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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Va. Democrats Fast-Track Marriage Equality, Gun Bills Headed to Youngkin

Gov. Glenn Youngkin recognizing guests at the 2024 State of the Commonwealth Address at the State Capitol in Richmond. (Nathaniel Cline/Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin has until the end of this week to act on dozens of bills the Democratic-controlled General Assembly sent to him on a faster-than-normal timeline.

The governor has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to take action on a batch of more than 80 bills that includes measures to preserve same-sex marriage, restore Virginia’s participation in the multi-state ERIC voter roll maintenance program, ban legacy admissions preferences at public colleges and universities and require local school boards to inform parents about the importance of safe gun storage.

At a news conference Monday morning, Democratic leaders said sending the bills to the governor under a shorter timeline will force Youngkin to reveal where he stands on issues he’s been able to avoid for his first two years in office.

“For the last two years he’s had a Republican-controlled House basically killing everything that we send over from the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “I think in the next seven days, with the seven-day bills that we just sent him, Virginians are going to finally find out where he stands. … I think the next seven days are going to say a lot about the next two years.”

Governors typically have 30 days to review legislation passed by the General Assembly, but the exact timing depends on when bills are formally sent from the legislative branch to the executive branch. If the General Assembly sends bills to the governor before the final week of the session, the shorter, seven-day deadline applies. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday.

The package of legislation sent to the governor last week also includes measures to require health insurance companies to cover contraception and clarify an existing law on sexually explicit school books with the goal of limiting local school boards’ ability to engage in large-scale “censorship” of books.

Another bill dealing with gun policy tightens the rules for requiring potential domestic abusers to relinquish any firearms they have after being subjected to a protective order or convicted of assaulting a family member. The proposal would prohibit such gun owners from handing over firearms to someone in the same household who is under 21 and add new rules for informing law enforcement about how guns were surrendered.

Not all of the bills deal with hot-button topics. Many were sponsored by Republicans or passed with broad bipartisan support.

In a statement Monday, Youngkin’s office indicated the governor’s response to bills Democrats send him will depend partly on how Democrats act on his priorities.

“The governor is reviewing the legislation that has been delivered to his desk, as he continues to watch how the General Assembly chooses to act on other important priorities,” said Youngkin spokesman Christian Martinez.

Youngkin is trying to shore up support for a pending deal to bring a professional sports arena to Northern Virginia that would be home to both the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, a potentially legacy-defining project that has run into strong local and legislative opposition. Democrats also stripped Youngkin’s proposal for more tax cuts out of their budget plans, but negotiations on the arena project and the budget are ongoing.

At Monday’s news conference, Democratic leaders offered little in the way of updates on where the budget talks between the House, Senate and governor stand.

“It’s a process,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “There’s no magic plan.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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