Last week, Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed 26 popular bi-partisan bills that passed with the support of the conservative Republican led House of Delegates and the Democratic-controlled State Senate. He also amended 114 more bills, some in ways that suggest he’ll eventually veto them as well.
To put this in perspective, former Virginia Governors have been much more circumspect in using their veto power - McDonnell vetoed zero bills during his first year in office, McAuliffe vetoed 10, and Northam vetoed 18.
What stood out more than the numbers, though, were the complete and utter lack of justification for the Governor’s actions, aside from petty personal politics. Our rookie Governor signed versions of several bills carried by House members then vetoed identical measures with Senator Adam Ebbin’s name on the Chief Patron line.
Senator Ebbin, a 19-year veteran legislator who has never had a bill vetoed, chairs the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee and oversaw the opposition to the Governor’s attempt to appoint Andrew Wheeler as the Secretary of Natural Resources. But maybe that’s just a coincidence.
Of the 26 bills the Governor vetoed so far, 18 of them originally passed the House with more than 2/3 of the members voting in favor of them. And 6 of the 26 vetoed bills passed the House unanimously. (The 2 remaining vetoed bills still passed the House with at least 60 votes, well above the simple majority needed to pass.)
You might be thinking that the new Governor wasn’t thinking about the numbers or the patrons. Perhaps he was motivated by strongly held political convictions, or a desire to adhere to some core principals. Maybe, but a number of the vetoed bills would have helped Virginians most in need, including bills to enhance consumer protections, a bill to help streamline the unemployment benefits process, a bill to provide medical debt relief, and a bill to force slumlords to take responsibility for hazardous rental properties.
So, it’s possible he really doesn’t think consumers, the unemployed, or those living in substandard housing need help from the government.
That doesn’t really explain the Governor’s decision to amend a bill I carried with Senator Saslaw on behalf of the City of Falls Church. At the request of the City Council, I introduced a charter bill, HB 339, to allow all city residents, regardless of whether they were qualified voters in the city, the opportunity to fully engage in civic life as members of boards, authorities, and commissions.
The bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously, so it was not one we expected to see on the list of bills with Governor’s recommendations. In addition to requesting language clarifying that only city residents legal in the United States would be eligible for service (the majority of the people affected are actually military and state department families who maintain a voting address at their “home of record” as well as recent immigrants not yet naturalized) the governor added a reenactment clause. This is essentially the same thing as vetoing the legislation as this means that the bill would have to be reintroduced during the 2023 Session and pass the General assembly a second time.
The Governor’s vetoes and recommendations will be considered and acted on by the General Assembly the last week of April, in what would normally be the last legislative action of the year, at least as far as the entire General Assembly getting together was concerned.
Unfortunately, the 2022 General Assembly Session adjourned Sine Die on Saturday, March 12th without a budget and without taking final action on 40 or so other pieces of legislation. When the Session began in early January, I talked then about the glacial pace that was set - bills took too long to get assigned to committees and the committees didn't start meeting in earnest until the 2nd and 3rd weeks of session.
Although this isn’t the first time the regular session has ended without a final budget, it certainly could have been avoided if we had kept a more robust schedule. It also would have helped if the Governor and the House Republican leadership had planned to create any semblance of a bipartisan budget compromise.
It is unclear when we will be called back for Special Session 1 to finish the budget. However, the General Assembly will address all the vetoes and recommendations at the Reconvene Session on April 27th. In the meantime, you can review the full list of vetoed bills and bills with recommendations on lis.Virginia.gov.