The Legislature will reconvene on April 15 to review the actions taken by Governor McAuliffe on all bills passed during the General Assembly. Despite it being what is referred to as the “short session,” (45 days), legislators from across the Commonwealth introduced 1,919 bills and 857 resolutions on a myriad of topics. When we adjourned on February 27 very late in the day, the Governor had over 800 pieces of legislation to review. At that point, the Governor can sign a bill into law, amend or veto it.
Last week I attended the budget bill signing ceremony. It was a special occasion not seen in several decades – Governor McAuliffe signed the measure without any amendments. Highlights of the budget include getting some of our deputy sheriffs off of food stamps with a pay raise as well as finally giving state employees an increase in their compensation unseen for over eight years. The bill itself was over 500 pages and fully vetted by both the Senate and House of Delegates during the regular session. Additionally, any differences were worked out by the budget conferees from both chambers. A combination of stronger revenue projections, identified savings and an additional one-time windfall from the unclaimed property sales helped to close out the budget. Bear in mind we will be at this again in 2016 when a new biennial budget will be before the legislature.
We did see a number of bills make their way to the Governor and recognized that it’s a time like this when a veto pen can be a friend. In all, 17 bills have been vetoed. I intend to support these efforts and will lead the floor fight to ensure things like a law requiring a photo ID to be sent in when requesting an absentee ballot; interminable efforts to continue redistricting the state against even less competitive districts; as well as the transfer of machine guns to individuals. Another bill allowing home-schooled students to participate on public school athletic teams will be vetoed. This is one that I have consistently opposed particularly since there doesn’t appear to be any shortage of public school students trying to make their varsity squads.
The Governor has amended another 67 bills. The legislators will accept most of these. However, there is no doubt that it will be a very long day we spend at the Capital in a few weeks.
I look forward to seeing you in the community over the coming months. Please continue to support out local businesses and enjoy the Spring weather as we wait for those dog days of summer. Feel free to contact me on any matters of concern.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]