The 2017 General Assembly Session was Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s final as Governor. In Virginia the Governor is not allowed to run for reelection. As the deadline for final action on all bills passed earlier this month, he set a record for the most Vetoes ever, acting as a brick wall against bills that would have threatened Virginia’s reputation as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
The Governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the Virginia Department of Health from entering contracts or providing funds to any entity that performs non-federally qualified abortions. Aimed solely at Planned Parenthood, this legislation would have hurt tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs they provide, denying accessible, affordable care to those who need it most. Virginians, and particularly low-income Virginians, need more access to health care, not less.
Keeping Virginians Safe
The Republican majority in the House of Delegates is working on two tracks to allow any Virginian to carry a concealed handgun anywhere they may go. One track is with a bill that says exactly that. The second, more subtle approach, is to systematically and incrementally limit the places where weapons may be prohibited.
This year the Governor vetoed bills that would have prevented the State Police or National Guard from stopping people from carrying their personal firearms into emergency shelters during natural disasters, would have allowed 18, 19 and 20 year olds to obtain concealed carry permits, and would have allowed anyone with a military ID to carry concealed with no permit at all. He also vetoed bills that would have allowed people to conceal and carry switchblade knives and to allow them to furnish such knives to children.
Protecting the Vote
Voting rights and the ability to participate in the election process seem to be under constant siege in the General Assembly. Members of the majority party frequently introduce bills aimed at alleged voter fraud prevention, which have the real-life impact of creating unnecessary obstacles to voting.
The Governor vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to remove voters from the rolls improperly, and forcing people to submit copies of photo identification when seeking to vote absentee by mail, burdening voters who don’t have ready access to a photo-copiers or scanners and printers. This seems particularly unhelpful and unnecessary since the person receiving the ID copy would have nothing with which to compare it.
Equality for All Virginians
I spoke out against on the floor of the House several times this session in opposition to legislation that would have provided a shield from civil liability to those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples.
Although couched as a “religious freedom” bill, the bill was nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize. The Governor, in his veto statement, mentioned something I pointed out in my remarks and in the press: any legitimate protections afforded by the bill would be duplicative of the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia; and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The additional so-called protections were styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint — that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman — over all other viewpoints.
Businesses won’t do business in states that pass laws demonizing same-sex couples. This bill would have damaged Virginia’s reputation and severely hindered our efforts to create the new Virginia economy. We don’t have to look far to see the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill would have done to the Commonwealth.
What It All Means
What the last four years and this session in particular demonstrate is that it’s essential we continue to have a Governor who is willing to stand up to a legislature that seems more than comfortable interfering in decisions that ought to be between a woman and her doctor, that believes more guns in more places held by more people is a good thing, and that is willing to deprive people of the right to vote to protect their own seats.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]