Berg’s town hall meeting will offer an update on Legislature

Posted: February 20, 2014

The Winchester Star

Del. Mark Berg

WINCHESTER — Freshman Del. Mark Berg, R-Frederick County, will host his first town hall meeting on Saturday in the Handley Regional Library.

The meeting comes as General Assembly reviews its budget proposals. The legislative session is scheduled to continue until the first week of March.

Berg said the event, which will begin around 10:30 a.m., will take place in the Benham Gallery in the library’s lower level.

“I will probably just fill people in on what’s been going on in the General Assembly a little bit, but then we will be taking questions, try to hit on a bunch of topics, hopefully,” he said on Wednesday.

Berg said he wants to talk about how state business is working in Richmond.

“People hear about how it doesn’t work,” he said. “I was just going to mention how it does work, or should work. And then bring them up to date on some things that have happened. We will touch on whatever we can.”

Berg, whose 29th District represents Winchester and parts of Frederick and Warren counties, said he was expecting the budget to be a hot topic during today’s session in Richmond.

Each chamber of the General Assembly has proposed a budget. The bill from the Republican-dominated House of Delegates does not include expanding Medicaid to about 400,000 more Virginians.

The Senate’s plan calls for expanding state-funded health coverage to the poor. The Senate is split 20-20 between Democrats and Republicans, but Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, holds the tie-breaking vote.

The House of Delegates is expected to vote on the Senate budget today.

“I’m kind of disappointed that Virginia’s going the way they are, and the kind of hyper-partisan politics that we see on the congressional level, on the federal level, I didn’t expect to see in Virginia,” Berg said. “[Gov.] Terry McAuliffe had said he was not going to pass a budget without Medicaid expansion, and he talks about the Virginia Way, but that’s not the way Virginia does it.”

He hoped legislators would not shut down the government over the budget. “I hope we don’t see that kind of trying to force things through.”

Fellow freshman Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, issued a news release calling the House’s budget proposal — which includes setting aside $380 million for savings — “fundamentally fiscally responsible.”

LaRock, who serves the 33rd District (representing parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties), noted the absence of Medicaid expansion in the House’s proposal.

“Medicaid is already too big, takes up too much of our resources, and is growing at an out-of-control rate. It’s irresponsible to rush to commit the commonwealth to even more Medicaid spending based on dubious federal promises. We have to reform the system first.”

Tenth District Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, who represents parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties, said on Wednesday that he hopes the Senate will eventually change course.

“I am hopeful that the Senate will see the inherent logic and fiscally-conservative elements in our forthcoming House HB 30 budget and will accede to it,” he wrote in an email.

The Associated Press contributed some information for this report.

— Contact Sally Voth atsvoth@winchesterstar.com