The 2015 General Assembly session finished yesterday evening—a day early. Approximately 800 bills have been sent to Governor McAuliffe for his signature. The legislature will reconvene on April 15th to consider any amendments or vetoes he may offer.
Probably the most notable aspect of the 2015 session was the absence of partisan rancor. This includes the debate last week on amendments to the 2014-2016 budget. The amendments passed the House 95-5, and unlike Washington, Virginia’s budget is balanced and we are not accumulating debt for future generations to pay.
If you have kept up with my weekly updates, you know about the many issues we considered during the six week session, including legislation I authored or cosponsored. Ten bills that I authored passed the House and Senate, and two others were incorporated into other legislation (one of which was ethics reform) for a total of 12. These bills address transportation, education, economic growth, and spending your tax dollars more efficiently, among other issues. You can read about all of these bills here.
One matter that came as a surprise to many this past week was the defeat of SB1393 on the House floor, after easily passing the Virginia Senate. This bill, introduced at the request of Governor McAuliffe, would have made secret virtually all information about the lethal injection drugs and suppliers of such drugs used to administer Virginia’s death penalty.
The aim of the bill was to ensure a reliable of supply of lethal injection drugs, with a view that many suppliers would not want to provide such drugs to the state if their names became available to the public. But the bill was so sweeping in its scope that it would have prevented the public from knowing if any future supply problems existed. It would have even prevented the public from knowing whether Virginia remains in compliance with state and federal law, including Supreme Court decisions that govern lethal injection.
A bipartisan coalition of open government-minded legislators that I led on the House floor with Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mr. Vernon) defeated this measure 56-42. Since there are no executions scheduled in Virginia for at least a year, the executive branch will have an opportunity to develop another approach to procuring lethal injection drugs without violating the principles of government transparency and accountability.
Another surprise this week was the retirement of Del. Tom Rust, who represents Herndon and surrounding areas adjacent to the district I represent. Tom is a true Virginia gentleman, and has given decades of service to our community and state as mayor of Herndon, member of the Virginia Tech and Longwood College boards on separate occasions, and member of the House of Delegates since 2002. He has been recognized as one of the most effective members of the Virginia legislature. He will be missed, but his role model for honest government and civil public discourse with humility will continue.