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I am honored to have the privilege of representing you in the Senate of Virginia. Serving constituents in the 35th District is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I hope you will find this website useful to communicate with me about legislative matters of concern and issues facing our community. Together we can keep Virginia moving forward in a positive fashion.

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Senator Saslaw's Blog

This has been a week in American government that we should never have to bear witness to – ever.

I try not to criticize my colleagues across the Potomac River but it is difficult for any informed individual to question how the “game of chicken” became part of the philosophy of governing. When we are sworn into office as elected officials we take an oath to support the Constitution to the best of our abilities. Nowhere in that oath does it say we are to dismantle government, circumvent the law of the land or hold American citizens hostages. I have spent my entire career in public service trying to make things better for Virginians as well as ensure a robust economy in the Commonwealth to enhance opportunity and our quality of life. A critical part of governing is finding solutions and the common ground in an issue. That is why the election on November 5 is so very important for Virginians.

It should be easy for you to figure out whom I am supporting for the three statewide offices. There are very clear distinctions between all of the candidates running for each office. I have served with four of the six candidates and believe their records clearly reveal their agendas and provide a glimpse to what is likely the foundation for their future governance in higher office. Make no mistake about it, reinventing what you believe in after serving as an elected official, is no small task. That is why I believe we have two candidates with voting records trying to recreate their past and pass it along as if it were history.

When you look at the two candidates running for Governor, hands down there is only one individual with a history of success as well as the ability to engage in relationships with people from all walks of life including former presidents, leaders of the business community and individuals interested in moving the Commonwealth in a positive direction. Terry McAuliffe is the only candidate with that record. As a successful individual he brings private sector knowledge to the job. You may recall Mark Warner was first elected to public office as Governor. He brought his business skills to the Executive Branch, leading Virginia to being ranked the best managed state and the best place to do business. Terry and Dorothy McAuliffe have raised five children here in the Commonwealth – once rated the best place for a child to succeed. Terry knows the significance of investing in public education and the role it plays in keeping Virginia competitive in a global economy. I have every confidence there will not be a “Giftgate” during the next administration. As our economy continues to recover, we need a person with a track record for success – not one looking to slice and dice government recklessly.

I am proud to have served with both Ralph Northam and Mark Herring. Both of them are dedicated to common sense solutions on the issues we face in the General Assembly. I might add that they both have solid voting records that reflect their efforts to move Virginia forward in a fiscally responsible manner. They are well respected and have not been bogged down by obstructionist attempts to derail the Virginia legislature. In recent years we have seen some of the “Potomac Fever” attempting to creep into Richmond in the form of extreme ideological agendas. That model hasn’t worked at the federal level and we sure do not need to facilitate it here in Virginia.

Ralph Northam brings the right temperament and the military discipline to get the job done well as Lieutenant Governor. Most importantly, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, he knows the importance of applying science and logic when making laws. From every indication, his opponent has little tolerance for others unlike himself and a very divisive agenda.

Mark Herring is the one candidate for Attorney General that is front and center. He has a history of representing the best interests of Virginians in a moderate and balanced fashion. Unlike our current Attorney General and his hopeful Republican successor, we won’t see the taxpayer-funded assaults on our colleges and universities or the Don Quixote quests of the past four years. From “Giftgate” to other conflicts of interest at the expense of Virginians, I believe it is well past the time to make a change in that office. Mark Herring is the person to restore integrity to that most important office as an advocate for Virginians. His opponent on the other hand, introduced a bill that would have required women to report miscarriages to the police.

Dick Saslaw

On October 1, another phase of the Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obama Care) will be implemented. Virginians, along with citizens across the nation, will be able to shop the Marketplace for health insurance. The Commonwealth is renowned for its fiscal responsibility while at the same time is often towards the bottom of national rankings in many areas. It appears that once again we are in a race for the bottom when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act.

It is significant to note some of the positive outcomes of the measure and what it means to hard working families. To begin with the law prohibits insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick. They can no longer force you into bankruptcy due to an annual or lifetime cap. Since December 2011, some 66,000 working young adults without job coverage have been included in their family insurance.

Another benefit of the ACA should be realized in the wallets of most insured individuals. Going forward, insurance companies must dedicate 80% of premium revenue toward health care and not overhead. If that ratio is not met, the carrier will be required to give rebates and/or reduce the annual premium. Additionally, insurance companies must publicly justify increases greater than 10% annually. When was the last time your premium increase fell below 10%?

So where does the Commonwealth stand on insurance reform? Lacking the political will to see that all Virginians have access to affordable health care through an insurance exchange, we not only punted but also actually left the field, deferring to the federal government to set up our exchange program. This despite yet another failed attempt by our infamous Attorney General Cuccinelli in filing a lawsuit to halt this long overdue reform of the health care system. The measure stood the constitutional test in a heavily leaning Conservative U.S. Supreme Court. However, with that said, in late 2012, Governor McDonnell informed Federal officials that Virginia would not plan for a state-based health insurance exchange.

During the 2013 General Assembly, we passed legislation authorizing the State Corporation Commission to perform plan management functions. That included collecting and analyzing information of plan rates, benefits and cost sharing as well as ensuring continued plan compliance. The SCC will also be responsible for managing consumer complaints, providing technical assistance and decertifying plans issuers. The VA Dept. of Health was also tasked with assisting in plan management functions.

Just like most insurance premiums, the rates will vary based on age, family composition, tobacco use and geographic area. Virginia will be assigned 12 geographic areas. In the absence of pro-active legislation to get the exchanges up and running, most of the bills signed into law have been restrictive and intended to further stall and/or legislatively derail the national law. Why is this significant?

I do not believe this obstructive approach to governing is in the best interests of the people we are elected to serve. It is lacks positive outcomes. For example, if you look at the cost of emergency room care (sometimes the only option available to the non-insured) you cannot help but see a correlation with the cost of premiums for the insured. Mandatory preventative care, along with public health centers are steps in the right direction toward cost containment.

As a small businessman, a parent and a legislator, I find this kind of “north of the Potomac” mentality to be shortsighted and unproductive. I also believe it demonstrates the lack of business acumen that some of the state’s top office holders seem to reflect. On November 5 we have the opportunity to elect individuals that have the education, experience and business understanding to move the Commonwealth forward in a fiscally smart manner. I hope in the coming months you will be able to sift through the facts as well as the fiction before you vote.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. I look forward to seeing you in the community.

 

Senator Dick Saslaw

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