Monday, November 28, 2022

McAuliffe Breaks Veto Record For Virginia Governors

Last week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe broke the record for most vetoes by a Virginia governor by striking two Republican-backed bills aimed at protecting religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

The vetoes of House Bill 2025 and Senate Bill 1324 are McAuliffe’s 90th and 91st, pushing McAuliffe past the previous 90-veto record set by former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, who was in office from 1998 to 2002. Later in the day, McAuliffe’s veto tally rose to 97.

The milestone reflects Virginia’s divided state government, with Democrats holding all executive offices and Republicans holding the General Assembly with majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. McAuliffe has attributed his high veto count to Republicans’ insistence on passing controversial bills knowing full well that they wouldn’t get past the governor’s desk.

“No one should be surprised,” McAuliffe said.

Republican leaders have said the vetoes show McAuliffe’s disinterest in working with the legislature and have argued some of the bills aren’t as divisive as the governor makes them out to be.

McAuliffe had already vetoed bills this year to legalize switchblades for some purposes, defund Planned Parenthood, allow home-schooled students to play on public school sports teams, let military members younger than 21 apply for concealed handgun permits, and add photo ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Republicans pitched the religious freedom bills, which LGBT advocates denounced as discriminatory, as necessary protection for churches and other religious-affiliated groups that receive government funding and contracts. To justify the need for the bill, Republicans pointed specifically to an executive order McAuliffe signed early this year that bans companies that discriminate against LGBT people from receiving state contracts. Some claimed the order could jeopardize state assistance for religious groups that help resettle refugees.

“It’s no surprise the governor once again acted out of religious bigotry and vetoed this modest protection for religious charities,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia. “Where there is disagreement over cultural issues, protecting the religious freedom right to dissent — to speak that dissent and to act on that dissent — is essential.”

McAuliffe has repeatedly vowed to oppose bills on social issues such as abortion and gay rights that he says could hurt Virginia’s economy by causing businesses to steer clear when searching for new locations.

Legislators will reconvene April 5 in Richmond to take up the governor’s vetoes and potentially override them if two-thirds of both chambers vote to do so. However, the governor has never had a veto overridden because Republicans lack veto-proof majorities, giving McAuliffe a perfect 71-0 veto record.

Keeping his pristine score may have partly motivated McAuliffe to sign some legislation he may not be enthusiastic about. McAuliffe vetoed a GOP-sponsored bill last year to allow retired law enforcement officers to carry guns in schools for security purposes, but he signed the legislation this year after tighter vetting measures were added.

McAuliffe’s veto record is expected to be a recurring talking point in this year’s governor’s race as Democrats seek to highlight what could happen if Republicans gain control of both the legislature and the executive branch.

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