Relatively few vetoes reflect McDonnell’s success

Matt Birch

Capital News Service

Gov. Bob McDonnell ended up vetoing five of the nearly 900 bills that cleared the General Assembly this session.
He announced today that he has rejected two identical measures – Senate Bill 771 and House Bill 1459 – that sought to raise the medical malpractice cap in Virginia to $3 million from the current $2 million. Last week, McDonnell vetoed Senate Bill 996, which would have required schools to provide at least 150 minutes of physical education per week.
McDonnell also vetoed SB 1119, which would have increased civil penalties imposed by the state Department of Environmental Quality, and HB 1738, which would have imposed a fine for failure to report certain water withdrawal violations.
The governor also recommended changes in 134 other bills passed by legislators during the session that ended Feb. 27. The changes include modifying HB 2467 and SB 1062, the legislation mandating coverage of autism in health insurance plans offered in Virginia. McDonnell’s edits would require prior authorization of services and allow for an independent assessment of the child’s treatment plan.
Legislators will reconvene in the Capitol on Wednesday [April 6] to vote on the governor’s actions. They also will consider McDonnell’s proposed budget amendments, which would put more money into law enforcement and the state employees’ retirement system and eliminate taxpayer funding for public broadcasting.
The relatively light agenda for the “reconvened session” may reflect McDonnell’s bipartisan success in dealing with lawmakers. During the assembly’s 2011 session, the first Republican governor in eight years worked cooperatively with the Democratic-led Senate as well as the GOP-controlled House.
McDonnell said that the 47-day session was productive and that 92 percent of his legislative agenda passed.
“In just six productive weeks, the General Assembly has worked diligently to pass, in a strong bipartisan manner, legislation that will greatly improve Virginia’s transportation system, increase access to higher education, streamline and reform government, and help grow opportunities in our economy,” he said in a statement.
Since the session adjourned, McDonnell has been scrutinizing the legislation that emerged from the General Assembly.
He has signed into law the vast majority of bills. They range from House Bill 2040 and Senate Bill 1109, which will allow inmates to maintain Virginia’s 41 interstate-highway rest stops; to SB 924, which will impose stricter standards on clinics that perform first-trimester abortions.
McDonnell offered minor amendments to the bills (HB 2527 and SB 1446) that make up his transportation plan, which will pump $4 billion into financing roads, bridges and rail projects across the commonwealth over the next three years. It will be Virginia’s largest infusion of cash for transportation in a generation.
Although most of his legislative agenda passed, the session wasn’t a complete success for McDonnell.
One of his most prominent issues, an attempt to privatize state-run liquor stores, was derailed. The governor proposed a couple of privatization bills; they died after lawmakers in both parties raised objections.
Delegate Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, says McDonnell may try to resurrect the ABC privatization issue during next year’s session. But to win over legislators, any plan would have to be substantially different from this year’s proposal, Surovell said.
“The governor would be better off taking this in small steps with pilot programs instead of a wholesale change,” Surovell said.

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