Youngkin finalizes legislation from reconvened session

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took final action on 17 pieces of legislation pending from the reconvened legislative session, signing 12 and vetoing five.

The legislation ranged from energy to medical marijuana. The governor celebrated the General Assembly voting approving nearly all of his amendments. Youngkin expressed disappointment for a few pieces of legislation rejected by the Assembly – mainly a key piece of energy legislation and the protection of minors regarding social media.

“I was pleased that the General Assembly approved nearly all my recommendations during the reconvene session," Youngkin said. "While I am disappointed my recommendations to reduce the cost of the offshore wind project on electric bills and provide protections for minors on social media were rejected, I'm committed to pursuing these issues next year.”

Youngkin signed a handful of energy bills, including removing a requirement for renewable energy for “Phase I and Phase II to retire all biomass-fired electric generating units that do not co-fire with coal by December 31, 2028,” according to a summary of the legislation.

The other energy legislation would require the State Corporation Commission to conduct reviews of requests for costs with a Phase II utility to determine expenses due to facilities using energy generated from offshore wind. It would require “consideration to the economic development benefits of the project for the Commonwealth,” according to the bill.

The governor also signed measures to protect active and retired judges' privacy by imposing a penalty for posting personal information, such as addresses.

Youngkin signed legislation to remove provisions that exempt parole boards from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act records. The bill also requires the board to publish statements of action taken by the board. Additionally, the board must include an individualized statement of reason for either granting or denying parole, including the votes of each member. Final deliberations and votes on parole decisions be conducted in public. Lastly, the board must publish an annual report summarizing actions taken by the board and provide prisoners and their legal counsel with the report.

The governor signed legislation to create a civil "cause of action" for any company that intentionally posts material harmful to minors by failing to take steps to verify the age of the individual attempting to access any material that may be harmful to minors. The bill also outlines the definition of “’sexual conduct’ so that it is neutral regarding sexual orientation for the purpose of crimes related to prohibited sales and loans to juveniles,” according to a summary of the bill.

Youngkin signed a bill allowing pharmaceutical processors to obtain a permit to operate a processing facility through the Board of Pharmacy to establish an additional location for the “cultivation of cannabis plants,” with the stipulation it must be located within the same area as the pharmaceutical processing facility.

The governor also approved an exemption for off-duty and retired state police officers to carry a firearm within the capitol complex and surrounding area owned or leased by the commonwealth.

Lastly, Youngkin approved legislation to authorize the secretary of Natural and Historic Resources and “relevant agencies” to utilize expertise from various research universities and organizations when analyzing water management and coastal resilience strategies.

Among the bills the governor vetoed were measures to redefine eligibility ratings for structural conditions of bridges to receive repair funds, to add a project to a pilot program to build underground transmission lines, and the reduction of minimum acreage required to be considered to receive a site development grant through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority.

The governor thanked the General Assembly for reconvening to consider his proposed amendments. He took the opportunity to persuade Democrats to consider the tax cuts his administration and fellow Republicans have proposed.

“I greatly appreciate the General Assembly's hard work, but certain recommendations were necessary for effective implementation, and therefore, I have vetoed them," he said. "The legislative work is not complete, I strongly urge the Senate Democrats to work with me to pass a budget that provides $1 billion in tax relief for Virginians and delivers over $2.6 billion for job growth, public safety, education excellence, and behavioral health services.”

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