On April 17, the General Assembly gathered in Richmond for the annual reconvened session, which is generally a one-day affair. The legislature convenes six and a half weeks after the regular session adjourns, allowing the Governor time to act on all of the bills passed by the General Assembly. This veto session promised to be a little bit different for two reasons. First, the Governor vetoed 153 bills, which is significant considering no previous Governor had vetoed more than 120 bills over the course of their 4-year term. And second, the Governor was unable to line-item veto the items he found objectionable, so he essentially rewrote the budget through a series of 233 amendments. With that backdrop, we headed into the reconvened session expecting fireworks.

The day before the session began, the Governor reached out to the Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, Senator Louise Lucas, and the House Appropriations Committee Chair, Delegate Luke Torian. After a number of conversations with them and the Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell and House Speaker Don Scott, a different approach was developed to deal with the budget.

Instead of rejecting the Governor’s amendments to the budget, a plan was made to set a special session to finalize a spending plan. The budget conferees, including me, will meet multiple times before then to complete a budget. The special session will gavel in on May 13, and a final vote on the budget is set for May 15.

Given the wide gap between the priorities of the Governor and the General Assembly, it is difficult to know what will change over the next four weeks. While the Governor made 233 amendments, including removing some of the funding allotted for the Jefferson School in Charlottesville and all of the money allocated for a transportation study in Madison Heights, his primary concerns about the budget were essentially twofold. The Governor opposed the expansion of the sales tax to digital transactions, even though he included this concept in his introduced budget. And he was concerned that the General Assembly directed Virginia to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program that has brought hundreds of millions of dollars back to Virginia for resiliency and flood control work over the past couple of years. While the path to resolving those issues is unclear, we do know that we need to have a budget in place before the end of the fiscal year.

I am honored to work alongside Delegates Katrina Callsen and Amy Laufer. This past week, I teamed up with them to speak with the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Association, to march in the Dogwood Festival Parade with our local Moms Demand Action advocates, and to support the work of The Arc of the Piedmont. We make a great team!

Virginia budgets on a biennial basis and enacts the two-year budget in even years. The FY 2022 – 2024 budget ends on June 30. Failure to pass a budget will jeopardize every aspect of state government and every individual, or local government, that relies on state funding – whether it is a state trooper who needs their paycheck, school divisions trying to secure teachers for the next academic year, a business that must renew a license, or a family trying to obtain waiver services for their loved one who has a developmental disability. The General Assembly did its job and passed a balanced budget. The amendments offered by the Governor cut drastically funding for public education and other priorities. Compromise is essential.

While the budget always dominates discussions, the General Assembly also took up the Governor’s amendments to other legislation. Notably, his amendments to the skill games legislation, dubbed the Small Business Act of 2024 because the skill game machines are in convenience stores littered across Virginia, rewrote the bill. Among the many changes he offered, was a restriction on the placement of such machines within 35 miles of casinos or other gambling establishments. The amendments were rejected in large part with bipartisan support in the Senate and now return to the Governor, who can sign or veto the bill.

While rejecting the Governor’s amendments only requires a simple majority, it requires the vote of two-thirds of both the House and Senate to override a veto. To my knowledge, it has only happened a couple of times in Virginia history, most recently when Governor McDonnell vetoed a carefully negotiated medical malpractice bill. At the time, the Governor had vetoed the bill primarily because it was a violation of a campaign pledge, and he signaled to the Republican majorities he would not object to an override vote. True to form, despite there being numerous attempts to override vetoes this year, none were successful. The closest vote in the Senate was on legislation allowing local governments to levy a one-cent sales tax for school construction after putting it to a referendum. In the Senate, we came two votes shy of the 27 required to override the veto. The vetoes were sustained in the House of Delegates without any recorded votes. While the bulk of the work is now finished, the most critical piece of legislation – the budget – remains.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve in the Senate of Virginia. If I may be of assistance, please contact me at senatordeeds@senate.virginia.gov or by phone at 434-296-5491.

Best,

Creigh Deeds