Veto Session

After legislation passes the General Assembly during the regular session, the Governor may offer amendments or veto the legislation. We convened last week to deal with numerous vetoes and amendments. Most of the amendments were clarifying in nature or a technical correction and were accepted. However, others were substantial changes in scope or effectiveness of the legislation. Legislation where the amendments were accepted, will become law. Any legislation with amendments that were rejected will be returned to Governor Northam for action. He has until May 3rd to sign or veto them. Here is a summary of some of the higher profile legislation that had amendments rejected.

House Bill 1620 / Senate Bill 1455 Reforms the State Board of Elections to increase its membership and reduce political influence by allowing the Board to appoint the Commissioner of Elections, similar to how local Voter Registrars are appointed by the local Electoral Board. Governor Northam amended it to remove that provision and keep the Commissioner as a political appointee. Those amendments were rejected.

HB 1661 Authorizes farmers to form an association to offer health benefits plans to their members in order to provide more affordable healthcare options. Governor Northam’s amendment would have nullified the provisions of the bill.

HB 2042 Requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days for anyone convicted of assaulting a family or household member if they had a previous violent conviction in the prior 10-year period. Governor Northam’s amendment would have reduced the period to 5 years.

HB 2303 / SB 1047 Would require registered sex offenders to identify themselves to officials prior to entering an emergency shelter. Governor Northam’s amendment would have removed the penalty for failure to comply which made the bill of no real effect.

HB 2443 / SB 1689 Would expand group health benefit associations and make them easier to form to expand affordable healthcare options. The Governor’s amendments would basically gut the legislation.

HB 2528 This bill is an attempt to combat the ongoing opioid crisis by allowing drug dealers to be charged with homicide if they sell drugs to someone who then dies due to an overdose of the drug. Governor Northam’s amendment would have limited it to make it almost useless.

SB 1087 Would permit the General Assembly to make minor changes to legislative districts to reduce split precincts. The Governor’s amendments would have placed the burden entirely on local governments to fix. This would have been a huge unfunded mandate on localities and significantly increased the local costs of running elections.

SB 1768 Would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a work zone. The Governor’s amendments stripped the work zone provision and made it a statewide ban. The Speaker of the House ruled that the amendment was not germane because it went beyond the original purpose of the bill. One of the things that differentiates the House of Delegates from the US Congress is that any amendments to legislation must be within the scope of the original purpose of the bill.

HB 1700 is the state Budget Bill. The Governor made numerous amendments to it, most of them were adopted, such as language to end the practice of revoking a driver’s license for failure to pay court fines and fees not related to driving offenses. Several were defeated including amendments to expand taxpayer funding for abortion and to give state tax “refunds” to persons who did not pay taxes.

Another bill with significant amendments that did pass was HB 2718 / SB 1716 which established an I-81 improvement fund. Governor Northam amendments increases truck registration fees, the diesel tax, and imposes a regional gas tax on localities along I-81. The regional taxes are dedicated to I-81, however, the statewide taxes will go to projects across the state. Most Republicans, including me, opposed the tax increases.

Here is a summary of Governor Northam’s vetoes. None of the vetoes were overridden. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate; the votes were basically party-line, with a majority voting to override but short of two-thirds.

HB 2260 / SB 1027 These bills sought to expand health insurance choices for Virginians by authorizes health carriers to offer lower-cost, catastrophic plans on the individual market.

SB 1240 Authorized health insurance carriers in the Commonwealth to offer short-term, limited-duration health plans. This was an attempt to increase affordable healthcare alternatives for Virginians.

SB 1674 Would have allowed any carrier offering short-term, limited-duration health plans to provide a guaranteed renewal option.

SB 1156 Would have prohibited any locality from adopting any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws. This was a ban on sanctuary cities/counties.

HB 2270 Required the sheriff or jail superintendent in charge of a local correctional facility or a regional jail to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the release of an incarcerated alien as soon as the release date is known.

SB 1038 Would have required Voter Registrars to verify the name, date of birth, and social security number provided by an applicant on the voter registration application. There have been problems with fraudulent voter registrations being submitted, and this would have been an easy way to catch many of those fraud attempts before they were actually registered.

HB 2764 Requires any person who assists an applicant with the completion of a paper voter registration application or collects a completed paper voter registration application directly from an applicant to provide his name and telephone number and indicate the group or organization with which he is affiliated, if any, on the registration application. There have been problems with third party groups incorrectly registering people to vote, and this was an attempt to allow Voter Registrars to be able to contact the group to correct the problems.

HB 2034 This legislation tried to make the position of Voter Registrar less political by requiring the local Electoral Board to petition the circuit court and show cause to fire a Registrar.

HB 2142 This bill sought to improve school security by allowing localities to hire school protection officers as retired law-enforcement officers as part-time school security officers. This would have been a less expensive alternative to hiring full-time School Resource Officers (SRO).

HB 2253 Required the State Police to issue a concealed handgun permit to a nonresident within 90 days of receipt of the nonresident’s completed application unless it determines that he is disqualified.

HB 2611 Would have required the approval of the General Assembly before the state could adopt regulations establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in a regional market for the trading of carbon dioxide allowances.

HB 2269 Would have required the approval of the General Assembly before the state could adopt regulations establishing or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in the Transportation and Climate Initiative or any other regional transportation sector emissions program.

HB 2749 Required the Department of Social Services to report annually the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services and the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions, information regarding the number of reported violations for misuse of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits. This was an attempt to gather information on welfare fraud.

SB 1150 Required the authorization of a Commonwealth Attorney or law-enforcement agency for a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor offense where the accused is a law-enforcement officer and the alleged offense arises out of the performance of his public duties.

SB 1251 Switchblade knives are illegal in Virginia. This bill would not have changed that but would have allowed knife manufacturers an exemption to produce them for sale in other states where they are legal. This legislation was requested by a knife manufacturer who may now have to move out of state.

SB 1782 Prohibited a person who has been convicted of a felony offense of (a) fraud or misrepresentation or (b) robbery, extortion, burglary, larceny, embezzlement, fraudulent conversion, perjury, bribery, treason, or racketeering from qualifying to be a notary.