Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

Having left Richmond after approving the Budget, House and Senate members are planning to return to Richmond on April 23 for the annual “Reconvened” or “Veto” session.

This year the April session is a week late because the regular session adjourned a week late. Nevertheless it should be a short session. There are fewer bills for the Governor to consider after the adjournment of the regular session than I can remember.

The reason for the short agenda on April 23 is that the House in particular handled its bills more rapidly than usual. As a result the Senate also finished its work more quickly.

The Constitution requires that any bill considered in regular session and sent to the Governor more than seven days before the official end of the session must be acted upon by the Governor before the Assembly adjourns.

Therefore, several hundred bills normally reviewed by the Governor after adjournment were acted upon before we left Richmond. Those bills included three bills vetoed by the Governor. He vetoed bills allowing guns in restaurants (Senator Hanger) and in the glove compartment of one’s vehicle (Senator Vogel). In addition, he vetoed expansion of the death penalty.

The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote by each house to override a veto.

None of the Governor’s vetoes were overridden although the House did vote to override a veto death penalty expansion introduced by Delegate Gilbert of Shenandoah County. The other two bills did not reach the House because the Senate voted against overriding the two gun bills.

New rule

For the first time, the House, on a party-line vote, limited the number of bills that can be introduced by any member to 15. The Senate did not adopt a similar limitation. While this year and last I introduced fewer than 15 bills, along with most Democrats, I voted against an arbitrary limit.

 Remaining to consider are bills to finance higher education classroom and research facilities in public colleges and universities. The Governor suggested a six-year $1.5 billion general obligation bond package to be voted on in November. Delegate Hamilton of Newport News and Senator Colgan of Prince William County introduced bills incorporating the Governor’s recommendations.

Delegate Putney of Bedford introduced a bill calling for a similar amount of state funding without a referendum. George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College will benefit greatly from either package.

House and Senate Conferees are now at work to create a package agreeable to all parties. I am optimistic that the differences will be worked out

That leaves transportation. The House and Senate Democrats are convinced that we should pass revenue packages large enough to address regional and statewide needs. House Republicans have been opposed to taxes to address

Northern Virginia’s $750 million need for the foreseeable future. That need was made more crucial because of the recent announcement by Secretary Homer that VDOT’six-year plan will have to be cut by more than $1 billion to account for increasing maintenance costs and inflation.

The Governor is actively promoting a revenue package that would, for the first time in more than 20 years, result in enough funding to deal with inflation and adequately fund transit and road improvements.  The major obstacle to overcome is House Republican opposition to any sustainable and substantial source(s) that will address rural needs as well as urban/suburban ones. I am hopeful, but not confident, that agreement can be reached that will persuade 15-20 House Republicans of the 100 members to vote with the Governor and House and Senate Democrats.  

 

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