On Monday at 11:59 p.m., we reached another critical deadline of the 2024 Session – the time by which the Governor had to sign, amend, or veto legislation. If the Governor failed to take any of those actions, the bill would become law without his signature. Now that we have passed that deadline, I wanted to report on my work in the 2024 Session of the General Assembly.

Without a doubt, the 2024 Session was the busiest of my legislative career. I chaired the Commerce and Labor Committee and also played critical roles in all of my other standing committees – the Finance and Appropriations, the Courts of Justice, Privileges and Elections, and Rules Committees. I also served on 19 conference committees, including the budget bills, during the closing week of session. All of the work was challenging and meant that – in addition to being sick all session – I was not able to take much time off.

Overall, my legislative session was successful. But I will start with the bad news.

Vetoes

On the afternoon of March 26, I received a call from the Governor’s office advising me that the Governor had vetoed two of my bills, Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 383. While I appreciated the courtesy of the call, I remain perplexed by the vetoes of both bills, which are common sense measures supported by a vast majority of Virginians. Last year, both bills passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 2 would have put in a place a prospective ban on the purchase of assault weapons in Virginia. The definition was modeled after the federal ban that lapsed in 2004, and the bill addressed a number of problems in the 2020 legislation. Such bans have proven to be very effective in reducing the number of crimes involving these weapons.

Senate Bill 383 was introduced in direct response to the shooting that occurred on the Grounds of the University of Virginia on November 13, 2022. On that night, the University of Virginia community lost three students and two other students were wounded. Purportedly, it was known that the student on trial for their murders was having trouble and had firearms in his room in a University-owned residence hall. Even though this violated policy, law enforcement was hamstrung in their ability to respond to this information because this was not a criminal violation. SB 383 was about making sure law enforcement can act on reliable intelligence. If this had been law, the University Police would have been able to obtain a search warrant and remove the firearms.

Another bill I introduced, Senate Bill 551, would have established a waiting period to purchase a firearm. I introduced this after a tragic suicide in our area. SB 551 was incorporated into SB 273, which was vetoed by the Governor.

The Governor also vetoed Senate Bill 584. The Governor has changed the procurement and building processes in Virginia. Frankly, he has run roughshod over the process. This bill sought to reestablish the General Assembly as a co-equal branch of government by taking the Department of General Services from under the Governor’s authority and establishing it as an independent agency. This bill passed on a party-line vote, so I was not surprised by the veto.

Finally, last night I received word from the Governor’s office that he also vetoed Senate Bill 274, which would have established the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The goal is to provide a mechanism for us to help reduce the cost of prescription medications at the state level. It is a device that has been used in several states with varying success. This legislation passed with bipartisan support, but not by a margin to overturn a veto.

Proud to join Senator Tim Kaine in Charlottesville to launch his re-election campaign!

Proud to join Senator Tim Kaine in Charlottesville to launch his re-election campaign!

Amendments

The Governor has offered amendments, which are not yet available, to three of my bills:

  • SB 550 requires the Office of the Attorney General to establish a registry for liquid nicotine products. The goal is to stem the proliferation of unregulated and untested vape products in our communities and reduce the underage use of these products.
  • SB 565 is the Virginia SAVE Act. The cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we do not use. This bill will improve energy reliability and reduce costs by providing more tools to the State Corporation Commission to ensure robust energy efficiency programs.
  • SB 569 requires the Department of Behavioral Health to develop regulations on the use of seclusion in crisis receiving centers and in crisis stabilization units.

Signed into Law

The Governor has signed into law nine of my bills.

Both Senate Bill 400 and Senate Bill 426 are tied to the areas I have represented. The first bill, as introduced, sought to allow for the sale of mixed beverages at the Jefferson Theater and the Ting Pavilion. The final bill was broader but still achieves that goal. The second bill stems from my years of representing Lexington and advocacy for the horse industry. The legislation codifies language that is in the budget directing a portion of historic horse racing revenues to the industry, including the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington and the veterinary school in Blacksburg. Of course, the equine industry is a huge part of Albemarle County.

What an honor to participate in the Center for Politics ceremonial groundbreaking this past weekend.

What an honor to participate in the Center for Politics ceremonial groundbreaking this past weekend.

Two bills have been signed by the Governor relating to my continued efforts to reform our mental health system. Crisis receiving centers are a critical component along the continuum of that keep people in their community and out of the hospital. Several issues have been identified that limit the ability of CRCs to operate in Virginia. I carried several bills, one of which was amended, to address those concerns. Senate Bill 568 will allow these units to administer medications in a timely fashion to individuals in crisis. If we are going to be able to treat people in the community rather than in the hospital, we have to have the tools to do so. This bill has an emergency clause and became law effective on April 4. Over the past ten years, we have seen a number of bills to make tweaks to our ECO/TDO process. One of the concerns about the current law, as it relates to crisis receiving centers, is the short duration of an ECO (8 hours) compared to the typical 23 hour maximum stay in a CRC. Rather than attempt to address this in a piecemeal way, Senate Bill 574 directs the Behavioral Health Commission to study in a comprehensive way our civil commitment process.

This year I carried a number of bills connected with my legislative appointments. Senate Bill 386, which was recommended by the Judicial Council of Virginia, will establish certain minimum standards for ensuring security and accessibility in quarters for magistrates. As a senior member of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I carried Senate Bill 585 to codify the six-year capital outlay plan for the Commonwealth. As the former Chair of the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice, I carried Senate Bill 710 to allow for new judges as determined by the Supreme Court.

While a number of bills relating to energy policy stalled, the General Assembly did pass Senate Bill 580. This bill reforms the process for judicial review of alternative energy projects. If someone is disgruntled with a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality, the suit must be filed in the City of Richmond.

Finally, the Governor signed Senate Bill 566 to modernize trusts by providing a third, less cumbersome and costly trustee release option. Under the new process, the trustee would submit a notice of termination. The beneficiaries would have 60 days to object to the settlement of accounts. If no one objects, the trustee would be released.

The General Assembly convenes next Wednesday, April 17 to consider all of the Governor’s amendments and vetoes. He has submitted over 230 amendments to the budget, which I am still reviewing. It will make for a very busy day next Wednesday. For a full list of the bills I introduced, including those that failed to pass, see here. I am glad to address any concerns. We are still getting settled into our new Charlottesville office at 701 E. High Street in Suite 411 but can also be reached at (434) 296-5491 or senatordeeds@senate.virginia.gov.

Best,

Creigh Deeds