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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Youngkin Vetoes Bills to Require Retail Warning of Invasive Plant Species

A photo of the outside of Lowe’s garden center. (Shelby Warren/VCU CNS)

RICHMOND — The governor vetoed two bills that required garden retailers to educate consumers on invasive plant species and encourage alternatives.

Sen. Saddam Salim, D-Fairfax, introduced Senate Bill 306 and Del. Holly Seibold, D-Fairfax, introduced House Bill 47.

Any place that sells an invasive plant species would have been required to display a sign nearby that warned consumers and encouraged them to ask about alternatives. The bills included a penalty of no more than $500 for retailers who failed to post the signs and a stop sale order made until the signage was posted.

Invasive plant species are not native to the region and can negatively impact ecosystems. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has identified 90 invasive plant species, by rank of most to least invasive. Species on the list include kudzu, English ivy, pear trees, golden bamboo and periwinkle.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed the legislation on April 2, and stated that DCR “already publishes and distributes educational information related to invasive plant species and the benefits of planting native species.”

The state should continue efforts to educate consumers about invasive plant species and promote alternatives, Youngkin stated. The bills put additional requirements and civil penalties on “small businesses for the sale of plants with low levels of invasiveness, such as periwinkle and winter honeysuckle.”

The governor also listed a procedural conflict with the bills, which made the DCR invasive species list the legally binding authority and would have upended regulatory protocol that requires a public notice and comment period, the governor stated.

The legislation had bipartisan support, and also buy-in from “the nursery industry, big-box stores, and anti-invasive plant advocates,” Salim stated on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Salim attributed the “incredibly disappointing” veto to the governor choosing “politics over common sense policies.” The senator plans to bring the bill back next year.

Invasive species have cost Virginia as much as $1 billion annually, according to the Virginia Invasive Species website. This total exceeds $120 billion nationally.

Current state code prohibits state agencies from planting, selling or propagating any listed invasive plant, unless necessary for “scientific or educational purposes or bona fide agricultural purposes.”

Lawmakers recently approved a budget that distributes several million dollars across departments to help meet initiatives outlined by the Virginia Invasive Species Management Plan, and which includes the hiring of new employees.

Youngkin has vetoed 91 bills, some duplicates, as of April 3. He has until April 8 to take action on remaining bills and the budget. Then lawmakers will reconvene on April 17 to consider any of his proposed changes.

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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