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Posted at 2:17 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Cuccinelli: Va. should examine opting out of Medicaid, ending federal oversight of redistricting

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Virginia should study what would be involved with opting out of the federal Medicaid program, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) told reporters and editors attending the annual AP Day at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The state has also moved beyond the point where it needs the federal government to oversee and approve its legislative redistricting process, he said.

On Medicaid, Cuccinelli said he supported a suggestion by Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) that states examine withdrawing from the massive partnership with the federal government that provides funds for health care for disabled and low-income residents.

"It's worth noting that that's not a mandate," he said. "Nobody's ordered to do Medicaid or Medicare. As so many things that we call mandates are, a big huge pot of money is held out there by the federal government and they say, 'If you conform to all of these rules ... then we'll give you this big pot of money.' No state has turned down the big pot of money yet. But it's gotten to the point where it's bad enough that states are looking at it. And I think that's a healthy thing."

Cuccinelli's thoughts on the issue came in a free-ranging discussion at the annual day of policy speeches for reporters preparing to cover the General Assembly legislative session.

On redistricting, Cuccinelli said that he supports the rights of individuals to bring lawsuits challenging legislative districts if they believe state lawmakers have drawn lines in a way that discriminates against racial minorities.

But he said he believes that the time has passed that Virginia should have to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before adopting new districts, as has been required for Virginia and a number of other Southern states since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

"I think as a state, as a commonwealth, we have outgrown that," he said.

Cuccinelli said he foresees no change to the current process that would affect the state's redistricting next year, which the General Assembly will take up after population estimates are released by the U.S. Census Bureau in February.

He said he would continue to follow the law and seek federal approval next year. But he said he believes racism has been excised sufficiently from the political process -- if not always from individuals' hearts -- to justify changing the process by the time Virginia draws lines again in 2020.

"I don't for a moment mean to contend that we don't have to contend, in our society and in Virginia, with bigotry. We do. But the issue with the Voting Rights Act is, is that creeping into the drawing of lines. ... I just don't think Virginia needs that oversight now."

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | December 7, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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