Virginia News Digest 3/1/20 to 3/7/20

Virginia News Digest for 3/1/20 to 3/7/20

Summary

Clockwise (from top left):

“Liberal Supreme Court justices challenge abortion restrictions in high-stakes case”– Robin Bravender, Virginia Mercury

“Despite limits on testing capabilities, Northam says Virginia is prepared for coronavirus”-Kate Masters, Virginia Mercury

“‘A momentous moment for Virginians’ after General Assembly unanimously passes legislation to end surprise medical bills”– Kate Masters, Virginia Mercury

“After intense Dominion lobbying, Senate panel kills bipartisan Fair Energy Bills Act”– Sarah Vogelsong

Federal

Liberal Supreme Court justices challenge abortion restrictions in high-stakes case
By: Robin Bravender
Virginia Mercury – March 6, 2020

The liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared highly skeptical of a Louisiana law that restricts abortion access as the justices heard oral arguments Wednesday in a high-stakes case that could open the door for additional abortion limitations around the country.

But the court’s conservative majority — which is likely to determine the outcome of the case — was less clear during oral arguments about how they’re likely to rule when the court issues its opinion later this year.

The case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, is over a Louisiana law that requires any physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which critics say would severely limit access to those services.

State Executive

Despite limits on testing capabilities, Northam says Virginia is prepared for coronavirus
By: Kate Masters
Virginia Mercury – March 4, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam and state health officials repeatedly reiterated a reassuring message throughout their first news conference on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that’s spread to 16 states and at least 129 patients since cases of the virus first emerged in the United States in January.

“Virginia is not an area where the virus is spreading in the community right now, so the risk is low,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake, citing the 17 tests Virginia has conducted.

“Right now, you have more risk of getting the flu in Virginia than novel coronavirus,” she added later.

State Legislature

‘A momentous moment for Virginians’ after General Assembly unanimously passes legislation to end surprise medical bills
By: Kate Masters
Virginia Mercury – March 6, 2020

It took weeks of negotiations to settle on an end to balance billing, a much-loathed feature of Virginia’s medical system that’s been locked in a legislative deadlock for years.

Lawmakers were jubilant on Thursday as both the House and Senate unanimously passed identical legislation to remove the risk of surprise hospital bills for some Virginians. The often-expensive fees often come when patients seek emergency care at an out-of-network hospital, or receive treatment from out-of-network doctors at a facility that’s otherwise covered by their insurance.

Issues

Energy

After intense Dominion lobbying, Senate panel kills bipartisan Fair Energy Bills Act
By: Sarah Vogelsong
Virginia Mercury – March 2, 2020

A Democrat-led Senate panel Monday night killed a bipartisan bill that aimed to restore a system of electric utility rate review that could have returned hundreds of millions in overearnings to customers of Dominion Energy, vividly illustrating the power that the state’s largest electric monopoly still wields in the Capitol.

The Fair Energy Bills Act, which was sponsored by Democratic Del. Jay Jones of Norfolk and Republican Del. Lee Ware of Powhatan, previously cleared the House on a 77-23 vote. The legislation faced stiff headwinds in the more utility-friendly Senate, however, where Majority Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax, who chairs the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, failed to docket it last week, leading to concerns that it would die without a hearing.

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Any viewer can submit a question, suggestion, and/or endorsement for possible inclusion in this post and conveyance to the appropriate person(s) mentioned in the post.

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