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Posted at 3:11 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

House includes $410,000 in budget for autism program despite chairman's opposition

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

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.

By Anita Kumar  | 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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Welcome to Virginia!

The state that doesn't want you to have to buy insurance, which supports the aim of extending insurance to everyone, thinks if you do have insurance that it should cover this.

Instead of plumping up the benefits for the haves maybe they should focus on the basics for the have-nots.

Posted by: DogNabit | February 7, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

look..... I have the utmost empathy for parents of children with autism.....

however..... it should be fairly obvious why this is included in the bill.....

first..... find out how many current Virginia legislators, or their immediate families, have children with the condition..... then match that list up against this particular line item's supporters.....

it's similar to the phrase..... "follow the money" in criminal cases where illegal activities are alledged.....

of course the words criminal or illegal aren't included in the "Politician's Dictionary of Softer Semantics and Double Standards".

Posted by: trainsguy | February 7, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Either sign the mother f'ing bills or find the cure for autism you dolts in the house! Your precious beloved senator who got shot in the head now needs similar rehab just like many kids with autism. How about we say "no" to curing her brain injury? Why would you vote "no" then to kids with brain injuries? "I jus gots to know!"

Posted by: hogfarmer55 | February 7, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that's right...why should the people that PAY for it get it first....that's greedy right.

Posted by: logic41 | February 7, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Did I read that correctly? Did the chair of the appropriations committee of the House of Delegates of Virginia call a female reporter from the Washington Post "honey"?

Posted by: zoikina | February 7, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Did I read that correctly? Did the chair of the appropriations committee of the House of Delegates of Virginia call a female reporter from the Washington Post "honey"?

Posted by: zoikina | February 7, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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