Virginia Lawmakers Take Up Youngkin Vetoes, Amendments

Virginia lawmakers reconvened in Richmond on Wednesday for a one-day session to consider Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's vetoes and proposed amendments to a wide range of legislation.

The divided General Assembly faced a full calendar with amendments — some technical, some controversial — to over 100 bills, in addition to the governor's 26 vetoes.

House Democrats started the day by dealing with a dose of internal caucus strife, voting to remove their leader, Eileen Filler-Corn, months after an unsuccessful election cycle that saw the party lose full control of the state government. Members said they did not immediately select a new leader.

Both chambers then convened around noon. One of the key measures awaiting debate dealt with hemp regulations and attempts to rein in the retail sales of products containing delta-8, a psychoactive form of THC.

Youngkin’s amendments, which both chambers would have to approve, would prohibit the retail sale of products containing synthetic delta-8 as of Oct. 1.

His proposed changes would also create two new intermediate misdemeanor penalties for possession of marijuana. Those changes likely mean the measure faces an uphill climb in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where members have pushed in recent years to end penalties for using and possessing the drug, which state figures showed were being disproportionately enforced against Black Virginians.

Lawmakers were also to consider Youngkin's amendments to a measure that took aim at Loudoun County Public Schools, a suburban Washington district that has drawn outsized attention for controversies over curriculum debates, COVID-19 policies and the district’s handling of two sexual assaults.

The governor’s proposed amendments to a Democratic legislator’s bill that dealt with the staggering of school board terms would force the entire board to face election this fall.

As for Youngkin's vetoes — all of which targeted Democratic bills — override votes were seen as unlikely, given it would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Lawmakers also kicked off a special session earlier this month focused on ending a budget stalemate. Instead of opting to extend their regular session as the deadline approached in mid-March, the assembly opted to carry the matter over, along with dozens of other unfinished bills.

Budget negotiators have held sporadic talks since then, but still don't have a deal to consider.

Only one special session matter was to be taken up Wednesday. On a bipartisan vote, a Senate committee defeated legislation the governor requested that would roll back the gas tax, then gradually restore it after the three-month holiday. A House version of the measure is still alive but would almost certainly meet the same fate once sent to the Senate.

In brief remarks to reporters, Youngkin said he was disappointed.

Action was also planned Wednesday outside the Capitol, where organizers said they were expecting a crowd in the thousands for the 4th annual Virginia March for Life. Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears was among the scheduled speakers, and Youngkin was scheduled to attend, according to his spokeswoman.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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