Final Actions

The General Assembly reconvened last month to deal with Governor Northam’s amendments and vetoes of legislation passed during the regular session. Some of his amendments were not accepted. Last week, the Governor vetoed several of those bills including:

House Bill 1620 / Senate Bill 1455 Would have reformed 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.

HB 1661 Would have authorized farmers to form an association to offer health benefits plans to their members in order to provide more affordable healthcare options.

HB 2042 This was a bi-partisan bill to require 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.

HB 2303 / SB 1047 Would have required registered sex offenders to identify themselves to officials prior to entering an emergency shelter.

SB 1087 Would have permitted the General Assembly to make minor changes to legislative districts to reduce split precincts. Split precincts cause confusion among voters and increase the costs of elections. I anticipated this veto and sponsored HJ 591, which passed and would do the same thing by amending Virginia’s Constitution. A Constitutional amendment will have to pass again next year and then be approved by the voters before it is effective, but the Governor cannot veto a proposed amendment. The goal is to have it in place before the next redistricting in 2021.

HB 2443 / SB 1689 Would have expanded group health benefit associations and make them easier to form to expand affordable healthcare options.

HB 2528 This bill was 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.

The Governor signed HB 1700, the state Budget Bill, but vetoed an item in the budget which included language to limit taxpayer funding for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). The language restricting the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions to the minimum required by Federal law remains in the budget.

Governor Northam also signed SB 1768 to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a work zone, despite his amendment to the bill being rejected. His amendment stripped the work zone provision and made it a general ban while driving. 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 amendment to legislation must be within the scope of the original purpose of the bill.

Session Summary

Overall, I thought the session went very well, despite the unresolved scandals involving our statewide elected officials. While you never get everything you want, we did better than I expected at the start of session. Thousands of bills were submitted for consideration during session, and 854 survived the legislative process to be passed and signed into law.

We passed a plan to provide tax relief to for hardworking Virginians. The budget makes significant investments in education, providing over $200 million in new funding for our public schools, including the largest single-year pay raise for teachers in 15 years and money for more school counselors. There are also increases in early childhood education and in financial aid for students attending higher education institutions.

This budget funds critical infrastructure improvements like expanding access to broadband and transportation. We also put additional resources into our cash reserves, to protect our AAA bond rating and against future economic downturns.

My HJ 581 to have the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) develop a strategic plan to improve I-95 passed and Virginia’s Transportation Secretary recently announced that she was beginning work on this study. We also passed my HJ 615 that would amend the state Constitution to establish an independent redistricting committee to draw Congressional and legislative district lines when we have to do redistricting in 2021.