Friday, April 19, 2024

My Vetoed Bills

Last year, the voters of Virginia sent a clear message that they were rejecting the state’s lurch to the right that followed the election of Governor Glenn Youngkin. Their votes returned Democrats to control of the Virginia House after a campaign that emphasized the danger MAGA Republicans posed to our fundamental freedoms. 

After a very successful session when the House and Senate passed bills to protect reproductive health freedom, common sense gun violence preventions measures, and bills to protect our democratic institutions, we had high hopes we’d be able to fulfill our campaign promises to the voters. 

Unfortunately, Governor Youngkin doesn’t seem to have gotten the message.

Instead, he vetoed 153 bills. That’s more than any other Governor has vetoed in their entire four-year term. Quite a bit more, actually. In addition to the unprecedented number of vetoes, he made recommendations to amend 117 other bills, many in ways that would effectively go against the original intent of the bill.  Finally, he proposed 233 line item amendments to our bi-partisan two year budget.  That’s literally 10 times what is typical.  

My Vetoed Bills

Seven of my sixteen bills that went to the Governor were vetoed, more than any other individual legislator. That’s a distinction I’m rather proud of.

The first veto was of my bill to allow people accused of committing a crime to make informed decisions about how they want to exercise their right to a jury trial by allowing them to make the election at any time prior to sentencing (HB 63). The Governor claims this would be burdensome on the judicial system, which is simply not true.

In vetoing my bill that abolished the common law crime of suicide, the Governor failed to articulate any problem with the bill (HB 81). Instead, he noted that we have improved our mental health system and that there is less stigma associated with having a mental illness. He clearly misses the mark here as criminalizing suicide is unnecessarily harmful to the loved ones left behind, and can impact their eligibility for survivor benefits, especially military families.

My bill to prohibit the carrying of assault weapons in public safety, something that has happened in Virginia in an effort to intimidate, was vetoed by the Governor’s because he claimed the definition of “public spaces” was too broad (HB 175).

This is the second time I have carried a bill to require the safe storage of firearms when a minor or prohibited person is present (HB 183). Citing the unfeasibility of getting a firearm from a locked container in situations of self-defense and that low-income individuals can’t afford a storage device, the Governor vetoed the bill. Biometric storage containers are on Amazon for as low as $60 and maintaining proper firearms storage around minors and those that are prohibited from possessing a firearm should be a priority for so-called responsible gun owners.

In response to harassment of duly elected school board members and other elected officials by MAGA extremists, I introduced a bill that would have required that signatures for removal petitions of public officers be collected within 60 days (HB 265). It also would have prevented fraudulent or repetitive removal petitions from being submitted. The Governor vetoed this bill with limited explanation.

One of my consumer protection bills, HB 418, would have paved the way for class action lawsuits in Virginia. The veto explanation for this is a word salad of nothing, talking extensively about the burden on the judicial system, the recent expansion of the Virginia Court of Appeals, and how the Virginia economy needs to continue to “flourish.” It would have been more straightforward to simply say that big companies matter more than people and leave it at that.

My second consumer protection bill would have prohibited extraditions of those who travel to Virginia for reproductive health services (that are legal in Virginia) and it prohibited the sharing of personal reproductive or sexual health information without the consent of the consumer under the VA Consumer Protection Act (HB 1539). It’s not a surprise that the Governor vetoed this bill as it was intended to ensure that abortions remain an option for those that live in other states where it has been restricted or banned since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

And fun fact, I will have a record-setting eighth veto soon.

The Governor made some recommendations to HB 173, which would prohibit the manufacturing, importing, or selling of ghost guns. These recommendations not only substantially weaken the original bill by removing the qualifying classification of what a plastic firearm is, but also increase the mandatory minimum sentence for second offenses. Accordingly, I will be encouraging my colleagues to reject the Governor’s amendments. If this happens, then the original bill will return to the Governor, and he will most likely veto it at that point.


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Post Session Stats & What's Next

It’s good to be home from Richmond, after a super busy General Assembly Session. We wrapped up the 2024 Session on Saturday evening, adjourning sine die at 5:05pm. During this "long" session at 60 days, we used our timely wisely, completing ALL our work, including passing a compromise budget - a feat that hasn't happened during a regular session in 3 years!


We had so much time, in fact, that I gave a speech about it on our last day, offering a litany of our many accomplishments this session.


The Compromise Budget


On the last day of the 2024 Session, we voted on the House and Senate's compromise version of the budget. This is the culmination of months of work, making sure that our values are reflected in the biennial budget we send to the Governor. Passing with a bipartisan vote in both chambers, the budget bill will now go to the Governor for his review. He has until 11:59pm on April 8th to sign, veto, or amend it. To view the latest budget, visit The Commonwealth Institute also provides a great side-by-side comparison chart of all the budget versions.


Session By The Numbers


As I mentioned in my previous email about crossover statistics, here are some updated stats now that we're done with the regular session:

  • 60 Day "Long" Session
  • 34 new Delegates in the House (out of 100)
  • 17 new Senators (out of 40)
  • 3,594 total bills and resolutions introduced
  • 2,280 bills and resolutions passed the House & the Senate
  • 1,046 bills communicated to the Governor to sign, amend, or veto
  • 405 bills continued to the 2025 Session
  • 84 bills communicated to the Governor as "7 Day Bills"
  • 64 of the "7 Day Bills" were signed by the Governor
  • 12 of the "7 Day Bills" were amended by the Governor
  • 8 of the "7 Day Bills" were vetoed by the Governor

What's Next


Bills that were communicated to the Governor by March 1st meant that they were "7 Day Bills," and he had until March 8th to take action on them. The remaining bills that passed the General Assembly will be communicated to the Governor shortly and he will have until April 8th at 11:59pm to take action. The General Assembly will then reconvene on April 17th for the Veto Session, where will address all of the Governor's vetoes and recommendations.


Now that session is officially over, I'm back home in the 13th District and looking forward to getting back in the groove of things - visiting with family and friends, being back at my small business, and, of course, attending community events.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

2024 Sine Die - Right On Time

Today, we've officially gavelled out of the 2024 General Assembly Session! And you won't believe what we've accomplished.


If all we had time for this session had been to pass bills to set us on a path to make sure Virginia teachers are compensated at least at the national average (HB 187), to protect our at-risk students (HB 825), improve student mental health (HB 919 & HB 603), ease the teacher shortage, and to secure our kids future through a world class education, it would have been a great session.

But wait, there’s more.

We also passed bills to protect the rights and freedom of a Virginians, including the right to obtain contraception (HB 609 & HB 819), to keep their health and medical data private (HB 78 & HB 1539), their right to a marriage license regardless of sex, gender or race of the parties (HB 174), the right to vote in free and fair elections (HB 623).


Abortion Access

Even if we’d only had time to block efforts to ban all abortions in Virginia with no exceptions (HB 404), that would have been a great session. But we did all that AND we built an economy that works for Hardworking Virginia families.


Economic Justice

We raised the minimum wage (HB 1), removed Jim Crow era exceptions to the minimum wage (HB 157). We established a prescription drug affordability board (HB 570) so Virginians don’t have to choose between paying for essentials like rent and groceries so they can buy their medicines.


Gun Violence Prevention

We also had time to pass important bills to protect victims of domestic violence from deadly gun violence (HB 46 & HB 362), to ban weapons of war from Virginia’s streets and neighborhoods (HB 2 & HB 175), to ban dangerous devices that can convert an ordinary firearm into a virtual automatic weapon (HB 22), and to ban the ghost guns (HB 173).


A Compromise Budget

In the last few days of session, we only had a handful of outstanding conference reports yet to be signed, and, for the first time in at least 3 years, a completed budget conference report sitting on our desks. Right. On. Time.

A budget that makes important investments in our infrastructure, in our teachers, in our public employees. It directs the Governor to reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to invest $149.5 million transportation improvements and WMATA, includes  $100 million for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, $400 million to meet Chesapeake Bay improvement goals, and $25 million for Coastal Risk Storm Management Projects.

We’ve delivered on our promises to Virginians and we got it all done right in time.


Now, it’s up to the Governor. He’s on the clock – will he sign these bills and make sure Virginians get the education, the freedoms, the economic opportunities and the environment they want and deserve? Only time will tell.

Monday, March 4, 2024

2024 Session | March 4th Update

As our 60 day “long session” enters its final week, many of you have asked me how we get it all done on such a compressed schedule. Part of the answer is in the hectic schedule. Many of you have commented that you enjoyed reading about a “typical Thursday” in a previous e-mail.


Last week it took me spending every minute of a very atypical Wednesday to keep my legislative agenda moving forward. In addition to being an extremely long day on the Floor as the General Assembly worked to meet our deadline to get all revenue bills into conference committees, 9 of my bills were 4 different Senate committee dockets - the first 3 being heard at a 7:30am subcommittee and the last 2 heard in Senate Courts at about 7pm.


I spent the evening bouncing back and forth between committee rooms in the Senate taking meetings with lobbyists in the hallway in between.


The other part of the answer to how we get it all done: We don’t.


On Thursday, the Speaker appointed me to Joint Rules, which is the committee that reviews appointments to commissions, councils, and boards across the Commonwealth. There are several hundred bills that will be carried over to the 2025 session and referred to one of these joint boards, committees or commissions for further study and review.


By next week I should learn which commissions and councils I’ll be serving on in the “off-season” – stay tuned for that.


The Budget


Work on the budget is ongoing. Now that the House and Senate conferees have been appointed, the work of reconciling the 2 budget versions has begun. Hopefully, a compromise budget will be introduced later this week so that we can have one to vote on and then send to the Governor.


It's been several years since we've been able to complete work on the budget before the end of the regular session. Instead, we've often adjourned without a compromise and have then returned for a special session just on the budget. Whatever happens, we are obligated by the Constitution of Virginia to have a balanced budget every year and we have not met that obligation.

Friday, February 16, 2024

2024 Crossover Session Update

What a difference a year (and an election) makes.  

This time last year, I used my monthly column to write about how the short 45-day 2023 Session was winding down and how the only significant legislation left to deal with was the state budget. I went on to talk about how the House version of the budget, then crafted by the Republican Majority, fell short in meeting the needs of hardworking Virginians. How it focused on multi-million-dollar corporate tax breaks, putting our critical services in jeopardy. A rather bleak outlook for sure. 

Fast forward to February 2024 and we’re having a very different conversation. 

First, we aren’t nearly done yet. We’ve still got a month left in our long 60-day session. And we’ve got a Democratic Majority in both chambers, which means that not only are the bills we’re passing looking radically different, but the House budget will also look dramatically different when it comes out on February 18th. 

Now that we’ve reached the halfway point, or Crossover, we’ve had a couple of marathon days on the House Floor, ensuring that we get through all the House bills that passed committee so they can get to the Senate for review. 

My Legislative Update 

I’m also happy to report that 16 of my bills have officially passed the House and are headed to the Senate! Here are some highlights: 

It looks like the 3rd time may be a charm for Falls Church City’s charter change request. This year I amended HB 54 on the floor to get in a format that would get bipartisan support and a 97-2 vote. The charter update will allow more Little City residents to participate on local boards and commissions.  

I also got significant bipartisan support for my bill to abolish the common law crime of suicide. The criminal status of suicide stigmatizes those who have passed and escalates the pain family's face following the tragedy of a loved one's death.  

I even got a bipartisan vote on the floor to advance HB 173 which bans these unserialized “ghost guns” and plastic firearm components in the Commonwealth. 

Another firearm safety bill, HB 175 prohibits the carrying of certain (loaded or unloaded) semi-automatic weapons on any public street, public park, or any other place that is open to the public. That passed the House on a strict party line vote, as did another common-sense gun safety bill, HB 183 which requires that firearms be stored in a biometric safe when individuals under the age of 18 are present. 

To avoid fraudulent or duplicative removal petitions for certain public offices, HB 265 states that removal petitions will not be certified when the asserted grounds have been previously filed and dismissed against the same public official. It also requires the signatures collected on a removal petition be collected within 90 days of the first signature being collected.  

A consumer protection bill, HB 418 makes it possible for class action lawsuits to be established in Virginia. Under the bill provisions, the Supreme Court of Virginia is tasked with creating regulations to govern such actions.  

The last bill I introduced, HB 1539, prohibits extraditions of those who travel to Virginia for reproductive health services. It also prohibits the sharing of personal reproductive or sexual health information without the consent of the consumer under the VA Consumer Protection Act. 

Crossover Stats 

During the 2024 session, there were 1,547 House bills introduced and, of these, 734 passed the House and 185 were continued to the 2025 Session. 

Legislation ran the gamut this year, covering topics like retail cannabis, raising the minimum wage, gun safety, abortion access, housing affordability, solar accessibility, tax policy updates, and campaign finance reform - just to name a few. 

To get a little more into the weeds, 253 of the total House bills introduced went through House Courts, 187 went through General Laws, 91 through Public Safety, and 140 through Rules. That’s a grand total of 671 bills that went through my 4 committees – or 43% of the total bills introduced! 

In the Senate, 737 Senate bills were introduced and the 430 that passed will be crossing over to the House. To keep things moving, we’ve started hearing Senate bills in my committees and I’ve already been over to the Senate to present a couple of my bills this week. We’ll continue on this path until the end of session on March 9th.  

Monday, February 5, 2024

2024 Sesion | February 5th Update

Session is moving right along and while some of the longer days are challenging, we're inching closer to the halfway point of this long, 60-day session.


I started the week by speaking at the Virginia Association of Defense Attorney's legislative breakfast on Monday and we kept a full calendar all week - meeting with more advocacy organizations and lobbyist groups about my bills, the budget, and other issues they care about. Subcommittee and full Committee meetings are running longer every day as we try to make sure that all the House bills have a hearing before crossover next week.


On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with and then introducing the 50+ Caucus of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee on the House Floor.


Thursday morning, I saw some familiar faces again as several of our local Falls Church elected officials were visiting, including our recently elected mayor, Letty Hardi, all the City Council Members, and folks from the City Manager's Office. That afternoon, my Housing Subcommittee had 25 bills on the docket! You can watch me chair the nearly 3-hour meeting online.


Friday afternoon, I sat on a special subcommittee of General Laws as we met to discuss 2 important pieces of legislation - the regulation of skill games and establishing a marijuana retail market in Virginia. This discussion went several hours and the work continues as these bills move through the legislative process.


With this most recent  appointment, I now chair one committee (Public Safety), serve as vice chair on another (Courts), and serve on 4 committees overall.