Republican lawmakers abandon support for bills from Dems after Youngkin vetoes

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Republican legislators bailed in their support of bipartisan legislation and instead voted this week to uphold Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s vetoes on 26 bills that had been introduced by Democrats.

“I’m pleased with the progress made in the general assembly today,” Youngkin wrote in a statement. “An overwhelming majority of our recommendations were adopted in the assembly and all of the vetoes were sustained.”

Youngkin drew the ire of Democrats earlier this month when he shot down the measures, a move some lawmakers viewed as an act of retaliation targeted at certain Democrats.

Three bills from delegates in Hampton Roads were among those vetoed. One was a measure from Portsmouth Democrat Nadarius Clark that would have set a three-year statute of limitations on medical debt. Two others came from Newport News Democrat Cia Price, including one that would have given localities the authority to sue negligent landlords over matters that endanger tenants’ health.

In a statement to The Virginian-Pilot, Price said she would not be discouraged.

“I’m disappointed but undaunted,” she wrote on Thursday. “We have to keep fighting for the working families that need us the most.”

In a heated speech Wednesday from the House floor, Price questioned why the governor vetoed a bill that received wide support. The measure was endorsed by the city of Newport News, Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Apartment and Management Association, which represents more than 230,000 rental units across the state.

“We worked diligently with stakeholders that are often on opposite sides of housing issues,” she told fellow lawmakers. “We had support from those that were advocating for landlords and for tenants, and we had votes from both Republicans and Democrats.”

The governor’s veto, Price said, chose “rats, mice, roaches, leaky roofs, mold, mildew, broken doors and dangerous playground equipment over kids’ ability to be safe in their homes.”

In Youngkin’s veto statement, he said Price’s bill contained duplicative provisions that already exist in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.

“It is neither clear why this language is necessary to enforce already existing provisions of state law, nor what the additional language contained in the legislation seeks to accomplish beyond what is already authorized,” Youngkin wrote.

Clark also questioned why his bill was rejected when it had strong bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and the House with a vote of 89-7. He urged lawmakers to override the veto.

“One in four Virginians are suffering from medical debt,” Clark said Wednesday on the House floor.

The votes to override the vetoes on Clark’s and Price’s bills both failed 52-48, with no Republicans voting for any of them.

In his veto statement for Clark’s bill, Youngkin wrote that the measure could have unintended consequences, such as unintentionally including forms of debt other than medical.

Clark told the Pilot he would have appreciated the opportunity to discuss the governor’s concerns.

“No one ever reached out to me from the governor’s office,” he said, adding he had worked to ensure the bill was narrowly tailored and would only apply to medical debt.

Some Democrats previously accused the governor of vetoing bipartisan bills to get back at certain lawmakers for speaking out against him or rejecting his picks for the state parole board, as well as for secretary of natural and historic resources.

Nine of the bills vetoed were introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin, who chairs the Senate committee that shot down Youngkin’s nominations. In a Twitter post earlier this month, Ebbin wrote that he was blindsided by Youngkin’s decision to veto “noncontroversial” legislation.

A Youngkin spokesperson declined to comment directly on those allegations. But the governor explained in an April 11 statement that his vetoes were intended to help make Virginia “the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Katie King, katie.king@virginiamedia.com, 757-835-1487