Commentary: Finishing State Legislature’s Work

Commentary: Finishing State Legislature’s Work

The General Assembly is reconvening to vote on Governor Northam’s vetoes and amendments to its 2018 legislation.

This year, Northam vetoed 10 bills, including a bill that would prohibit sanctuary cities and force local police to do the job of federal immigration officers. He also vetoed legislation that would prohibit Virginia’s participation in a regional carbon cap-and-trade program, a bill to prohibit localities from adopting local minimum wage ordinances, and a bill that would make it so Army Navy Country Club would owe nearly no taxes.

You can find a full accounting of his vetoes in a number of articles online. It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a veto. Democrats hold enough seats in each chamber to prevent any overrides.

The Governor also made several amendments to bills, including a measure to make sure Virginia fully funds its commitment to WMATA in a way that does not reallocate scarce and needed funds from local transportation projects like Route 1 widening.

Governor Northam made 32 recommendations to House legislation and 21 recommendations to Senate legislation. Those plus the Governor’s 10 vetoes make 63 total actions on which the the General Assembly must vote.

Approving Governor’s recommendations is a little trickier, because those votes require a simple majority for action. As Democrats are two votes shy of a majority in both chambers, the Governor had to be modest and effective in his recommendations. The House has decided that it will only debate actions that fail in the Senate, assenting to the rest pro-forma with the official proceedings only a matter of formality.

The consensus on the WMATA amendments is to support the Governor’s amendments, but I want to take the opportunity to register my disappointment that the Governor did not strip anti-worker language prohibiting a Project Labor Agreement on the project in the enactment clause.

I’ve written extensively on the benefits of PLAs before and I find it extremely disappointing that the Governor left this divisive and extreme anti-worker provision in the bill. However, as this is a bill that lasts for 10 years and the Governor needed to get 51 votes, I will support the Governor’s actions. However, if Democrats ever take a majority of both chambers, I will be fixing this bill along with any other anti-worker legislation that disadvantages hard-working members of my community and communities across the Commonwealth.

On a positive note, the Governor also amended the budget to include specific anti-gerrymandering language to a redistricting bill that passed the General Assembly this session. This means that the anti-gerrymandering language will get an up-or-down vote on the floor of both the House and Senate. I have long been a supporter of nonpartisan redistricting and look forward to supporting this measure. This will also be an opportunity to get members of the General Assembly on record about fair redistricting policies and look forward to seeing where my colleagues on both sides of the aisle really stand.

As always it’s a pleasure to represent you in Richmond. Do not hesitate to send me an email telling me your thoughts on legislation before me. You may reach me at