This week’s newsletter highlights the presentations made during the recent Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee (SFAC) Retreat, discusses this past week’s commission meetings, and spotlights selected community engagements and events from this past week. Thanksgiving holidays are right around the corner, and some may have already started to gather with loved ones for this special family celebration. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Retreat
This week, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee (SFAC) hosted its annual retreat, with staff, economists, and researchers providing presentations on Virginia’s budget process, economic outlook, and highlighting major sectors of the budget such as education, healthcare, and transportation.
In the upcoming 2024 session, the General Assembly and the Governor will agree to the Commonwealth’s two-year budget necessary to fund obligations and priorities, and identify the critical revenue streams. With the ending of federal dollars that provided post-pandemic relief for states’ economies and allowed for significant one-time spending, we now expect a slowdown in economic growth. Lawmakers will need to account for possible budgetary pressures to ensure that Virginia’s fiscal responsibilities in the form of a balanced budget (as mandated by the Virginia Constitution) remains intact.
One of the top areas of funding obligations is our public education system. At present, the Commonwealth's commitment to public education is reflected in its 30% allocation of the general fund operating budget aid supporting schools through their respective local governments. Every two years, we examine the state and local costs for public education based on Standards of Quality (SOQ) to ensure that every student across Virginia receives a high-quality education. As the recent JLARC report indicates, Virginia has fallen short of its obligations to fund public education, and this part of the budget will be a significant part of our ongoing discussions during the 2024 session.
Members of the Virginia Senate also received numerous additional presentations on concerns such as the behavioral health challenges we face, critical Medicare/Medicaid funding, stresses on our healthcare systems, transportation, workforce development, and higher education. Presentations on these various topics are available for review.
Senate Leadership Elections and Committee Chairs
During the retreat, the Senate Democratic Caucus also elected its leadership and assigned Committee Chairs. I am honored to have been re-elected as the Senate Democratic Caucus Treasurer and to be asked to serve as the Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee. I look forward to taking up these continuing and new responsibilities in this second term.
Joint Commission on Health Care
During Monday’s Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) meeting, members and staff discussed the healthcare workforce, received a report on the 2022 JCHC Local Health Department Structure and Financing Study, and evaluated JCHC priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
This past year, as I met with healthcare providers and administrators from across Virginia, safety within hospitals and clinics, recruitment and retention of staff, and essential childcare services for staff and clinicians have been at the forefront of policy recommendations. Presentations highlighted that Virginia loses approximately 40% of nursing graduates to other states. This trend is also evident in mental healthcare professions, a factor that is particularly distressing as we anticipate an increased need for 9000 additional providers by 2035. In order to reduce the exodus of health care providers, the study commissioned by the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority recommended decreasing barriers that impact recruitment and retention, while simultaneously increasing recruitment activities, financial supports, and wages. As we begin preparations for the 2024 legislative session, these recommendations will be top legislative priorities.
Highlights from Community Events & Meetings
Last Sunday afternoon, I visited the Heartfulness Meditation Center in Glen Allen for a gathering focused on the work of the Center and on the physical and mental health benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices. Community members from across the Metro Richmond Area reflected on the impacts of meditative practices, especially in communities that have been variously traumatized through crisis areas in our contemporary lives.
Later on Sunday afternoon, I joined members of the 4th Congressional District Democrats for a post-election celebratory barbecue. Members-elect, re-elected incumbents, volunteers, and party leadership joined together to celebrate Democrats holding the majority in the State Senate, flipping the House of Delegates, and winning local School Board and Boards of Supervisors races.
Celebrations continued into Monday evening, with my campaign team, legislative staff, and stand-out volunteers coming together for a dinner to reflect on the campaign season, share stories, and discuss the upcoming legislative session. Campaigning is time and resource-intensive, and it could not be done without the tireless efforts of the individuals surrounding candidates. I am immensely grateful for the efforts of my team and everyone who worked so hard throughout this past election cycle in Virginia.
We wish everyone a safe and joyous Thanksgiving holiday. This special holiday gives us an opportunity to reflect with gratitude on our lives and on those gifts that truly matter.
My office will be closed beginning Wednesday, November 22, in observance of the holiday. We will return to the office on Monday, November 27.
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