Update from Richmond: Week 8

The General Assembly is entering the final week of the 2018 session. As we near the end of this legislative session, the House continues to consider legislation on a wide range of topics. Today, I’d like to give you an update on the progress of the state budget and on a few bills that are already headed to the Governor’s desk.

Budget Update

This week, as part of my duties as Speaker of the House, I announced six House members to represent the body in a conference committee. Joined by seven Senators, the conference committee will iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. A final report, known as the conference report, will be voted on by both bodies before going to the Governor.

Some Prescription Prices Could Drop

The House of Delegates earlier this year passed a bill that will end the practice of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) requiring pharmacists to charge higher copays than the cash price of the prescription drug. That piece of legislation has now passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

If you aren’t familiar with this issue, a recent news investigation exposed customers being forced to pay copays that exceeded the cash price of the drug. The investigation found PBM’s are requiring pharmacists to sign “gag clauses,” which prevent the pharmacists from informing customers that the cash price for the drug may be cheaper than the insurance copay. The investigation found one instance where a customer was charged $50 for their copay when the cash price of the drug was just over $11. To watch the full investigation click here.

I am proud to support this piece of legislation, which will save you money on medical prescriptions that are vital to your health. The practice of overcharging patients is disproportionately affecting our senior citizens. When someone is in need of prescription medication, we should do whatever possible to make sure they are getting it at the best price possible. This is just another example of “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues” that we are prioritizing this session.

Saving You Money On Your Utility Bill

The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday passed the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018. The package will return over $1 billion to customers over the next eight years, including a $200 million direct refund over the next two years — meaning customers will see monthly savings on their electricity bill. The bill also passes on to customers more than $100 million in savings from federal tax reform faster than under existing law.

This unwinds the rate freeze four years ahead of schedule. Under this law, customers could see rate cuts as soon as 2021, three years sooner than current law. The bill also reforms the oversight process, instituting streamlined three-year reviews of electric utility companies. The first review would be in 2021 and would consider earnings for 2017 through 2020.The current bill removes the requirement that utility companies overearn for two consecutive rate periods before issuing refunds, a provision included in previous versions. The legislation also includes provisions that would safeguard ratepayers from potentially being charged twice for investments made by the utility company. This issue, commonly referred to as “double-dipping,” has been addressed by the addition of clarifying language on the subject.

The bill also prioritizes investment in renewable energy, grid modernization and undergrounding power lines, helping lower costs over the long run. These investments cannot be used to justify a base rate increase in the future.

The legislation is now likely headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed.

Visitors to the Capitol

I was glad to meet with representatives from Arc South of the James to discuss waiver slots for Virginians with developmental and intellectual disabilities. This year’s budget includes 825 new waiver slots for members of the developmentally and intellectually disabled communities to receive community based healthcare.

Links of Interest

Below are links to several news articles covering the General Assembly this past week.

 

I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office during session. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. You can email me at delkcox@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804) 698-1066. You can also join the conversation on our social media pages by liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter.

Sincerely,

Kirk Cox