Democrats in the Virginia legislature are zeroing in on four bills passed by their Republican-controlled bodies that they hope to persuade Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto this month. Speaking at a post-legislative session town hall meeting in McLean last Saturday, State Del. Marcus Simon, who represents the 53rd District that includes the City of Falls Church, said the bills, if vetoed by the governor, stand a good chance of not being overridden by the legislature when it convenes for its veto session early next month.
The four bills are: HR-1318, requiring applicants for an absentee ballot to attach a copy of a photo-ID to the application; HR-1626 (aka the Tebow Bill) allowing home schooled students to participate on their local high school sports teams; SB-1237, an effort by Republican State Sen. Bryce Reeves to adjust the boundaries of his own district to make it slightly more Republican-leaning; and, SB-948, that prevents state police from sharing information about concealed weapon permit holders with other states, a classic gun lobby bill.
In addition, six Democratic House members have urged Gov. McAuliffe to “make substantial edits” to the conference report that passed the General Assembly just before it adjourned. Del. Simon said in a press release, “We were told that the bill that is now on the governor’s desk, while imperfect, was an improvement over existing law. After having time to read the details of the 48-page conference report, I don’t believe that is true.”
Delegates Simon, Ken Plum, Patrick Hope, Sam Rasoul, Scott Surovell and Ron Krupicka put their names to the letter.
“We must do more to address the systematic problems that lead to political corruption,” Del. Rasoul wrote. “Voters want lawmakers that can be trusted, and who face consequences when they engage in unethical behavior. Instead of plugging the leaks in the boat of ethics reform, we are simply using a slightly bigger bucket to bail out the corruption year after year. We need to fix it once and for all.”
At the McLean town hall meeting Saturday, Del. Simon was joined by fellow Democrats Sen. Janet Howell, Del. Rip Sullivan, Del. Mark Keam, Del. Kathleen Murphy and Sen. Barbara Favola.
They all described their successes and frustrations during the just-ended 45 day “short” Richmond legislative session. Del. Simon said he was one of the few to vote against the final budget bill because it did not include money for the Medicaid expansion that was once again blocked in the house.
The contingent included new legislators – Del. Murphy and Del. Sullivan – and one second-year “veteran,” Del. Simon. Sen. Howell quipped that all her colleagues in the event had combined tenures “slightly more than half of mine,” having been in the State Senate 24 years.
“We messed up the ethics bill by adjourning a day early, in accordance with the Republican leadership,” she said. Given there was no time to address its contents “because of an artificial deadline,” she said, the product was “not a good resolution, and has been savaged by the press.”
The frustration over the inability to bring Medicaid expansion to the state as 29 other states have, she and Del. Simon noted, has already led to one hospital closing in an area of the state that needs it the most, and another five hospitals may soon follow suit.
But Howell remains committed to “making a difference in people’s lives,” adding that “to serve in Richmond you have to be an incrementalist.”
Sen. Favola said in her fourth year in Richmond, she was frustrated in her pushes for day care regulation and health care expansion, but felt that her bill on campus rape was effective, taking into account the wishes of female students on campuses seeking to “get the support for survivors in traumatic situations.”
Rather than requiring police to be called in right away, she said, the bill that passed includes law enforcement to be on an initial investigative team and the identity of victims is kept confidential.
“I believe we struck the correct balance,” she said.
Otherwise, in addition to facing blocks on health care expansion at the committee levels, the biggest frustration was the inability to overcome gun lobby influence. It went so far this session as to cause a bill preventing someone convicted of sexual assault and stalking from buying a gun for a year to die in a house committee.
This November, attendees at the town hall were reminded, every state delegate and senate seat is up for election.