On Wednesday, Virginia lawmakers will reconvene in Richmond for its one-day veto session, which is when the General Assembly will reassess bills that have been amended or vetoed by GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
After Virginia’s 2023 legislative session came to an end, Youngkin signed a total of 738 bipartisan bills into law. He also amended 78 bills and vetoed three, all of which were sponsored by Democrats.
In the 45-day session, nearly 3,000 bills were introduced, and if the governor’s proposed changes are approved by the General Assembly, come July 1 many of the bills that passed through will become law.
One important note ahead of the veto session: the legislature and the governor have yet to pass an updated state budget for the coming year, with a possible deal potentially coming to fruition in June, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most meaningful bills that got the governor’s approval, including the placement of signs recognizing Green Book locations in the state to help recognize all of Virginia’s history. Other interesting new laws also include the creation of a Class 5 Felony for buying or selling minors, as well as the establishment of an official state pony: the Chincoteague Pony.
One of the biggest wins for Virginia families the General Assembly delivered this session was the expansion of the Virginia Literacy Act.
Gov. Youngkin signed House Bill 1526 and Senate Bill 1175 into law. This will allow the Virginia Literacy Act to apply not only to students in kindergarten to third grade, but starting with the 2024-25 school year, also to students in fourth through eighth grade.
Additionally, House Bill 1592 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1072, were signed, which require principals of public schools, under the direction of their local school board, to notify parents or guardians if their child is being bullied in school.
House Bill 1762 will establish a Teacher Reengagement Program in the state to help address the teaching shortages in Virginia, as well as student learning loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One bill amended by the governor is Senate Bill 1453, which would require school boards would to develop a plan for placement and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) in every single public school. The amendment proposed by Youngkin would require the Virginia Department of Education to publish all public and private grants available for defibrillator purchase on their website. Lawmakers will consider this amendment tomorrow.
Virginia’s public schools would also get an increase in funding to hire more security officers, under House Bill 1691 and Senate Bill 1099. School resource officer programs have been a hot topic of discussion for many parents and administrators in Virginia.
Many bills Youngkin signed deal with public health and health care services in the commonwealth. Health professionals, such as doctors and nurses, will no longer be asked questions about their mental health when going through licensing applications, for example. This is because of the signing of House Bill 1573 and Senate Bill 970. Licensees will be asked if they have any reason to believe that they’d be a potential risk to the safety and well-being of their patients, and if they are able to perform essential duties with or without any sort of reasonable accommodation.
House Bill 1682 and Senate Bill 1188 received the governor’s signature and will require fentanyl to be classified as a “weapon of terrorism,” with higher penalties for people who make or distribute drugs that have fentanyl in them.
House Bill 1438 and Senate Bill 997 were also amended by Youngkin. These bills include adding oyster shell recycling to a list of eligible activities for the Oyster Replenishment Act. In addition to that, House Bill 2445 was signed, which would renew and expand the Wholesome Food Tax Credit for Virginia’s farmers who donate their surplus food to local food banks.
Youngkin also proposed amendments to House Bill 2325 and Senate Bill 1438, which pertain to America’s foreign adversaries. Under the changed legislation, they would be prohibited from purchasing or acquiring interest in Virginia’s agriculture.
Climate and Energy
Many of the energy bills that got the governor’s approval involve nuclear power. Other bills would help promote energy projects on former coal mining sites in the commonwealth.
The Virginia Department of Energy will also be conducting a study to determine any potentially “beneficial uses of coal mine methane.” Coal mine methane extraction jobs will also become eligible to receive green and alternative energy job creation tax credits under House Bill 1643 and Senate Bill 1121.
Senate Bill 1323 was also signed into law and will require the State Corporation Commission to establish energy-saving targets for Dominion Energy Virginia, specifically for those who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service.
House Bill 2387 was also signed by Gov. Youngkin, and will establish a $300 tax credit for individuals who purchase any sort of firearm safety device.
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