Northam begins vetoing bills ahead of reconvened session

2018 General Assembly

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam has starting vetoing bills from this General Assembly session.

Lawmakers sorted through thousands of bills during their 60-day session earlier this year.

Now, Northam is getting his say in what survived.

“This is a chance for the governor to really have a voice in policy making,” said political analyst Richard Meagher. “It’s definitely a big step for a governor and a chance to kind of create a voice, to tell people what he stands for and what he’s interested in supporting and not supporting.”

Northam has already expressed concerns about two bills that passed through both chambers.

On Monday, Northam vetoed SB926. The bill would have capped contingency fees charged by out-of-state trial lawyers who are handling lawsuits for Virginia at $50 million.

In a statement, Northam said in part that the bill would “weaken the Commonwealth’s bargaining positions and restrict its potential recovery against those who harm Virginia residents.”

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who introduced it, said he’s disappointed and called his bill fiscally responsible.

Obenshain said in part in a statement, “I disagree with the governor’s belief that this bill limits the ability to retain top legal talent. There’s clearly something wrong if we can’t hire top legal talent for $50 million.”

Northam’s first veto came earlier this month. That was HB110. 

HB110 would have made franchisees and their employees not employees of the larger franchisor.

Northam said those franchisors are usually multi-state and multi-national corporations. He said it would relieve them of their obligations and responsibilities as an employer.

“These employer responsibilities and obligations would include guarantees of a healthy and safe workplace for all employees,” Northam said in the veto explanation. “Therefore, this legislation would create additional burdens upon the franchisee most of whom are small Virginia-based businesses.”

Northam follows former Gov. Terry McAuliffe who currently holds the record for most vetoes by a Virginia governor.

Meagher doesn’t think Northam will be breaking that record.

“Gov. Northam, who came from the legislature, has a much better relationship with a lot of the legislators there,” said Meagher. “So there’s been some deal making going on already.”

Republicans narrowly control both the House and the Senate, but the General Assembly is more evenly divided than it was during McAuliffe’s term.

Both bills Northam has already vetoed were voted on down party lines. That means it’s unlikely lawmakers will override his vetoes since doing so would require a two-thirds majority.

Meagher said Northam will likely veto a bill that has to do with sanctuary cities.

He said some other potential vetoes to look out for could have to do with the coal industry and property rights for wealthy clubs in Northern Virginia.

“Whether Gov. Northam decides to pick a fight on those bills or whether he will let them go through quietly and not anger certain constituencies in Virginia, I think those are interesting test cases,” said Meagher.

Members of the House and Senate will return to Richmond April 18 for something called reconvened session. That’s when they take up vetoes and amendments from the governor.

They will also have their special session on the budget April 11.Find 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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