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Lawmakers return to Richmond to veto and Dems internal drama

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RICHMOND — The Virginia General Assembly returns to the Capitol on Wednesday to consider the governor’s vetoes and amendments, but the hottest topics may be those not on the agenda.

There is still no agreement on a state budget, for example. House and Senate negotiators continue to brainstorm ideas on the two-year spending plan, but were unable to resolve time differences to produce something to vote on this week.

Democrats in the House of Delegates, meanwhile, are caught in an internal leadership drama, with a faction of new members seeking to unseat Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (Fairfax) and Caucus Chair Charniele Herring (Alexandria) in what is likely to be a noisy, closed door meeting before the start of the legislative session.

The real business of the legislature begins at noon as delegates and senators consider 26 bills vetoed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and more than 100 bills with amendments he has proposed.

Although Youngkin drew fire for an unusual series of vetoes that appeared to target particular Democratic lawmakers and even blue parts of the state, don’t look to the General Assembly to reverse any of those actions. The House of Delegates is controlled by Republicans, who are extremely unlikely to challenge their governor. While Democrats control the Senate, their margin is slim and overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote.

Instead, lawmakers will likely wrangle over the details of the various amendments suggested by Youngkin, many of which are technical in nature.

“It’s going to be a too long day,” House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said Tuesday. He joked about the disarray on the Democratic side of the aisle, offering to give them more time to caucus and quoting an adage about an opponent at war with himself: “Never shy away, is- it not? Let it roll,” he said.

A battle for Democratic leadership erupts in the Virginia House of Delegates

Before lawmakers get to work in the chambers, House Democrats will confront an internal coup attempt at a private caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. Of the. Don L. Scott Jr. (Portsmouth) announced over the weekend that he planned to call a caucus vote to remove Filler-Corn and Herring.

If the caucus votes to remove them, Scott calls for on-the-spot elections to replace them. He would run for Minority Leader and nominated Del. Sally L. Hudson (Charlottesville) to replace Herring as caucus chair and Del. Dan Helmer (Fairfax) for vice president for outreach – the position Scott resigned from over the weekend.

Filler-Corn’s camp and Scott’s camp spent the day before the meeting trying to build support with a flurry of phone calls to members. Filler-Corn supporters said a vote to oust would leave Democrats rudderless, saying the party’s bylaws wouldn’t allow for a snap election. But Scott’s supporters noted that the bylaws are silent on the subject of election notice.

The outcome of what would be a secret ballot seemed uncertain, with both sides trying to project confidence.

youngSen. Adam P. Ebbin’s veto included nine of 10 bills sponsored by Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), even though he signed identical house bills in six of those cases.

Typically, a governor signs off on both drafts, allowing both sponsors to brag about getting a bill passed. Longtime state lawmakers said they couldn’t think of a case in which a governor signed a bill and vetoed his mate.

All of the bills Ebbin vetoed passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly; six won unanimous support in both houses. These included a measure to strengthen consumer data protections and another to require estate agents to disclose whether they hold an ownership interest in the transaction.

Another, which passed the Senate 40-0 and the House 81-16, would repeal an outdated 1920s law requiring adult children to financially support their elderly parents, punishable by a year in prison.

Youngkin appeared to be targeting Ebbin for a nomination battle that began when Senate Democrats rejected a Trump administration official for Youngkin’s cabinet. Ebbin is the chairman of a committee that handles the nominations.

All of Youngkin’s vetoes were against bills sponsored by Democrats, and four of them were against bills introduced by Arlington Del. Patrick A. Hope (D), including one to lift smoking-related penalties on health insurance premiums that was widely supported in both houses.

Many of the roughly 100 amendments proposed by Youngkin involve minor issues, such as correcting the dollar amount of a measure to compensate someone wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.

But Youngkin drew strong backlash for proposing an amendment to a routine school board bill so that Loudoun County must hold elections for its entire school board this fall, shortening the terms of some members. The move takes aim at a county where conservative parents’ grievances against the school board provided huge energy for Youngkin’s election last year.

“It will be very interesting to see how they handle the Loudoun County bill, it’s probably the most obvious bill Youngkin is playing in before a national audience,” said longtime political analyst Robert Holsworth. in Richmond.

In theory, he said, the amendment could be difficult for some Republicans to support because it features the state “interfering” with a local election. And it “presents a real opportunity for Democrats to showcase government overreach on the part of a Republican governor,” Holsworth said.

But given the ongoing struggle for Democratic leadership in the House, he added, it’s not clear the caucus will be organized enough to seize the opportunity.

Republican lawmakers said they did not expect any of the governor’s vetoes to be overruled, including ones that appeared intended to punish Ebbin for a lengthy tit-for-tat on gubernatorial nominations .

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