The General Assembly returned to Richmond on April 3 for our 2019 reconvened session to consider gubernatorial vetoes and amendments. The governor has 30 days from the adjournment of the regular session to sign, veto, or offer amendments to legislation. The authority of Virginia’s governor to amend legislation is atypical compared to the president and many other governors. This power provides an opportunity to impact policy in a significant way.
This year’s session was unique in many ways. The areas of controversy surrounding all three statewide office holders were huge concerns that put a chill over the session. For legislators, the political melee was painful and upsetting, but we had to focus on our work and avoid the frenzy. Governor Northam seemed to disappear into his work and avoid the public for the remaining weeks of session and some weeks thereafter. The end product of this focused work yielded a number of significant amendments for the General Assembly to consider this week.
Typically reconvened sessions are not devoid of controversy. Governors’ amendments or vetoes are often on contentious matters. However this year, Governor Northam sought to address policy concerns on which the General Assembly failed to act. For that reason, the 2019 reconvened session was one of the most, and perhaps the most, significant reconvened sessions that I have witnessed. There were at least three substantial achievements this week.
For years I have focused on reforming our mental health system and have traveled throughout the Commonwealth to visit local community services boards, our state psychiatric hospitals, and some nonprofit and private entities in the field. During this journey I have become fairly well acquainted with what Virginia offers to people in need of mental health services, and I know we must do a better job responding to people in need no matter where they live in the Commonwealth. [Read more…]