We are now one week away from the scheduled end of our 60-day legislative session. This week was a productive week for the House of Delegates. We are finishing House committee work, presenting our remaining bills before Senate Committees, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget. As we wind down this General Assembly session, I want to update you on a few important areas.
In this Update, I comment on some of the legislation Governor McAuliffe has vetoed, provide an update on the budget, and thank constituent groups for visiting my Capital office.
Important Legislation Vetoed by Governor
Once a bill passes the General Assembly, it must go to the Governor for final review. The Governor can either sign the bill to become law, send it back to the General Assembly with amendment recommendations, or veto the bill. Governor McAuliffe has wasted no time in using his veto pen to reject several important bills that passed both the House and Senate.
Governor McAuliffe announced his veto of Senate Bill 21
, which is identical to a House bill that would require General Assembly approval before Virginia complies with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations. This legislation would protect the Commonwealth from expending taxpayer resources on a set of unconstitutional regulations that are now being reviewed in court. In fact, the Supreme Court stayed the official implementation of the plan because it may be unconstitutional.
To ensure the Commonwealth does not waste taxpayer dollars on potentially unconstitutional regulations, the House included a budget amendment that would prohibit any funds from being spent to comply with the Clean Power Plan. This budget amendment will effectively stop the Governor from spending funds to implement a likely unconstitutional plan without approval of the Commonwealth’s elected representatives.
In another disappointing move, the Governor vetoed Delegate Rob Bell’s “Tebow Bill
” to allow homeschoolers to participate in sports at their local high schools. The bill has several qualifiers, such as the student has to demonstrate evidence of academic progress for two consecutive years, comply with public school immunization requirements, comply with all disciplinary rules and is subject to all codes of conduct applicable to all public high school athletes.
The bill passed the House 58-41 with my support, and the Senate 23-17. The House tried to override the veto, which requires a 2/3 vote. While we did get to 57 votes (out of 100), we were unable to reach the required 2/3 majority, so the veto will stand.
Finally, McAuliffe vetoed Delegate Dave LaRock’sHouse Bill 259
to require General Assembly approval before the adoption of “Common Core” standards in our public schools. The legislation passed the House 77-22 and the Senate 24-16. A decision to adopt Common Core Standards would amount to a major shift in education policy and we supporters of the bill believe that should only be done with approval of elected officials who are directly accountable to their constituents. The vote to override will come in the next few days.
Legislation with Governor’s amendments
Additionally, the Governor has sent back several other pieces of legislation with amendments that require General Assembly approval before becoming law. One bill that has generated a lot of press is Delegate Barry Knights House Bill 143
that would allow 151 proof neutral grain spirits or alcohol that is without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color be sold at ABC stores. Most consumers know this as Everclear.
The legislation passed the General Assembly but was sent back by the Governor with an amendment that placed a reenactment clause on the legislation requiring it to be passed again next year and required it to be studied by the Youth Commission upon adjournment of this year’s session. I voted in favor of the Governor’s amendments. The reenactment clause did not receive enough “yes” votes so it is not a part of the final bill and the study was ruled not in order because it was outside the scope of the original bill.
Last week, we passed the House proposed budget. The House budget is a strong, conservative, and structurally balanced two-year budget. It includes no tax or fee increases and rejects Medicaid expansion. We deposited $605 million in the state’s rainy day fund, thereby restoring the fund to 90% of its previous balance. This fund enables the state to weather any economic downturns without resorting to tax increases. Compared to the budget proposed by Governor McAuliffe, the House budget reduces Virginia’s borrowing by over $900 million over the next few years.
I am proud to report that our budget passed by a wide bipartisan margin in the House of 98-2
. The Senate also passed their version of the two-year budget 38-1
We are now in the budget conference process to work out the differences between the two budgets. The Speaker has named House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta), Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), Delegate Luke Torian(D-Prince William) and myself as the budget conferees.
The Senate and House conferees met throughout the week to discuss a final budget proposal. I am confident we will pass a budget before the General Assembly adjourns next week. I was pleased that I could directly report to 66th District constituents on the budget and several key Session issues during my Telephone Town Hall this week. I thank the roughly 1,000 participants who listened to the 45 minute conference call.
Visitors to the Capitol
This week I welcomed Virginia Gateway Region representatives Renee Chapline, Trip Snelson, and Peter Clements to discuss my GO Virginia legislation.
I also met with several College presidents, to include Mary Washington President Rick Hurley, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, UVA President Theresa Sullivan, and JMU Senior VP Charlie King and Government Relations Director John Putney. We discussed their capitol outlay projects that need funding and the higher education portion of the budget.
I met with Mary Ann Curtin, representative of Chesterfield County, so she could update me on legislation that may affect Chesterfield.
Finally, I met with Secretary of Education Ann Holton to discuss the Teach for America program.