The General Assembly reconvened for the annual “Veto Session” last week on Wednesday, April 3. It was a long day of deliberations that went into the evening. While there were some bills and budget items that I wish had different outcomes, we did sustain all of Governor Northam’s vetoes of harmful and unnecessary legislation and agreed to many amendments which strengthened and clarified legislation passed during the General Session.
The Governor made a clarifying amendment to my bill, HB 2263, which I spoke to, and it passed with bipartisan support. It modifies the Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians Procedural Guarantee Act by stating that if a breach in procedure occurs, evidence obtained shall be excluded from any administrative hearing against the individual. This bill protects the rights of firefighters and EMTs subjected to interrogation that could lead to disciplinary action.
Also, Governor Northam amended legislation that would have excluded state employees who are foster parents from receiving paid family leave. The House of Delegates voted unanimously in favor of this fix which will serve to protect paid family leave for foster parents and allow them the necessary time to develop bonds with their foster children, who have often come from difficult circumstances with their birth families, to help them adapt to their new home life. Also, I was proud to support providing temporary relief from legal penalties due to late mortgage or late rent payments for Virginians furloughed during the Federal government shutdown earlier this year. This measure was overwhelmingly agreed to and goes into effect immediately as it passed as emergency legislation. The House also approved adding an additional $4 million to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which helps to provide affordable housing in the Commonwealth. We voted to establish a workgroup to evaluate options regarding prohibiting the practice of balance billing or “surprise billing” by out-of-network health care providers for emergency services rendered. The workgroup will also establish what is equitable and fair reimbursement for health care providers.
Increased important transportation funding and safety improvements were also agreed to by both bodies for the I-81, I-64, and I-95 corridors. Additionally, $20 million in funding was secured for the Northern Virginia Transportation Fund which lost money last year with the Metro funding bill.
We sustained all of Governor Northam’s 17 vetoes. Just to mention one that the Governor vetoed, HB 2764 placed an unnecessary requirement on those facilitating or participating in voter registration drives. Including those individuals' information on the actual voter registration application could have led to denied or delayed applications, and would have created yet another barrier to voting access. Virginia law already requires an individual or a group assisting individuals with voter registration applications to provide their name and contact information to the applicant via a receipt on the voter registration form.
Later this summer, we will gather in Jamestown to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly in the western hemisphere. The current members of the General Assembly will be joined by former members and state legislatures nationwide, as well as the public, to celebrate the birthplace of American democracy. It has been an honor to represent you in Richmond during this historic 400th year.