Finding common ground at the Capitol

Published 9:41 am Friday, January 24, 2014

Editors note: This update is for the week of Jan. 13-17

This week Governor [Terry] McAuliffe addressed the Joint Assembly to outline his priorities for the Commonwealth. Several of his priorities including job creation, modernizing our K-12 education system, and improving workforce development programs-are long-standing House Republican priorities where we should find common ground.

K-12 education reforms leads the list as we build on our initiatives over the last two years. House Republicans are leading on this issue. On Tuesday we outlined key elements of the House Republican K-12 Education Agenda. Legislation has already been introduced by our members to reduce and improve Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, provide more virtual learning opportunities for our students, and support career ladders for our teachers.

The SOL tests are necessary to provide basic benchmarking and foster a sense of accountability. Students are now taking 34 tests, starting at grade 3 through high school completion. Legislation has been filed to reduce the number of tests to 26. The aim is to reduce testing to empower teachers with more flexibility and improve the tests by re-emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving skills. This will ensure younger students have more time to focus on reading and math, the foundations for the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Broadening access to virtual education will offer a unique opportunity for each student to create an educational curriculum that suits his or her life goals. Enhanced blended learning opportunities that combine classroom and virtual learning is a great way to provide students wider access to course offerings and increase flexibility for students and parents.

Legislation filed will also support the development of “Teacher Career Ladders” that will ensure we retain our best teachers in the classroom where they will have the greatest impact on student success. I believe our K-12 education reform proposals provide a solid base for House Republicans to work with the McAuliffe Administration to improve the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system for all our children.

There are also areas where the Governor and House Republicans do not see eye to eye. The first among these is Governor McAuliffe’s call for a Medicaid expansion decision by the end of the 2014 Session. This presents a major area of disagreement. Medicaid expansion could have serious financial implications for the Commonwealth. Without reforms, Virginians could be paying an additional $1 billion each year. That would require the tough choice of cutting spending in other areas or raising taxes to pay for the expansion.

The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission has been working to identify cost saving reforms to the way Medicaid is currently administered. Among these reforms include ways to recoup money and punish people who falsely claim Medicaid eligibility.

Putting 400,000 more Virginians in a broken program fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse will make things worse. The federal Government has promised to pay for 100 percent of the cost of expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. The Governor believes it is a money maker for Virginia, but we have heard promises before when it concerns the Affordable Care Act – “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan (period).” With the federal government $17 trillion in debt, it is not responsible to commit Virginia taxpayers to federal promises that cannot be relied on.

The students and staff from our very own Paul D. Camp Community College stopped by this week to update me on their progress and impact in our community. It’s always great to have visitors and I encourage everyone visiting Richmond to please come by my office on the 8th floor of the General Assembly Building, Room 807.

In closing, I encourage you to share your views with me on legislation before the General Assembly. I’m still accepting responses to my 2014 Legislative survey, found at The more constituents I hear from, the better I can represent you in the General Assembly. Please be sure to fill out the survey online to receive an early results report.

It is a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of the 64th district as I stand firm to uphold the boundaries of our constitution, protect personal property rights, and preserve the values and principles that our great country was founded upon.

Del. Rick Morris (R) represents the 64th district in the Virginia House of Delegates. He can be reached at