RICHMOND, Jan. 10 -- Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) proposed legislation Monday that would hold college tuition increases to the rate of inflation, raise teacher salaries to the national average and attempt to curb frivolous malpractice lawsuits.
Kaine, who is likely to be the Democratic Party's nominee for governor this year, said lawmakers will carry those and other bills on his behalf when the 2005 General Assembly convenes for a 46-day session Wednesday.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, at a news conference yesterday in Richmond, called for legislative bills to help small businesses and fight gangs.
(Steve Helber -- AP)
Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandia) will be online today at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the upcoming legislative session which begins Wednesday in Richmond.
"I'm talking about going forward; this is what Virginia should do," Kaine said at a Capitol news conference.
Kaine said his proposals not only amount to a serious "governance and reform" agenda but also serve as a continuation of his efforts to "lay out the case of why I'd be a good leader for Virginia."
He added: "It's not just a political posturing agenda."
Kaine's likely opponent in the governor's race, Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R), laid out his legislative agenda last month. Kilgore called for an expansion of the death penalty, stronger laws to fight gangs, less regulation of small businesses and more laws to curb drug use and Internet crime.
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Kilgore's press secretary said Kaine's legislative proposals were blatantly political.
Tim Murtaugh, the press secretary, said, "Tim Kaine continues his extreme makeover to conceal his liberal record through proposals that are either already underway, lifted from someone else's ideas or are loaded with so many conditions that they will never come to fruition."
Kilgore's campaign also chided Kaine for offering a proposal on malpractice litigation when Kaine, then an attorney in private practice, and two other people had been sanctioned by a judge in 1989 for filing frivolous claims in a federal securities and racketeering lawsuit.
Mo Elleithee, Kaine's campaign spokesman, said the case was filed by a partner in the firm Kaine had just joined. He said the judge ruled favorably for Kaine on most of the counts in the lawsuit.
"Today, Tim Kaine offered a real solution to the problem of medical malpractice -- something the attorney general has not done," Elleithee said. "Instead of joining that cause today, he's dredging up a 15-year-old case that has nothing to do with medical malpractice."
Virginia's attorney general and lieutenant governor typically offer proposals each year that are carried by sympathetic lawmakers during the General Assembly session. That practice intensifies during an election year, when both candidates are seeking to define themselves before Virginia voters.
The legislation Kaine unveiled Monday includes 11 bills aimed at changes in health care, education, economic development, transportation and public safety.
Kaine said Virginia's public colleges and universities should not be allowed to increase their tuition ahead of the rate of inflation unless the state fails to meet its promises for funding basic higher education needs. Colleges would also be able to seek emergency increases in tuition under Kaine's bill.
For teachers, Kaine said, the state should provide enough money to local school boards to pay teachers at the national average. Currently, the state provides less money for teacher salaries than is needed to keep pay at that level, Kaine said.
And Kaine said plaintiffs should be required to seek an expert medical opinion before filing malpractice suits. That would cut down on the number of frivolous lawsuits aimed at doctors, hospitals and other health professionals, he said.
"It would end the practice of lawyers filing these omnibus malpractice lawsuits where they allege everyone is guilty of malpractice and they sort it out later," Kaine said.
In addition, Kaine proposed that the General Assembly pass a tax credit for small businesses to offset the cost of providing health insurance and to direct state officials to create insurance pools for very small businesses.
He also recommended what he called anti-gang measures that would fund 113 more state police officers and allow judges to send a juvenile to a facility after one conviction for illegal gun possession. Current law requires four offenses before they can be committed.
"I've always said you can't be cheap on crime if you're going to be tough on crime," Kaine said.