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.