House includes $410,000 in budget for autism program despite chairman's opposition
The Virginia House of Delegates included $410,000 in its budget released Sunday for a program that would require businesses to provide insurance coverage for children with autism.
Speaker Bill Howell (R), House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R) and House Appropriations Committee staff directed the money be put in the budget even though Del. Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, was opposed.
And Putney, who voted against the autism bill Wednesday, said he was not told of the budget move beforehand.
"Do you think I know everything in the budget, honey?" he asked. "I don't know what's in a $78 billion budget...I don't know."
Howell supported the bill for the first time in a decade, upsetting some members of his caucus, who question supporting a new mandate while opposing the health care overhaul passed last year.
Del. Ben L. Cline (R-Rockbridge) proposed an amendment that would have required insurers to offer a package to businesses that included autism coverage but allowed businesses to choose not to buy it. The His amendment was defeated.
Cline said he concerned that the bill did not go to the House Appropriations Committee, which is normal practice
"Members should know where the money is coming from and how much money it is because there are differing financial impact statements,'' Cline said. "I'd like to nail down how much it is going to cost the state."
Cox, who serves as vice chairman of House Appropriations Committee, said the money was included in the budget because "clearly a majority" was in favor of the program.
The Senate also included $410,000 for the autism program in its version of the budget. Additional money will come from non-general fund departments.
A different version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) is expected to pass Tuesday in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the mandate has typically been supported.
Conservatives are expected to lobby the governor's office to veto the bill if it passes.
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), said the governor will review the bill.
| February 7, 2011; 3:11 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate, William Howell
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