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By Delegate Kathy Byron
How much involvement should government have in healthcare? That question has been extensively discussed at the national level over the last several years, as America begins to deal with the effects of the implementation of what we commonly call “ObamaCare.” But, the debate over the extent of government involvement in healthcare decisions is not limited to any single federal government act. Instead, it is a frequent topic of debate by government at the state and national level.
An example of this debate was on full display this week, as my bill to end Virginia’s Gardasil mandate, House Bill 1112, was approved by the House of Delegates. The legislation provided the lengthiest debate in the House so far this year, as it was discussed extensively on Thursday and Friday.
Virginia first enacted its mandate that girls entering the 6th grade receive the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in 2007. Since then, more than half of the states have considered enacting a similar mandate. Yet all but California have rejected following Virginia in imposing this mandate.
I am sponsoring this bill because I view the mandate as an unnecessary intrusion on parental rights. The other childhood vaccines that Virginia does mandate are there for good reason. The diseases they affect are communicable through casual contact and pose immediate public health hazards. Mandating this vaccine was an expansion by government of its role in public health.
Whenever the topic touches on government’s role in healthcare, you can expect significant debate. This bill did not disappoint, as the debates on Thursday and Friday over it were extensive. In the end, the bill won approval by a vote of 62-to-34. It is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
My legislation to streamline the state’s high diplomas, House Bill 1061, also advanced this week, winning approval from the House Education Committee on a 21-to-1 vote. The bill is the top component of Governor McDonnell’s “Opportunity to Learn” education agenda.
Currently, there are seven high school diplomas available in Virginia. This bill is part of the effort to consolidate those into three more rigorous requirements, and raises the requirements of a Standard Diploma, with a greater emphasis on career and technical educational.
The bill is intended to make sure that receipt of a diploma is more than just a formality. Streamlining and consolidating the available diplomas is intended to increase the value of a diploma received from a high school in Virginia, telegraphing employers that the recipient is ready to work.
House Bill 1061 is important for ensuring rigorous education standards and is also critical to strengthening workforce development in the Commonwealth. As evidenced by its easy approval by the House Education Committee, the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support.
I received some encouraging news on the Vic Thomas Hatchery this week. As you may know, the Hatchery’s manager retired and - because of the state hiring freeze - was not going to be replaced any time soon. The Hatchery is very important to tourism in the Smith Mountain Lake area. So, I worked with the McDonnell Administration to obtain a waiver from the hiring freeze so we could fill this vital position and ensure the Hatchery remained up and running. Late last week, I received the news that a waiver will be granted and the Hatchery will be hiring a new manager very soon.
Chambers of Commerce from across the state were out in force at the General Assembly this week, so I got to see some friendly faces from our businesses back home.
Some faces with very impressive smiles also made it a point to stop by our offices, as dental hygienists from Bedford made the journey to the Richmond.
If you’re planning to visit Richmond during session, please make sure we have an opportunity to see your smiling face. Our offices are located in Room 811 of the General Assembly Building, and we are always excited to welcome visitors from home.
Next week I’ll have a report on the progress of my other legislation. Until then, have a great week.