Home Ralph Northam Will Gov. Northam Veto Any of These Bills? Should He?

Will Gov. Northam Veto Any of These Bills? Should He?

Bills deal with marijuana decriminalization, pet shop regulations, jail death reviews, association health plans, etc.


With the 2020 “Reconvene” session completed, Gov. Northam now has until May 22 to sign or veto the following bills, including five (SB215, SB235, SB251, SB861, HB795) that rejected his amendments, along with three others (SB2, SB891, HB972). See below the screenshot of @VACapitolSquare’s tweet for more information on these bills.

  • SB215: Bill by Sen. David Suetterlein (R), “Provides that the Board of Corrections shall publish, on its website, an annual report summarizing the jail death reviews conducted by the Board within that year,” and passed both the House (96-0) and Senate (39-0) with no opposition back in March. On April 11, Gov. Northam proposed a substitute, which deleted the line, “adopt and promulgate regulations and require the Director and Department to enforce regulations prohibiting the possession of obscene materials, as defined and described in Article 5 (§ 18.2-372 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 18.2, by prisoners incarcerated in state correctional facilities” and replaced it with “report annually on or before December 1 to the General Assembly and the Governor on the results of the inspections and audits of local, regional, or community correctional facilities conducted pursuant to § 53.1-68 and the reviews of the deaths of inmates that occur in any local, regional, or community correctional facility conducted pursuant to § 53.1-69.1″ etc. The amendment was not agreed to, so…will Gov. Northam veto the entire bill?  Seems doubtful that he will veto the bill, and he probably shouldn’t, given that it seems mostly solid and that it passed unanimously back in March – even if it might be better with his suggested changes…
  • SB235: Bill by Sen. George Barker (D), “Provides that for policies of group accident and sickness insurance issued to an association, members of such an association may include (i) a self-employed individual and (ii) an employer member with at least one employee that is domiciled in the Commonwealth,” and passed both the House (93-3) and Senate (40-0) overwhelmingly back in March. Gov. Northam proposed an amendment to require “reenactment” of the bill in the 2021 session in order for it to take effect. The amendment was not agreed to, so…what will Gov. Northam do? I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he vetoes this one, but as for whether or not he *should* veto it, I’ve got mixed feelings. For some more information on “association health plans,” check out this NPR story, which explains: “Federal officials say the new rule would help level the playing field for these businesses, giving the kind of flexibility on benefits and leverage to negotiate with providers that large companies may have…But detractors say the plans may not provide the full protection that workers need, plus the changes likely will drive up costs in the regular individual and small-group markets, where people who need comprehensive coverage would be forced to seek insurance. And they point to ‘the long history of fraud and scams and insolvencies’ for these plans, says Timothy Jost, professor emeritus of law at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.” Given all that, seems to me like letting this sit for another year wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea, although clearly the bill’s sponsor, Del. Chris Hurst (D), disagrees. We’ll see what happens.
  • SB251: Bill by Sen. John Edwards (D), “Provides that no person is authorized to provide pharmacy benefits management services or otherwise act as a pharmacy benefits manager without first obtaining a license from the State Corporation Commission,” and passed both the House (98-0) and Senate (38-2) overwhelmingly back in February. Gov. Northam’s amendment – which was not accepted – changed the word “affiliate” on line 124 to “affiliate’s mail order pharmacy.” So…I don’t know how significant this is, but I find it hard to believe that Gov. Northam will veto the bill over what *seems* to be a pretty small change.
  • SB861: Bill by Sen. Monty Mason (D), “Provides that certain trusts constitute a benefits consortium and are authorized to sell health benefits plans to members of a sponsoring association that (i) has been formed and maintained in good faith for purposes other than obtaining or providing health benefits…” The bill passed the Senate 35-2 back in January, and the House 57-41, with most Democrats voting no. Gov. Northam’s recommended amendment, which was not accepted in the “Reconvene” session, was to put a “reenactment clause” on the bill, requiring it to pass again in 2021 in order to become law. So…my guess is that Gov. Northam will veto the bill, and given the significant House Democratic opposition, it sounds like he probably should do so.
  • HB795: Identical to SB235 – see discussion, above.
  • SB2: Bill by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), “Decriminalizes simple marijuana possession and provides a civil penalty of no more than $25.” The bill passed the Senate 27-12, with mostly right-wing Republicans voting no, and passed the House 57-33, again with mostly right-wing Republicans voting no. Gov. Northam recommended amendments – many of which (#1-#5, #7-#16) were accepted – to make several changes related mostly to motor vehicles. So…seems highly unlikely that Northam will veto this bill, nor that he *should* veto this bill.
  • SB891: Bill by Sen. Dave Marsden (D), “Directs the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt comprehensive regulations governing the keeping of dogs and cats by any pet shop,” passed the House 64-35 and the Senate 29-10 back in March, with mostly right-wing Republicans voting no. Gov. Northam recommended four amendments, three of which were accepted and one of which (#1) was rejected.  For more on that significant screwup, see Flaw in Northam’s amendment foils bid to regulate state’s largest dog-breeding center (“Senators rejected Northam’s amendment 3-36 after the sponsor of the amended bill, Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax County, said the amendment would inadvertently put the Cumberland compound out of business. He said that Northam, when told of the concern, agreed the amendment should be defeated.”).  Still, it seems highly unlikely that Northam will veto the bill, nor should he, but this problem *does* need to be fixed next year!
  • HB972: This bill is identical to SB2…see discussion, above.

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