Commentary: Returning to Richmond for ‘Veto Session’

Commentary: Returning to Richmond for ‘Veto Session’

Next week I will join my General Assembly colleagues at the Capitol for the 2017 Reconvened Session, also known as the “Veto Session.” According to the Rules of the House, the purpose of the Reconvened Session is to “specifically, and exclusively,” consider only the Governor’s recommendations to amend, and vetoes to, the legislation we passed during the 2017 Regular Session.

He had until March 27 to complete his review and return all bills to the Clerk of House, who serves as the Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth.

Gov. McAuliffe signed 757 bills into law, which is 86 percent of the 880 bills we passed. So, we have one day to act on the rest of the legislation during the Reconvened Session on April 5. The Governor vetoed 26 bills, one of which was acted upon during the 2017 Regular Session. He also made 36 recommendations, including a budget amendment to expand Medicaid to extend affordable health care to over 460,000 Virginians. About 15,000 of those Virginians are veterans.

The Governor also vetoed 14 Senate bills and amended 31 bills. The House will consider these bills only if the Senate votes to override the Governor, or in the case of the recommendations, the House will act on the Senate bills provided that the Senate agrees to the Governor’s recommendations.

It will be a long, but important, day because the Governor and his staff invested significant time analyzing this legislation before making decisions to veto or recommend changes. Many of the vetoed bills were hyper-partisan “brochure bills,” passed knowing the Governor will veto and thus they will never become law, but they serve their purpose as political fodder for the conservative base.

A good example of this would be the bill to reinstate costly and ineffective coal tax credits. A 2012 JLARC study found that the decline of coal production, which these tax credits are intended to slow down, was the same or even faster than was predicted before the credits were created. There are now only 2,483 coal miners and as the Governor pointed out “It would be unwise to spend additional taxpayer dollars on a tax credit that has fallen so short of its intended effectiveness.”

Gov. McAuliffe also vetoed legislation requiring photo IDs for absentee voting, defunding Planned Parenthood and establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which would take taxpayer money and create a slush fund for parents who take kids out of public schools. ESAs are particularly offensive because it is the equivalent of requesting taxpayer funding because you want your family to use a country club instead of a public park.

One bill that did pass despite efforts to request the Governor amend or even veto the legislation, enables local regulation of short-term rentals such as Airbnb. I know that many of my constituents worked hard to pass this bill, a compromise between Airbnb, the hospitality industry and concerned citizens.

The legislation authorizes local government to adopt ordinances requiring people to register with the locality if they want to rent their property for short-term rental. The registries enable our county, if it chooses, to collect the information needed to regulate and tax these rentals appropriately. There is also a provision in the law to impose a fine of up to $500 on those who fail to register or comply with the law. Moreover, if they serve alcoholic beverages to guests, they now must obtain a bed-and-breakfast ABC license.

I voted for this legislation. I thank the Governor for signing the bill and for recognizing the importance of establishing an avenue for local government to protect our communities via reasonable regulation of this growing on-line short-term rental movement. I have had concerns that without this kind of regulation, some of our neighborhoods could be faced with traffic, noise, and safety concerns from a constant churn of daily renters.