From VA Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw:
“Do no harm” is a mantra that all public officials should embrace. This is especially true if you have been elected the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. On January 15, Glenn Youngkin came to town espousing a mission to unite, rather than divide, Virginians. We are still waiting to see that unifying leadership come forward.
Governor Youngkin showed his hand when he chose to veto 25 bills exclusively authored by Democrats that had matching companions in the House of Delegates (LIS amended and vetoed bill list). It’s a rather rare occurrence for a Governor to veto a companion bill that had unanimous bipartisan support in both legislative chambers. But that’s what happened to many of the measures Sen. Ebbin shepherded through the General Assembly. This retaliatory action was messaging related to the ongoing dispute that started with the rejection of Andrew Wheeler’s appointment.
Always smiling for the photo op, Gov. Youngkin’s behavior is often petty and now appears to be vindictive. These strategies belie the hallow words of uniting Virginia. Sadly, it is unclear if he is positioning himself for the next national race and/or trying to emulate the Mitch McConnell or Ron DeSantis playbook for dysfunctional government. In any case, punitive and petty is not the Virginia way. More than 8 million Virginians are counting on having an adult in the room when finalizing public policy.
Long into the 11th hour while reviewing the hundreds of bills before him, Governor Youngkin chose to amend another 100 bills (see LIS link above). HB 1138 (passed unanimously by the HoD and Senate w/one abstaining vote) is the vehicle he is using to undermine the democratic process for suggesting a change in the terms of office for the Loudoun County School Board. It is an overt action to placate individuals that were unsuccessful with a recall, but feel entitled to change the board’s composition before legitimate terms expire. Other than the obvious reason to reject this action, laying the foundation for chaos rather than continuity should disqualify any public policy rewrites.
The extensive list of proposed amendments can be found here. This will make for a long Reconvene Session on April 27. Amendments must pass both legislative chambers by a simple majority.
On April 16, we commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. That day the lives of 32 victims tragically ended. The effects of the violence reverberated to families, friends, and spanned the globe. Key issues like gun violence prevention and mental health came on to the radar of policymakers not only in Commonwealth but across the U.S.
During the 2020 & 2021 General Assemblies, we made great strides addressing the issue often at odds with 2nd Amendment proponents. Let me be clear… domestic violence, random shootings in our urban areas, and the slaughtering of children in their classrooms are real and should not be confused as a threat to legitimate gun owners. Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands is a public safety matter.
SB 487 is an important bill that creates the Virginia Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention within DCJS. The purpose is to help support and improve local responses to rising gun violence in all its forms. An investment of $27.4 million to fund the initiative is included in the outstanding biennial budget. The bill has been carried over to the 2022 Special Session and is currently in conference.
Work on the proposed spending plan continues. It has been a slow process that again reflects this governor’s lack of long-term vision. While he is promoting tax reform, we also have long-overdue investments needed in other areas such as mental health — an issue that increasingly affects our youth and also relates to drug abuse. Additionally, thousands of individuals remain on a developmental disability waitlist. Many of these vulnerable Virginians are being cared for by aging family members.
As we go into the spring months, it is time to stop the campaign rhetoric. Our economy continues to grow and that’s a good news story. Once again, more businesses invested in VA and are creating jobs that need to be filled. Virginia now has a 3% unemployment rate. In 2021, the General Assembly passed my bill SB 1405, establishing the G3 initiative. The G3 credential programs are producing the talent we need in our workforce. But it takes funding to produce the workforce pipeline for the future. The proposed Senate budget includes funding for paid internships as well.
We head back to Richmond on April 27 to act on the Governor’s proposed amendments to bills and his vetoes. Several bills left in conference in the Special Session have already been worked out and we are likely to take those up while we are in town. The process is similar – the Governor will have seven days to act on those measures passed by the Legislature. If we proceed to final adjournment of the Special Session, there will be another Reconvene Session six weeks later.
You may continue to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be safe and be well,
Senator Dick Saslaw