Virginia General Assembly fails to override vetoes

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe waves to members of a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly as he concludes his State of the Commonwealth Address at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 2016. Virginia lawmakers will gather for the annual General Assembly session in 2017 next week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s General Assembly failed to override any of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 32 vetoes Wednesday, but did agree to a number of big spending changes during a one-day session that was marked by partisan rhetoric.

“I’ve been disturbed,” House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said during debate on the floor.

He attacked McAuliffe’s decision to veto bills that would have allowed state employees to keep guns in their cars, restricted funding to abortion facilities and protected religious organizations from being penalized by the state for discrimination against same-sex couples.

“We have seen political rallies to veto a bill on health care funding for women. We have seen a monthly radio show (on WTOP) where that opportunity was used to veto a bill. And all in all, 32 vetoes — the most vetoes since 1998,” Cox said.

But House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, responded that the Republican-led House and Senate largely knew what Virginia’s Democratic governor would oppose.

“Why should we be disturbed? He is only doing what he said he would do,” Toscano said.

“We are both Yankees fans, and I would submit to the gentleman that if he wants to be disturbed, he only need look at how the Yankees are performing so far in this season, now that’s a reason to be disturbed,” Toscano told Cox.

McAuliffe said in a statement that the session “was marked far more by compromise and accomplishment than by partisan conflict, (but) there are some areas on which Republicans in the General Assembly and I disagreed.”

Vetoed bills that will not become law include:

  • A bill requiring General Assembly approval of any clean power plan submission. However language remains in the budget that would prevent Virginia from spending money to prepare such a plan.
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  • Election-related bills that would have added political party identification to the ballot for candidates running for some local offices and limited the ability of local registrars to accept applications that might be missing certain check marks or signatures.
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  • The so-called “Tebow Bill” that aimed to allow more home-schooled students to play on public school sports teams.
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  • A bill that would have allowed most state employees to leave guns in their parked cars at work.
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  • A bill that would have required prosecutors to prove that a defendant intended to incite fear in order for he or she to be convicted of brandishing a firearm.
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  • A bill that would have allowed certain civilian school security officers to carry guns.
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  • An extension of $7.3 million in tax credits for the coal industry.
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  • A bill that would have barred local governments from removing or changing war memorials, including those for Confederate soldiers.
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  • A bill that would have led to a state-wide policy requiring schools to notify parents of any sexually-explicit materials in lessons and provide a way for kids to opt out.
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  • A bill that would have allowed the sale of 151-proof grain alcohol at state-run liquor stores, rather than the current limit on clear alcohol of 101 proof.
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Bills that were amended Wednesday include:

  • A bill to shield the identities of suppliers that make Virginia’s lethal injection drugs.
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  • The two-year state budget and related spending bills including agreements to move forward on plans to build new facilities for sexually violent predators and a juvenile jail in Chesapeake. A number of McAuliffe’s other proposed amendments were rejected. A statement from the governor’s office focuses on the numbers: amendments to 40 bills were accepted along with 57 percent of his suggested changes to the budget bill.
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  • A bill aimed at new options for drivers stuck in traffic on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg was amended to consider all alternatives, not just an extension of the express lanes.
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  • A bill expanding a University of Virginia telemedicine pilot program to serve rural and underserved areas. The amendment clarified that psychiatric treatment through the program would meet requirements for a doctor’s visit needed to get a prescription.
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  • A bill requiring that election officers be trained before the first election they work in each term, rather than just at some point in their term.
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  • A new set-up for the widely-supported GO Virginia economic development initiative following constitutional concerns expressed in the days leading up to Wednesday’s session. The new agreement among the governor, lawmakers and business leaders that replaced the governor’s official proposed amendments creates a 24-person panel to recommend grants that the General Assembly plans to allocate next year. The governor will directly or indirectly control 13 of the appointments.

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