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James Miessler

Assembly Sustains All of McAuliffe’s Vetoes

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By James Miessler and Diana DiGangi, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The General Assembly failed Wednesday to override any of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes of legislation championed by Republicans, including bills to defund Planned Parenthood and let home-schoolers participate in public-school sports.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. That was doable in the House, where there are 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats. But it proved impossible in the Senate, where Democrats hold 19 of the 40 seats.

For example, McAuliffe had vetoed Senate Bill 41, which would have allowed ministers and religious groups to refuse to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple if it went against their religious beliefs. The Senate voted 21-18 along party lines in favor of reversing the veto – but that was well short of the 26 “yes” votes required.

Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Galax, was the sponsor of SB 41. He urged his colleagues to override McAuliffe’s veto.

“This bill is an attempt to protect pastors from having to go against things that they believe are of a deeply held religious belief,” Carrico said. “Unlike some of the things that the governor is pointing out that’s happening in other states, this is nothing to do with that.”

In his veto message, McAuliffe called SB 41 “discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.” He said the bill would be “bad for business” because “job creators do not want to locate or do business in states that appear more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate.”

That was a reference to North Carolina, which has lost business because it recently enacted a law widely perceived as discriminatory against people who are transgender or gay.

Senators also failed to reverse McAuliffe’s veto of SB 44, which sought to extend the state’s coal-tax credits. Republicans and other legislators representing Virginia’s coalfields say the tax credits would help coal miners. In vetoing the bill, the governor noted that since 1988, coal mine operators and related companies have claimed more than $610 million in tax credits – but the number of coal miners in Virginia has plunged from more than 11,000 to fewer than 3,000.

“It would be unwise to spend additional taxpayer dollars on a tax credit that has fallen so short of its intended effectiveness,” McAuliffe said.

The Senate voted 24-15 in favor of reversing the veto – two votes short. (In the House, with help from two Democratic delegates, Republicans managed to override the veto on a 68-30 vote. But without the Senate’s concurrence, it didn’t matter.)

On a 21-18 vote, the Senate was unable to override House Bill 587, which sought to prevent local governments from removing Confederate monuments. Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, spoke in defense of McAuliffe’s veto of that bill.

“There are decisions that we need to make about people, and when localities have made these decisions, I think it’s our obligation to allow them to continue to make those decisions for themselves,” Marsden said.

Also on a 21-18 vote, the Senate failed to override the governor’s veto of SB 612, commonly known as the “Tebow bill.” It would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at their local high schools.

Another much-watched bill was HB 1090, which would have cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions in addition to family planning counseling, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and other services.

The House voted 66-34 in favor of overriding McAuliffe’s veto of HB 1090. That was one vote shy of the 67 required.

Before voting got underway, there were partisan clashes. House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, criticized McAuliffe for vetoing 32 bills – the most since 1998.

“As we get to this reconvened session, I’ve been disturbed,” Cox said. “Too often, this governor is just too happy, I think, to score political points and tends to be a bit disinterested in the legislative process.”

Minority Leader David Toscano, a Democrat from Charlottesville, fired back.

“The governor was very clear when he stood before us,” Toscano said. “He said, ‘Let’s not get distracted by this divisive social legislation. And I will tell you now, if you pass it I will veto it.’ So why should we be disturbed?”

Late Wednesday, McAuliffe issued a statement saying he is “proud that the General Assembly did not override any of the 32 vetoes we submitted this year, or any of the 68 I have submitted throughout my tenure to date.”

““While there is no question that this session was marked far more by compromise and accomplishment than by partisan conflict, there are some areas on which Republicans in the General Assembly and I disagreed,” McAuliffe said.

“The vetoes I submitted to the legislature for their consideration today honored the promise I made in the State of the Commonwealth to reject legislation that divides Virginians, makes them less safe, or sends a negative message about the climate we offer to families or businesses that may want to locate here. The controversies we are watching in other states underscore the need to reject legislation that divides or distracts us from the work Virginians elected us to do.”

What was vetoed?

This is a list of the 32 bills vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. For more information on a bill, use Legislative Information Service: https://lis.virginia.gov

Bill number

Catch line

HB 2

Clean Power Plan; state implementation plan, General Assembly approval.

HB 8

Virginia Virtual School; Board established.

HB 9

Voter registration; required information on application form.

HB 18

Franchisees; status thereof and its employees as employees of the franchisor.

HB 70

Warrants; issuance of arrest warrants for law-enforcement officers.

HB 131

Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs.

HB 143

Alcoholic beverage control; neutral grain spirits or alcohol sold at government stores, proof.

HB 145

Virginia Public Procurement Act; public works contracts, prevailing wage provisions.

HB 254

House of Delegates districts; technical adjustment.

HB 259

SOL; Bd. of Education prohibited from adopting revisions that implement Common Core State Standards.

HB 264

Local government; prohibiting certain practices requiring contractors to provide compensation, etc.

HB 298

Coal tax; limits aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated or claimed for employment, etc.

HB 382

Firearms; control by state agencies, rights of employees.

HB 389

Virginia Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts; established, report, effective clause.

HB 481

Compliance with detainers; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

HB 516

Education, Board of; policy on sexually explicit instructional material.

HB 518

School boards, local; to provide students with option to transfer to another school division.

HB 560

Brandishing a firearm; intent to induce fear, etc., penalty.

HB 587

Memorials and monuments; protection of all memorials, etc.

HB 766

Concealed handguns; carrying with a valid protective order.

HB 1090

Health, Department of; expenditure of funds related to abortions and family planning services.

HB 1096

Firearms; regulation by state entities prohibited.

HB 1188

Senate districts; changes assignments of two census precincts in Louisa County.

HB 1234

School security officers; carrying a firearm.

HB 1371

Local government; prohibition on certain mandates upon employers.

SB 21

Clean Power Plan; state implementation plan; General Assembly approval.

SB 41

Religious freedom; marriage solemnization, participation, and beliefs.

SB 44

Coal tax; limits aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated or claimed for employment, etc.

SB 270

Sanctuary policies; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.

SB 612

Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs.

SB 626

Carrying concealed handguns; protective orders.

SB 767

Form of ballot; party identification of candidates.

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Clinton, Trump Win in Virginia

By Diana DiGangi, James Miessler, Matt Chaney and Margaret Carmel, Capital News Service

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton trounced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary election on Tuesday, and billionaire businessman Donald Trump narrowly defeated Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the Republican contest.

With almost all precincts reporting, Clinton received more than 64 percent of the 780,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary. Sanders got 35 percent.

More than 1 million Virginians voted in the Republican primary. Trump got nearly 35 percent of the votes, followed by Rubio at almost 32 percent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at about 17 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at about 9 percent.

Interviews at polling places in Richmond underscored the issues and other factors that motivated voters to support or oppose certain candidates.

Young and old voters turned out in droves at the Randolph Community Center polling place (Precinct 504), about 10 minutes from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus. Several voters cited fear of a Trump nomination as their reason for coming out to vote.

“Honestly, as a woman, I’m terrified of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becoming president,” said Kirsten Schlegel, a VCU senior who voted for Clinton. “I’m terrified of our rights being taken away.”

Paula Johnson voted for Clinton as well, and said it was important to her to “select someone who’s going to represent us well, like when it comes to picking the new Supreme Court justice.”

At the Dominion Place polling station (Precinct 206), also near the VCU campus, many young people supported Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist.

“It’s my first time being able to vote, and so I wanted to come out because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Brianna Frontuto, a VCU student, said. “I voted for Bernie Sanders because his policy platform lines up exactly with what I believe in. He’s defending students, and that’s hard to find in candidates.”

Among Republican voters at the Dominion Place, several young people came out in support of Rubio.

“Rubio is the only one I feel morally conscious to support,” Adam Stynchula said. “He’s a safe bet.”

Voters at the Tabernacle Baptist Church polling location (Precinct 208) voiced similar sentiments.

Chelsea, a woman in her 20s who declined to give her last name, said, “I voted for Marco Rubio because he’s a very optimistic candidate. He’s very articulate about a lot of values that I believe in and I hate Donald Trump. And so, I really wanted to get my voice out there for a positive candidate who has a real vision for America’s future.”

Some voters said they usually cast ballots in the Democratic primary, but they participated in this year’s Republican election because of their dislike for Trump.

“I normally vote Democratic, but I actually voted Republican in this because I wanted to make sure that Donald Trump is not on the ballot,” said a student named Jamie. “I just think it’s kind of tight this year with the way things are playing out ... At first I started out thinking, that’s kind of a joke, Donald Trump. But now it’s looking close.”

Statewide, however, Trump topped Rubio by winning Hampton Roads and the southern and southwestern parts of the state.

Virginia Republican leaders gathered in Old Town Alexandria just outside of the nation’s capital as the votes rolled in. As a battleground state that has voted blue in the last two election cycles, all eyes are on Virginia.

“Republicans cannot win the White House without winning Virginia,” said John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. “We’re looking at how our candidates performed tonight to see how they turned out voters, what the enthusiasm is, and what their ground game looks like. We’re going to have to fight to win Virginia.”

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who made a stab at running for president himself, said this election will set the tone that the Republican Party will take moving forward.

“The leading candidates are going to have to demonstrate to the American people that they can govern,” Gilmore said. “Or maybe not. Maybe this year they’ll just have to demonstrate that they can be a voice for anger or resentment.”

Regardless of how they voted, many Virginians said it’s important for people to exercise their voice at the ballot box.

“Honestly, it’s just every vote counts,” VCU student Sean Barnett said at the Dominion Place polling station. “People think that because so many people are voting at one time that your vote is insignificant because it’s such a small percentage. If everyone’s thinking that, there’s a lot of people that aren’t getting their voice heard. It does seem insignificant, but it does count.”

At Tabernacle Baptist Church, Kyle, a doctor in her early 30s, said, “I don’t think you can complain unless you pick a choice.”

After casting his vote at Dominion Place, William Smith added, “It’s a privilege and a pleasure. I feel it’s my duty as an American.”

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House OK’s Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood

By James Miessler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In a swipe at Planned Parenthood, the House on Tuesday passed a bill to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding clinics that provide abortions except in the case of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is endangered.

Delegates voted 64-35 along party lines for House Bill 1090, which would cut off state funding for programs or facilities that offer abortions that would not be reimbursed under Medicaid, a federal-state program for low-income Americans. Republicans supported the measure; Democrats opposed it.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, states, “The Department shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

Except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment of the mother, abortion is not a Medicaid service.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood say HB 1090 is aimed at that organization. Planned Parenthood clinics provide an array of health-care services, including abortions.

“This bill cannot become law. The intent of this bill is clear – to shame and coerce women from accessing safe and legal abortion and ban access to Planned Parenthood,” said Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

“We need to trust and respect women to make their own private, personal health-care decisions, and that includes selecting their own health care providers.”

Cline said his bill would “defund Planned Parenthood and redirect funds to more comprehensive health care for women.” Planned Parenthood could continue receiving state funds if it stopped offering abortions, he said.

“It’s up to them whether they want to provide non-Medicaid funded abortions,” Cline said.

However, according to an analysis of HB 1090 by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, the bill would affect more than Planned Parenthood.

The department’s impact statement said the legislation would prevent the Virginia Department of Health from doing business with many hospitals, including those operated by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.

“The provisions of the bill would require VDH to cancel all agreements with entities such as VCU Health Systems, the UVA Medical Centers, and most other hospitals throughout the Commonwealth that maintain or operate facilities where non-federally qualified abortions are performed,” the statement said.

After being passed by the House, HB 1090 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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Lawmakers Honor Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer

By James Miessler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After a successful career at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer won’t be forgotten any time soon. On Thursday, both houses of the General Assembly honored the recently retired football coach with a center-aisle ceremony.

Legislators presented Beamer with a resolution to express their “admiration for his achievements and best wishes on a happy retirement.”

“We’re here today to honor one of the greatest football coaches in all America on his retirement,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, whose district includes the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.

With the former coach and his wife Cheryl standing by, Edwards delivered a speech praising Beamer.

“He is one of the most successful and respected college football coaches in the entire country,” Edwards said. “He coaches the way that he is as a person – with character and decency – which is part of the reason for his remarkable success.”

Edwards shared the accolades that comprise Beamer’s illustrious career at Virginia Tech.

“At Virginia Tech, he’s had 23 consecutive winning seasons and Bowl game appearances and a national championship football game appearance,” Edwards said. “The team’s very first season with the ACC in 2004, the Hokies won the ACC title and an appearance in a Bowl championship series game, and Frank Beamer was named the ACC Coach of the Year. Altogether, the Hokies have won four ACC championships since 2004.”

Beamer was well known for getting all of his players involved in scoring. This style of play was successful enough to garner its own nickname.

“Coach Beamer pioneered an aggressive style of special-teams play that has come known far and wide as ‘Beamer Ball,’ ” Edwards said.

But Beamer didn’t just see success on the field. Throughout the years, he saw many of his players earn their degrees.

“Of particular pride to Frank Beamer and to Virginia Tech is that over 94 percent of his senior football players from 2001 to 2014 earned their college degrees,” Edwards said.

Edwards drove home Beamer’s impact on college football at the end of the speech: “Frank Beamer has finished his career as the winningest active football coach in all of the NCAA.”

Lawmakers presented Beamer with House Joint Resolution 75, which they had passed last month. The primary sponsors of the resolution were Republican Dels. Joseph Yost of Pearisburg, Greg Habeeb of Salem and Nick Rush of Christiansburg.

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Senate Passes Bill Targeting Black Vultures

By James Miessler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The black vulture of Virginia has found itself in the crosshairs of legislation passed by the Senate this week.

Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, seeks to exempt the black vulture from its current protection by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It also would prohibit the department from using any state resources to enforce federal rules that protect the black vulture.

The Senate voted 39-1 on Wednesday in favor of the bill. The lone dissenter was Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath. SB 37 now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.

Carrico said the vultures, which are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, have become a menace to farmers and their livelihoods.

“I was contacted by farmers from my district located in Lee County,” Carrico said in an e-mail. “They reported that the vultures were coming down and attacking the newborn calves.”

Carrico explained that many calves are unable to move for a few days after being born, almost giving the impression that they are dead or dying – which means they look like a meal to the vultures.

“This is a very common occurrence on cattle farms,” Carrico said. “The black vultures were coming down and plucking out the eyes and tearing out the guts of the calves while they laid there.”

Although his bill would legalize shooting black vultures, it doesn’t mean an all-out massacre of the birds, Carrico said.

“This is not a bill that would grant open season on vultures,” Carrico said. “The farmers simply wanted to be able to get a permit that says they can shoot the vultures endangering their livestock. The bill will only grant permission to kill the vultures if the farmer has a problem with them regarding his livestock. The farmer will also have to have a permit. I realize that vultures provide a service in nature, so this does not mean I do not think they should be protected.”

Marlene Condon, a nature writer and former field editor for Birds & Blooms magazine, isn’t convinced.

“I’m against this bill because the vultures are not at fault – the farmers are,” Condon said. “They’ve created unnatural conditions that have caused black vultures to themselves behave unnaturally by taking live animals.”

Condon believes that the solution is to change human behavior and that killing the vultures is out of the question.

“We’re in the 21st century, for goodness sake,” Condon said. “We should know better than to think we should kill animals when we could just change the way we do things.”

Condon noted the importance of vultures to the environment, as well as the dangers of not having them around.

“They mostly recycle putrefying remains that are so loaded with bacteria that feeding upon them would kill – not just sicken – most other kinds of animals, including humans,” Condon said. “When vulture populations plummeted in South Asia, it led to a rise in infectious diseases and a proliferation of rats as a result of carcasses left to rot on the ground.”

Condon chalked the bill and its supporters up to ignorance, quoting one of the Founding Fathers.

“As Ben Franklin said: ‘Being ignorant is not so much as a shame, as being unwilling to learn. We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.’ ”

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McAuliffe Emphasizes Cooperation with Lawmakers

By Margaret Carmel and James Miessler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe is urging the General Assembly to join him in a bipartisan effort to create jobs in the commonwealth.

“If we work together during the next 60 days, we can expand economic opportunities for everyone in the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said in his State of the Commonwealth Address on the first night of the 2016 legislative session. “We will show that we in Virginia don’t back down from a challenge.”

With the relationship between the Democratic governor and the Republican-led General Assembly as contentious as ever, McAuliffe touted economic growth and investment across all sectors.

McAuliffe just returned from a trip to Cuba, where he brokered a trade deal. (In the middle of Wednesday night’s speech, he gave Republican House Speaker William Howell of Stafford a Cuban cigar.) The governor also noted other international trade agreements, such as Virginia apples being sold to India and poultry being shipped to Oman.

Continuing the theme of the need for bipartisan job creation, McAuliffe called attention to the state’s efforts to boost solar power and other alternative energy sources. Such moves will attract companies and offer manufacturing opportunities, he said.

Also in his speech, McAuliffe directly challenged Republican lawmakers by again prodding them to expand Medicaid, the health care program for low-income residents. He said even conservative states such as Utah and Louisiana have elected to do so under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“I am convinced that we can find a bipartisan, Virginia solution that totally protects our commonwealth’s finances while taking advantage of this historic opportunity to make our state a better place to live,” McAuliffe said.

Following a national trend to roll back the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the governor also advocated limiting standardized testing in schools while maintaining quality education.

“You cannot build an economy for 2050 with a 1950s approach to education,” he said.

In the Republican response to governor’s speech, Del. Rob Bell of Albemarle and Sen. Frank Ruff of Mecklenburg said the GOP would use its majority in the House and Senate to challenge McAuliffe on key issues.

Ruff said Republicans will fight McAuliffe’s efforts to expand Medicaid as part of President Obama’s new health care law.

“One area where we will not be in agreement with Gov. McAuliffe is Obamacare,” Ruff said. “While the governor’s budget again includes the federal program’s Medicaid expansion scheme, we believe this initiative threatens critically important priorities like education.”

Medicaid costs are rising even without expansion, Ruff said.

“Even without the optional federal expansion, mandated spending on Medicaid will take an even higher share of state spending in the new budget,” he said. “Expanding the program further would not be prudent, and would only increase the funding pressures on other state core services.”

Bell addressed Republican grievances over executive actions taken by McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring. In recent months, the governor banned firearms from state buildings, and Herring declared that Virginia would no longer honor concealed handgun permits from 25 states that he said do not meet the commonwealth’s standards.

“Our system of government is founded on the constitutional principles of a separation of powers,” Bell said. “As has become all too common in Washington, here in Richmond we have seen Gov. McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring use executive actions and appointments to circumvent these constitutional limitations and undermine the balance envisioned by our founders.”

The Republican response to McAuliffe’s speech included areas of agreement with the governor.

Ruff said Republicans want to prepare Virginians for the changing economy and create an environment that will draw employers.

“To better prepare our workforce for the demands of a rapidly changing economy, the budget we approve will include initiatives to encourage more Virginians to complete educational programs that lead to certification in high-demand fields,” he said.

“By investing in workforce training targeted to growing industries, we can make Virginia even more attractive to employers.”

The senator acknowledged common interests the Republicans share with McAuliffe.

“As a member of one of the two legislative committees that will consider the governor’s proposed budget, I know we will find common ground with him on efforts to increase funding for our public schools, for mental health care, for public safety, and for our veterans.”

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