The Governor’s constitutional deadline to act on legislation is 11:59pm on March 27, or 30 days following the adjournment of the regular session. During this period, the Governor reviews legislation with his policy staff. He then has a choice whether to recommend amendments to the bills, veto them, sign them, or take no action. Interestingly, in Virginia, a Governor does not have to sign a bill in order for it to go into effect. Therefore, “taking no action” on a bill is de facto approval.
In Virginia, the Governor also has line-item veto power, meaning he can strike and amend portions of a bill without rejecting a bill outright. This ability certainly has its benefits and drawbacks. Bills with emergency clauses go into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature. From my calculations, 10 such emergency bills passed this year, and the Governor has already signed one, SB 882 patroned by Sen. Janet Howell related to amending Virginia’s tax code. The rest will go into effect on July 1 of this year unless otherwise specified. A positive aspect is that this gives everyone one last chance to get it right, so to speak, so that if there are any edits necessary to make the bill even better or more effective, this is a final opportunity to make it happen.
During the reconvene session, the General Assembly can override a Governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote. If both chambers override the Governor's veto, the bill shall become law without his signature. If either chamber fails to override the Governor's veto, the veto shall stand and the bill shall not become law and it is done.
When the Governor amends a bill, if both chambers agree by a majority vote to the Governor's entire recommendation, the bill, as amended, shall become law. If the amendments are only agreed to in part by both chambers, the bill shall be reenrolled with the Governor's amendments agreed to by both chambers and shall be returned to the Governor. The Governor then can either sign or veto the bill returned to him. If the Governor vetoes the bill, the veto shall stand and the bill will not become law.
If both chambers reject all amendments by a two-thirds vote, the original bill becomes law.
If the Governor takes no action on the bill within thirty days after the adjournment of the reconvened session, the bill shall become law without his signature.
As I write this column, only three bills have been signed by the Governor, but I doubt that many of the 867 bills will be vetoed or amended since they already passed both chambers of the General Assembly, a Republican-led House, and a Democratic-led Senate. You can follow along as bills are signed into law here: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?231+lst+APP. This will certainly be a busy next two weeks for the Governor’s staff.
In addition to bills, budget negotiations continue among budget conferees. I have done my part in advocating for funding most important to our community and other critical funding measures introduced by my colleagues.