On Wednesday, the General Assembly met for close to eight hours in Richmond for our constitutionally required Reconvene Session. The lengthy day was separate from the ongoing Special Session wherein legislators are seeking to finish work on the state budget.
In today’s e-newsletter, I’ll highlight what exactly a Reconvene Session is and just a few of the major items we voted on.
What Is Reconvene Session?
When a bill is passed in Virginia, the Governor can a) sign the bill into law, b) veto the bill, or c) propose amendments to the bill. Vetoes can be overridden by a ⅔ vote of both the House and Senate. Governor’s amendments can be adopted by a simple majority in each chamber before the amended bill is returned to the Governor for signature.
As required by Article IV, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia, the Reconvene Session gives us the opportunity to consider both vetoes and amendments. Legislators cannot amend one of the Governor’s proposed amendments, nor are we able to introduce new legislation. As mentioned earlier, the Reconvene Session is separate and different from the ongoing Special Session.
It is very important to note that the House and Senate do not see all of the vetoes and amendments. If a bill is vetoed or amended, it first returns to its chamber of origin for consideration. If the veto is not overridden or the amendment(s) are not adopted, the bill does not go to the other chamber for consideration. The other chamber only sees the bill if the veto is overridden or the amendment is adopted.
What was on the table?
Governor Youngkin vetoed 28 bills and made amendments to around 120 pieces of legislation. Many of those amendments were technical in nature, meaning they fixed an actual or perceived error in the bill’s language.
Some amendments, of course, are more substantial. Several notable amendments include the following:
- House Bill 4 as passed by the General Assembly would require administrators to report crimes occurring in schools to law enforcement. This bill was necessary after reports surfaced of Loudoun County Public School administrators attempting to cover up a sexual assault that occurred in school. The amendments adopted by the House and Senate to HB4 will address concerns that the new law could inadvertently result in students with disabilities being reported to law enforcement for incidents that were not truly threats.
- As passed, House Bill 158 puts much needed limits on the Governor’s emergency powers while still permitting him to act decisively in a true emergency. As amended, the Governor can declare three successive 30 day states of emergency, totalling 90 days. If an emergency lasts beyond 90 days, the General Assembly can convene during the second or third 30 day period to extend the state of emergency. The amendments also include necessary language that ensures Virginia can still apply for federal disaster funding after the state of emergency ends.
- House Bill 384 was amended to more closely align with the bills original intent. As amended, it guarantees local employees the right to free speech. A recent case in Loudoun County resulted in a gym teacher being suspended for speaking out against a proposed school board policy.
Virginia still has not passed a budget. While there is still time left before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st, it is imperative that we get the job done before the deadline. House and Senate budget conferees are continuing to work out the differences between the two proposals. I am hopeful that we can return to Richmond in the near future to review and vote upon their final product. There will likely be another Reconvene Session after the budget is passed so that we can consider any amendments to the budget bill proposed by Governor Youngkin.
As always, it is an honor to represent you and your family in the Virginia House of Delegates. If I can assist you with a state related matter, please send me an email at DelMCherry@house.virginia.gov or call my office at (804) 946-1221.