for Virginia students.
“I want to dramatically cut back on SOLs with real focus on the elementary school level and put in processes to look at all of our tests,” Krupicka said. “My goal is to make sure every source of evaluation is not a high-stakes test. … We need a balance between testing, authentic assessments and all these other tools.”
Members of the DRCA asked Krupicka about other issues, including questions about texting-while-driving legislation, pedestrian safety issues and solar net metering, with some offering laws and regulations from Portland, Ore., as examples.
“Portland is not the example to use in front of my friends in southwest Virginia,” Krupicka said with a smile. “Vermont is also not the model state to use.”
Krupicka mentioned pursuing a change to a state law mandating cars stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
“Right now the law says drivers must yield, which really just means don’t hit the pedestrian,” Krupicka said. “We came really close a few years ago but lost by one or two votes. I am putting a bill back in this year, but it may not have a lot of chance at success.”
Krupicka said he and state Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th) have been in talks with Dominion Virginia Power about raising rates by a small amount across the state to pay for the undergrounding of key segments of power lines.
Undergrounding lines is generally an exorbitantly expensive endeavor. But by doing it in strategic sections, Krupicka said widespread outages could be prevented and there could be big savings to Dominion when it comes to repairs.
“You don’t need to underground everything,” Krupicka said. “In our neck of woods with lots of trees and homes close together it makes sense. But it has to make sense in a cost-benefit way for Dominion. … It will take lots of arm twisting with them to get them to see this is something we need to do.”