The Virginia General Assembly will be back in session next week to reconsider a handful of bills that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed or amended over the past month.
McAuliffe vetoed 17 bills, six of which involved changes to legislative districts, and proposed amendments to about 50 other bills.
“The bills that I vetoed this year sought changes in law that I viewed to be counterproductive to the economic and social progress we need to better serve Virginia families,” McAuliffe said in a news release. “From drawing legislative lines outside of the constitutional process, to loosening Virginia gun laws and unnecessarily disrupting the ability of law enforcement and the Virginia Board of Education to do their jobs, these bills do not make Virginia stronger or more competitive.”
The legislature will return to Richmond for a one-day session April 15 to vote on McAuliffe’s actions.
It takes a two-thirds majority of both the House of Delegates and Senate to override the governor’s veto. The legislature can approve or reject his amendments individually.
In the wake of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction on federal charges related to gifts he received while in office, the General Assembly passed new rules this year restricting the value of gifts lawmakers can receive and establishing stricter disclosure and review policies.
McAuliffe proposed a list of amendments to the legislature’s bill.
“The ethics bill that was sent to my desk represented a significant step forward, but it was not perfect,” he said in a news release. “While my amendments do not make it perfect, they do further strengthen our ethics laws so that Virginians can have greater confidence that their leaders are putting them first.”
The governor said his top priority is changing language regarding the $100 gift limit. Unlike existing law, the language could potentially allow a series of gifts from one person as long as each individual gift was under the $100 cap. McAuliffe’s proposal would create an aggregate $100 cap on gifts from one person.
He also suggested an amendment that would allow semiannual, random audits of lawmakers’ disclosure forms and one that clarifies that major public sporting events such as the Super Bowl are exempt from the gift cap.
Changes to legislative districts
There were six bills approved during the 2015 session that made what were described as “technical adjustments” to the boundaries of House of Delegates and Senate districts, including House districts 42 and 43 in Fairfax County.
McAuliffe vetoed all of them, saying that there are legal questions about adjusting districts outside of the planned 10-year cycle following the decennial U.S. census.
”Furthermore, this bill sets a terrible precedent,” McAuliffe said in his veto statement. “Allowing the legislature to make substantive changes to electoral districts more frequently than once a decade injects further partisanship into a process that I regard as already too partisan.”
All legislative seats are up for election this fall and the bills were largely passed on party line votes.
Other voting regulations
McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would require people voting by absentee ballot to include a copy of a photo ID with their absentee ballot application. People who vote in person now have to show a photo ID, but McAuliffe vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would disenfranchise voters.
He also vetoed a bill that would allow a general registrar to reside in a location outside the locality where they are to serve as registrar. Now, registrars must live in the same locality where they administer elections.
McAuliffe said he had seen no evidence that there has been difficulty recruiting registrars under the current system.
License plate readers
In a proposed amendment, the governor loosened proposed limits on the length of time law enforcement agencies can maintain data collected by license plate readers. License plate readers are devices mounted on a police vehicle that scan license plates of surrounding vehicles and can flag possible infractions.
As passed, the bill required law enforcement agencies to delete captured license plate data within seven days unless a warrant has been issued for that information. McAuliffe’s amendment would extend that to 60 days.
The original bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
Virginia currently sets and develops its own academic standards, and two bills the General Assembly approved during the session set out to ensure that it remains independent.
The bills would prohibit Virginia from adopting Common Core State Standards, which were designed in an attempt to develop national education standards but since have become controversial.
McAuliffe vetoed both bills, despite stating his personal opposition to Virginia adoption of Common Core, saying he doesn’t believe the General Assembly should intervene in the work of the Board of Education.
McAuliffe vetoed two bills related to government contracts.
One would prohibit state contracts for public works projects to include language requiring pay to be based on “prevailing wages and benefits.” McAuliffe said that a prevailing wage requirement is essentially meaningless under current state law, and that such language is necessary for projects that receive federal funding.
The other would prohibit local governments from setting a wage requirement above minimum wage for contractors.
McAuliffe vetoed two bills related to permits that allow people to carry a concealed weapon and another regarding the transfer of restricted weapons.
One would allow people who have a permit to carry a concealed handgun to also carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in their vehicles.
Another bill would have prohibited officials from sharing information from its database of people who have concealed carry permits with law enforcement officers in states that do not reciprocally recognize Virginia concealed carry permits.
The third bill relates to certain weapons, such as machine guns, that require the certification of the local chief law enforcement officer to be transported to that community. The bill would require the chief to provide certification within 60 days.
The governor vetoed the so-called “Tebow bill,” which would allow home-schooled students to participate in sports programs at their local high school.
In the statement explaining his veto, McAuliffe said that it would create an uneven playing field to open high school sports to students who don’t have to meet the academic requirements developed by the Virginia High School league.
To view all of the governor’s proposed amendments, go to http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?151+lst+REC.
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