Commentary: Successes in the Final Session

Commentary: Successes in the Final Session

On April 3, 2017, the General Assembly met in Richmond to consider the Governor’s amendments to and vetoes of various bills. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed 40 bills, a one-year record in Virginia. All of his vetoes were upheld.

The Governor vetoed legislation requiring local governments to pay damages caused by undocumented immigrants in their locality, legislation requiring reports of resettled refugees, a bill prohibiting “sanctuary cities” from receiving state funds and bills requiring Virginia sheriffs to hold people without legal justification.

He vetoed bills requiring identification to vote early by mail, allowing protective order subjects to carry concealed weapons and to be given weapons training information and allowing Virginians to carry concealed switchblades. He also rejected bills that would prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to pay employees living wages, bills to expand charter schools in Virginia and numerous other bills designed to limit voting.

The legislature agreed to the Governor’s amendments to my bill requiring further assessment of coal ash pond closures and imposing a 13-month moratorium on pond closures. This moratorium will allow Virginians to get complete information on existing pollution, future pollution prevention, recycling of coal ash and closure options before we begin the process of spending over $1 billion dollars to control coal ash pollution, costs that would likely eventually be paid by ratepayers.

I also was able to stop the Governor’s unsound amendments to two of my bills. First, I introduced legislation that would give next of kin access to police records of unattended deaths. Examples are when someone commits suicide, is in a car accident or dies of natural causes outside of a medical facility. Law enforcement mounted a last minute challenge to my bill after both houses passed it unanimously, but the amendments died in the Senate after a tie vote was broken by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.

Finally, the Governor’s amendments to my bill to require the city of Alexandria to stop discharging raw sewage into the Potomac River was again debated. The bill approved by the legislature in February gave the city eight years to fix the problem, but city officials convinced Gov. McAuliffe to propose an additional four years, which in essence is permission to discharge another 600 million gallons of untreated sewage. I thought eight years was enough and legislators rejected the Governor’s amendments on a bipartisan vote.

It is an honor to serve as your State Senator. If you have any questions, I can be reached at