The Virginia General Assembly returned to Richmond this week for the “reconvened” or “veto” session to consider Governor Terry McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.
Governor McAuliffe signed over 700 bills this year, vetoed 32 bills and amended 57 more. In addition, he made 30 amendments to the budget bill passed by the General Assembly in March. You can view a full list of his vetoes online here.
While the number of vetoes seems high, it’s not all that surprising given that the General Assembly is controlled by a different Party than the Governor. What is disappointing is the nature of many of Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes. Since the adjournment of the 2016 Session, Governor McAuliffe has seemed far more interested in dividing Virginians than highlighting our many bipartisan accomplishments this year. He held campaign style rallies and press conferences for many of his vetoes, including one event at a Planned Parenthood clinic, but only held four public events for legislation that he approved.
Among his vetoes were measures designed to ensure the safety of our children in schools, empower parents when it comes to educational decisions, and protect small businesses from costly wage requirements.
In addition, he vetoed six bills that passed the House with veto-proof majorities thanks to the support of Democrats. This included legislation to allow retired law enforcement to carry firearms when serving as school security officers, and legislation to require schools to notify parents of sexually explicit content in course materials. Unfortunately, however, Wednesday we saw many Democrats flip their votes to support Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes.
Most personal and notable to me, he vetoed my House Bill 8, which would have established a full-time virtual school program in Virginia. He did this despite signing almost identical legislation last year. With one stroke of his pen, he has denied educational choice to up to 5,000 students across Virginia, including 1,500 students already on the waitlist. This sets us back another year and puts us further behind the thirty states that already have full-time virtual education options. Click here to see my floor remarks on this veto.
The House was able to override the Governor’s vetoes on two bills that gained the support of Democrats. These included measures to protect historical war monuments and memorials from being altered or destroyed at a later date, and legislation extending the coal tax credit to help preserve coal jobs in Southwest Virginia. However, they did not gain enough votes to be overridden in the Senate.
Governor McAuliffe also made several major amendments to the General Assembly’s two-year budget. The House rejected the Governor’s effort to expand Medicaid and provide taxpayer funding for abortion through the budget. We accepted changes supported by local law enforcement to allow fine revenue to remain with the localities.
With the reconvened session complete, the General Assembly has completed its work for 2016. We will return to Richmond in January of 2017 for the next legislative session.
I am proud of what the legislature accomplished on behalf of Virginians this year. We passed a conservative and responsible state budget, a major, bipartisan agreement to secure the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizen, and legislation to strengthen our economy, give more children the opportunity to succeed, and fought to advance conservative values.
For the remainder of the year, we will be operating out of the district. You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999, or continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
If you prefer to send written correspondence, you may send it to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.
Additionally, now that the 2016 Session has adjourned we are once again able to accept campaign donations. You can donate securely online at www.bellfordelegate.com/donate.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.