The Marathon and Maelstrom of the Veto Session —
Democrats Sustain All Governor’s Vetoes
The legislative year ends with what’s called the “veto session.” This year’s was held Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the day when the legislature considers the Governor’s vetoes and his proposed amendments to various bills. It is typically one of the longest floor sessions of the year and, as the Democratic floor leader, one of the most intense, as every vote counts on almost every issue. This year, Governor McAuliffe vetoed an unprecedented number of House bills, 21 in total. In his January 2017 State of the Commonwealth Address, the Governor stated unequivocally that if the legislature sent him socially divisive legislation that would impair building a New Virginia Economy or bills that would curtail the voting, civil, or reproductive rights of citizens, he would veto the bills. So it should have come as no surprise that there were many vetoes to consider, since the Republican-held House sent so many of these to the Governor’s office. In floor speeches beginning the veto session, Republicans railed against the Governor’s vetoes and suggested that he was “disengaged with the process.” As Leader, I took the floor to argue that these vetoes were not unexpected since so many of these bills had been considered in earlier years and had been rejected by the Governor. I also pointed out that this Governor is arguably the most engaged governor we have seen in decades, keeping his door open to all members of the General Assembly and traveling the state, nation, and world to bring good-paying jobs to Virginia and build a New Virginia Economy. The results speak for themselves – almost 900 new economic development announcements, more than 185,000 new jobs, and almost $16 billion in capital investment brought to the Commonwealth in the last 3 and a half years.
House Democrats sustained every veto, defeating bills that would:
- Allow people to carry concealed weapons into emergency shelters;
- Defund Planned Parenthood;
- Allow homeschooled students to participate in public high school sports;
- Increase the difficulty of voting by absentee ballot;
- Permit discrimination against LGBT Virginians under the guise of protecting religious freedom;
- Allow those who have gotten a protective order to carry a concealed weapon before being trained how to use it;
- Force localities to enforce federal immigration laws, including holding detainees in jails after their release dates;
- Transfer millions of dollars in tax credits to large coal companies and utilities (the Coal Tax Credit).
Coal Tax Credit Defeated
Of particular satisfaction to me was our vote to sustain the governor’s veto of the coal tax credit. In the last 30 years, Virginia’s taxpayers have sent almost $630 million to large coal companies and utilities, all designed to encourage the production of more coal and to generate more jobs. It has been a dismal failure! Production has dramatically declined and there are about 2,400 coal-mining jobs left in coal country, down from 11,000 several decades ago. Not only is coal dirty to burn and a huge contributor toward climate change, it is also now more costly than natural gas or, in some cases, even solar. Southwest Virginia is certainly hurting badly, and the state should be investing in training and new job creation in the region, but the answer is not to provide monies directly to the coal companies and utilities. You can watch a video of my speech on this issue below.
Medicaid Expansion Fails Again
Despite persistent efforts by the Governor and Democrats, Republicans voted down a renewed attempt to expand Medicaid, thereby refusing to do what 31 other states have done, and rejecting efforts to provide some healthcare assistance to 400,000 Virginians who do not presently have coverage. Our failure to expand Medicaid has, over the last six years, cost the state $10 billion in federal money (about $6.6 million per day) that we could have otherwise used to help our citizens, hospitals, and state budget. This is not an issue that will go away, as access to reasonably-priced healthcare will continue to be a challenge.
HB2217 Bill Passed
We had a great crowd in Richmond for the signing of my bill to protect victims of sexual violence and trafficking. The bill makes it easier for the victims to keep their addresses confidential and prevent their assailants from finding out where they live.
June 13 Democratic Primary
We have now returned to Charlottesville and look forward to working with you to address your concerns and develop a legislative program for the next session. Beyond that, I will be facing a primary challenge on Tuesday, June 13, and would deeply appreciate your vote.
Absentee voting begins on Friday, April 28. The last day to request an absentee ballot be mailed to the voter is Tuesday, June 6, by 5:00 pm (request must be received by the registrar by this date/time). Last day to vote absentee-in-person is Saturday, June 10. You can apply for an absentee ballot by contacting the registrar in Albemarle County (972-4173) or Charlottesville City (970-3250) or download an application here (pdf). The last day to register to vote, or to update your registration, before the primary is Monday, May 22.