Kaine forsees change in mental health laws

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Virginia Business

Virginia Business: Do you think the state’s going to be able to effectively change mental health laws within the current budget?

Kaine: Yes, I do. I will not say that we’ll do everything that we should probably do, but this is one I think you’re going to see a tremendous amount of bipartisan cooperation.  We will make changes in two big categories.  One, better funding for community-based services.  I think there’s a real sense that we need to do it.  And second, more accountability for the provision of those services. Even in a tight budget year, I think the consensus is overpowering that we need to do this…

VB: The Virginia Chamber of Commerce recently did a member survey and found that transportation was the No. 1 issue.  Are you going to consider revisions to the transportation package?

Kaine: The plan is producing the amount of revenue that the chamber and all the legislators said was needed, which is a billion-plus dollars a year.  It is composed a little differently, in that it’s not all statewide: $400 to $500 million is statewide and $500 to $600 million is regional. But I am signing contracts every week…If there are revisions that are agreed on by a consensus of both bodies of the legislature that get to my desk, I’m going to be very open to them, as long as they don’t weaken the overall level of revenue that we need to invest going forward.  And I suspect that transportation will continue to be a No. 1 issue for a while because signing contracts is not the same as the road being done and the congestion relief being there.  So, we are going to be in a heavy implementation stage for a number of years…

VB: What type of legislation confronting illegal immigration would you support, and how can legislation be crafted so that it doesn’t harm businesses?

Kaine: The [Virginia Crime] Commission proposed that we should work in a very targeted way with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] in areas of gang crime, violent crime and drug-related crime. To that, I say amen, and in fact, we’re already doing it. … The issue on the business side is interesting.  I’ve talked to leaders on the agribusiness side recently, and the state Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and business groups around the state. They’re very, very nervous about immigration laws that would be overly punitive to business, hurting our business climate. … I think the business community is rightfully concerned that we not pass immigration laws that put out any kind of a xenophobic message or suggest that Virginia isn’t welcoming…  Between Dulles and the Port of Hampton Roads, we are connected to the rest of the world at a time when global connections are key to economic success. We can’t squander those assets by turning a hostile face to foreign people and foreign capital. 

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