On April 27, 2022, the Virginia General Assembly met for its annual reconvened session to act on the approximately 100 bills amended and 26 bills vetoed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Several of the bills Youngkin amended contained substantial changes, surprising many General Assembly members. Every bill vetoed by the governor passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support, sometimes with unanimous backing in the House and / or Senate. In a move lacking any recent precedence, six of the bills vetoed, carried by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, had House companion bills that the governor signed without any recommendations. Traditionally, when identical bills arrive at the governor’s desk, he takes identical action on them. Youngkin’s 26 vetoes are the most in a Virginia governor’s first year since Gov. Jim Gilmore’s 37 vetoes in 1998.
All of the governor’s vetoes were sustained. This included a bill that would have created a statute of limitations for collection of medical debt (HB 573) and a bill that would have eliminated the ability for health insurance carriers to vary premium rates based on tobacco use (HB 675 / SB 422).
Most of the governor’s recommendations were adopted. This includes amending HB 763 / SB 403 to remove a tax on electronic gaming conducted by social organizations proposed by the General Assembly. HB 879 would require the governor to appoint members to the Virginia Board of Education with experience in local government, career and technical education, and early childhood education. The recommendations adopted only require the governor to consider appointing members with those qualifications.
HB 1138 as passed, requires a lottery system to establish staggered terms for members of the Loudon County School Board. The governor’s amendments require all members of the school board to run in November.
SB 591 changes the definition of marijuana to address concerns with Delta-8 and regulate candy-like cannabis products. The governor’s substitute substantially changed the bill from a three-page bill to a 30-page bill. The changes include new penalties for personal possession of more than two ounces of marijuana. After a lengthy debate, the bill was referred back to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee and is effectively dead. The governor may introduce a new bill into the special session. After comprehensive marijuana legislation in 2021, the General Assembly failed to pass the necessary legislation this year to establish a retail market in the Commonwealth.
In a shock to many in the General Assembly and the Virginia political world at large, Democratic Delegate Don Scott, former House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman for Outreach, announced that he would challenge Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn for the position of minority leader. He also nominated Delegate Sally Hudson to replace Delegate Charniele Herring as caucus chair and Delegate Dan Helmer to vice chairman for Outreach. Scott, Hudson, and Helmer are all relatively new to the General Assembly, having first been elected in 2019. Filler-Corn, elected to the House in a 2010 special election, served as Speaker of the House when Democrats controlled the chamber following the November 2019 elections. After Republicans retook the chamber in the November 2021 elections, the House Democratic Caucus elected her to be their minority leader.
On April 27, House Democrats chose a secret ballot to vote out Filler-Corn from her position as minority leader but opted to keep Herring as caucus chair. One senior House Democrat, Delegate Mark Sickles, commented that House Democrats will not vote on a new minority leader until the next time the entire caucus is in Richmond to give candidates an opportunity to make their case in the meantime.
The Virginia General Assembly will now address the biennial budget and complete its work on approximately 30 bills still in conference that were carried over into a special session. Most of the bills in conference are contingent on language or appropriations in the budget, so the General Assembly is at a standstill until the budget conflict is resolved. Senate Democrat and House Republican budget conferes have been at loggerheads for over a month with the majority of the battle centered on proposed tax cuts. After consensus is reached on the bills in conference and the budget, the General Assembly will first return to Richmond to vote on the measures and then again during a second reconvened session to consider the governor’s potential amendments to and vetoes of those bills.