UPDATE: Va. Senate passes budget after rejecting ultrasound funds

Posted on March 26, 2012

Richard-Times Dispatch, March 26, 2012 by Jim Nolan

The Virginia Senate today approved an amended version of a new state budget, ending an extended bout of partisan bickering over power sharing and spending priorities that stalled two previous spending plans and required a special session to resolve.

Passage of the budget bill came despite rejection of a key Democratic demand – an amendment that would have required the state or private insurers to pick up the cost of ultrasound procedures that will be required of women seeking abortions under a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed into law.

The amendment failed 20-19 vote, with anti-abortion Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-Prince William, voting with Republicans. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, the original sponsor of the ultrasound legislation in the Senate, who later asked the chamber to strike her bill, did not vote on the amendment today.

Senate Democrats had sought $3 million in state funding to cover the cost of the imaging procedures for low-income women, and an agreement that insured women would have the procedure covered under their existing policies. They said approval of the amendment was critical to winning Democratic votes for the budget.

But in the end, pressure to approve the amended $85 billion spending plan drew the support necessary to pass the evenly divided chamber, winning passage 35-4.

Minus the ultrasound funding, the amended Senate budget targets more spending in public education for localities and augments health care services for the poor and elderly.

It also authorizes $300 million in additional borrowing for the second phase of the project extending the Metrorail subway to Washington Dulles International Airport to offset the cost of tolls on the Dulles Toll Road in Northern Virginia. And it calls for an estimated $125 million in toll abatement for one year on the expansion project for the Midtown-Downtown Tunnel connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth in Hampton Roads.

Now the real debate begins.

The House of Delegates, which already approved its own version off the budget, on Tuesday is expected to reject the Senate plan. That will trigger a process by which negotiators from both chambers will meet to hammer out fiscal details and reach compromise over what gets funded, how much of it gets funded and what is left wanting.

(This has been a breaking news update.)

The Virginia state Senate has voted 20-19 to defeat a $3.2 million budget amendment to cover the costs of some abortion ultrasounds over the two years beginning July 1.

As of July 1 a woman will be required to undergo an ultrasound in order to get an abortion, under legislation signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“This has nothing to do with abortion,” said Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, introduced the amendment.

The Senate has been voting on a series of amendments to a version of the state’s two-year, $85 billion budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee. Passage of the budget by the full Senate would give lawmakers a counterpoint to the House budget.

Posted in: Virginia