Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 24, 2014

Va. lawmakers sustain vetoes

Staff and wire

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has successfully vetoed two religious expression bills and legislation that would have granted people who receive red-light tickets the right to contest citations in circuit court.

The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to uphold McAuliffe’s vetoes during a one-day legislative meeting commonly referred to as the “veto session.”

“All three of the governor’s vetoes were upheld,” State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, said. He said that the annual veto session ended at 5:15 p.m. “This is the earliest we have been able to leave Richmond on a veto day since I’ve been up here.” Puckett took office in 1998.

McAuliffe had vetoed a bill that would have codified a student’s right to pray at school. Another would have prohibited censorship of sermons given by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia praised the Senate’s votes, while the conservative Family Foundation condemned them.

“Two of my bills were killed in the house,” Puckett said. “I had a bill that would prevent geriatric prisoners from being eligible for parole if they still are under a protective order,” Puckett said of SB 561. “The Senate overruled the governor’s veto, but the house did not.

“I had another bill (SB 551) that would have included the Cranes Nest River in the Virginia Scenic Rivers System,” Puckett said. “It had passed the Senate and some of the delegates in the House added an amendment to include rivers in their districts before it passed the House. The governor removed the House amendments and took the bill back to the original, and the House overrode that.”

The General Assembly did not take up the state’s proposed $96 billion two-year budget. Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked on whether the budget should include expanding Medicaid eligibility.

“We don’t have a bill in conference,” Puckett said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it goes into June. Several people have expressed concerns about the open-ended session. Senator (Richard L.) Saslaw (D-Fairfax) reminded us that former Gov. Tim Kaine signed a budget bill on June 30, 2006,” Puckett said.