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Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s deadline amendments rewrite, overhaul bills

Gov. Youngkin gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives remarks following a bill signing ceremony on Monday, March 25, 2024 at Virginia Executive Mansion in Richmond.

The General Assembly will consider his recommendations and vetoes on April 17.

Facing a legislature controlled by Democrats, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has taken an active approach in exercising his powers to suggest amendments to legislation, after the Republican issued a record number of vetoes and an unprecedented number of budget amendments.

The number of bills Youngkin amended in his last batch of actions was not provided to VPM News. A statement sent out late Monday night from the governor's team said he had amended 116 bills in total for the 2024 legislative session.

The amendments in the last batch include those on access to contraception, “skill games,” Virginia Indian tribes and the commonwealth’s relationship with its racist past.

The General Assembly will consider Youngkin’s recommendations and vetoes on April 17. They’ll need a two-thirds majority to override any of his vetoes, and a simple majority to reject or accept his amendments. Youngkin will then be able to veto any bills with his recommendations that legislators rejected.

In an emailed statement Monday night, Youngkin said everything he signed was bipartisan.

“Where there are differences in our approaches, I hope my amendments reflect the common ground we can find together,” the statement read.

Youngkin sought to rewrite at least two bills entirely.

One, from state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D–Chesterfield) and Del. Cia Price (D–Newport News) would have guaranteed a right to obtain and use contraception. Youngkin’s substitute bill would define the law in relation to two U.S. Supreme Court cases that found married and unmarried couples have the right to obtain contraceptives.

Youngkin also recommended a substitute on a bill to cap the cost of court-appointed counsel or public defender representation. The substitute retains current law that requires those convicted of a crime to pay for a public defender after being found to be unable to, according to Abbey Philips, the policy director at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

The governor proposed an extensive rewrite to a bill regulating “skill games,” gaming devices that resemble slot machines.

Youngkin’s recommendation would swap out all but the header of the 27-page bill. It would also give localities the opportunity to ban skill games, a higher tax rate on the games’ profits and more restrictions on where they can operate.

Youngkin also requested amendments on a bill requiring the state to consult with Virginia Indian tribes on projects with environmental, cultural or historical impacts. Youngkin removed language that would require the tribes’ permission before exhuming native remains.

Many of the governor’s amendments delay action on a number of bills, requiring them to pass again in the 2025 legislative session, while ordering studies on the topics at hand.

He also asked the General Assembly to delay action on the state’s relationship to racist imagery until next year and further study the issues in the interim.

Bills that would remove the authorization for two license plates with Confederate imagery would be studied by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Bills that would remove a tax exemption for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization responsible for erecting many of the state’s Confederate monuments, would also require studies.

Another study Youngkin is recommending would have the Virginia Code Commission work with the Office of the Attorney General to study the use of the term “alien” in state law. Del. Alfonso Lopez’s (D–Arlington) legislation would have replaced instances of the term “alien” in the code directly with synonymous language.

Another amendment would require a 2025 vote on a bill to set up the “Virginia Clean Energy Innovation Bank” that would facilitate low-interest loans and receive financing from the Inflation Reduction Act, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D–Fairfax).

Two other suggestions Youngkin made to two energy bills would remove one incentive ona bill encouraging solar use, and require present-day benefits to outweigh costs on energy efficiency programs.

The governor also proposed changes to bills regulating vapes and other nicotine products with some technical amendments, changed enforcement and a delayed start to a short list of which companies’ devices can be sold in Virginia.

Looking for Monday's vetoes and signatures? Click here.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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