Se­nate passes a bud­get that drops funds for ul­tra­sounds

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | The Virginia Se­nate passed a new two-year, $85 bil­lion bud­get, de­spite the re­jec­tion of roughly $3 mil­lion in fund­ing for manda­tory ul­tra­sounds that women con­sid­er­ing abortions will have to un­dergo.

The bud­get in­cludes an amend­ment sup­ported by Sens. Janet How­ell, Fair­fax Demo­crat, and Mark Her­ring, Loudoun Demo­crat, that will pro­vide $300 mil­lion in bonds to help con­trol ris­ing toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road. Funds gen­er­ated by the toll road are help­ing pay for Phase 2 of Metro’s $6 bil­lion, 23-mile Sil­ver Line project in ad­di­tion to $150 mil­lion the state has al­ready pledged to the ex­ten­sion.

House Speaker Wil­liam J. How­ell, Stafford Re­pub­li­can, said the fund­ing likely would be re­moved when the bud­get is sent to the House, call­ing rail ser­vice to Dulles “the most ir­re­spon­si­ble project I’ve come across.”

“They’re bor­row­ing this money and they’re not us­ing the money to pay for the project, they’re us­ing the money to sub­si­dize the tolls,” he said.

The Se­nate mul­ti­ple times re­jected amend­ments that would ex­pand on leg­is­la­tion passed dur­ing the Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion ban­ning state funds from go­ing to con­trac­tors who fa­vor project la­bor agree­ments. The agree­ments are used by con­trac­tors and la­bor groups to set the terms of em­ploy­ment for a par­tic­u­lar project.

The state has been at odds over the is­sue with the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Washington Airports Au­thor­ity, which is over­see­ing the Dulles rail project. The airports au­thor­ity re­cently voted to grant a 10 per­cent scor­ing bonus to con­trac­tors bid­ding on Phase 2 of Dulles rail that em­ploy such manda­tory la­bor agree­ments, draw­ing the ire of Virginia Repub­li­cans and con­struc­tion in­ter­ests.

The ul­tra­sound amend­ment was de­feated on a 20-19 vote. The mea­sure would have pro­vided about $3 mil­lion over two years to cover the cost of ul­tra­sounds as the re­sult of a con­tro­ver­sial law passed by the assem­bly dur­ing its reg­u­lar ses­sion this year.

“Since we’ve man­dated an ul­tra­sound pro­ce­dure, I just sim­ply feel we ought to pay for this,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fair­fax Demo­crat. “This amend­ment has noth­ing to do with abortions.”

The money would have been made avail­able only to fa­cil­i­ties that per­form five or fewer abortions per month or state-funded nurs­ing hos­pi­tals — a con­ces­sion to Repub­li­cans who do not want to

Asee state money go to­ward Planned Par­ent­hood.

But Sen. Jef­frey L. Mcwaters, Virginia Beach Re­pub­li­can, said it went be­yond mere dol­lars and cents.

“This is a mat­ter, for many, of hu­man life,” he said.

The bud­get adds $18 mil­lion to as­sist North­ern Virginia in off­set­ting the higher cost of liv­ing for ed­u­ca­tion em­ploy­ees in non-teach­ing roles. Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell’s orig­i­nal bud­get had slashed $65 mil­lion from the so-called “cost of com­pet­ing ad­just­ment”, and the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee had al­ready re­stored $42 mil­lion in an ear­lier ver­sion of the bud­get. The House bud­get re­stores $24 mil­lion, pre­sent­ing one of many items that will still have to be ironed out be­tween the two cham­bers.

The amended bud­get will head back to the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled House, which is ex­pected to re­ject the Se­nate’s ver­sion. It will then be left to a group of six sen­a­tors and six del­e­gates who will meet to hash out the dif­fer­ences. The group con­sists of nine Repub­li­cans and three Democrats.

Mr. How­ell said the con­fer­ees have been meet­ing and are al­ready “close” on ma­jor items like health and hu­man ser­vices and ed­u­ca­tion. Once those are taken care of, he said, law­mak­ers could be fin­ished in about a week.

Once the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee bud­get clears both the House and the Se­nate, it heads to the desk of Mr. Mcdon­nell, a Re­pub­li­can, who can sign, amend or veto it in whole or in part. Any ve­toes or amend­ments will be taken up at a one-day “veto” ses­sion sched­uled for April 18. A two-thirds vote is nec­es­sary to over­ride a veto, while a sim­ple ma­jor­ity can re­ject a gu­ber­na­to­rial amend­ment.


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