Once again Bob Marshall proves that he understands Virginia law better than anyone else in the General Assembly. This time, Marshall suspected that the establishment of a “Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission” that had the power to enroll the Commonwealth in an expansion of the federal medicaid program was a violation of the Constitution of Virginia. In an opinion handed down today by the Attorney General, indeed it is.
This opinion almost certainly forces Governor McDonnell to offer an amendment to the budget either eliminating or substantially altering the commission and the power it would have, and that is a clear victory for the rule of law. To have the General Assembly delegate their legislative authority to a small committee where as few as six members might have final say over the size and scope of the Commonwealth’s entitlement programs is utterly absurd. Had this scheme been allowed, the General Assembly could avoid any uncomfortable vote it wanted by simply granting the power to make a decision to a small committee, the members of which might not even be running for re-election.
Bob Marshall has been a fierce defender of the Constitution and the law over the years, usually butting heads with members of his own party when they stray from the principles that should be guiding them, and his win/loss record in this regard is tremendous. Marshall suffers a considerable amount of political retaliation for this independent streak, being stripped of committee memberships and leadership positions as well as having his district redrawn in a way that wasn’t quite helpful to him during the last redistricting, but he’s clearly not wavering in his determination to support the rule of law no matter how punished he is for that.
One more significant request for an opinion remains from this session as to whether establishing different tax rates in different parts of the Commonwealth is a violation of the law, relating to the awful HB 2313 that established special tax rates in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. As far as I know no opinion has been rendered on that issue yet. If Marshall goes two for two this year, he will have arguably impacted the outcome of this General Assembly session to a greater degree than even the Speaker of the House, just as he did the last time Richmond was trying to come up with a massive tax hike to feed our broken and terribly misused transportation funding beast.
My money’s on Bob.
UPDATE: Good thing it is, because Marshall won on both opinions. The special tax hike on NoVA is dead as well!
UPDATE 2: Here’s a link to the opinion on HB 2313.
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