Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed into law a first batch of 51 out of 819 bills that passed both the House of Delegates and state Senate.
The governor can sign or veto bills or recommend amendments. The legislature will consider the governor's amendments and any vetoes when it reconvenes April 12.
Most of the bills the governor has signed are technical changes – ensuring, for instance, that the definition of a cigarette used in the law governing tobacco sales is the same as the definition used in state agriculture laws.
All were uncontroversial and have broad, and often unanimous, bipartisan support. They’ll generally take effect July 1.
Among the new laws are measures that make it an offense punishable by up to a year in jail to make a prank emergency call – “swatting” – that results in police or other emergency personnel, such as a SWAT team responding.
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The legislation makes it a felony subject to a punishment of one to five years in prison if such a prank call results in serious bodily injury and a penalty of one to 10 years if someone is killed.
Another bill says questions about mental health must be dropped from applications for licensing as a health professional – doctors and nurses, for example.
Instead the questions will ask if a license has any reason to believe he or she would pose a risk to the safety or well-being of patients and if the applicant is able to perform the essential functions of a practitioner, either with or without a reasonable accommodation.
This law takes effective immediately, as it was enacted on an emergency basis and its unanimous approval exceeded the state Constitution’s four-fifths vote requirement
Youngkin also signed a measure that says state colleges and university housing should let students who had been in foster care when they turned 18 stay in that housing at no cost during vacation periods.
Out of some 1,136 bills introduced in the House, and 74 carried over from 2022, a total of 453 made it through both bodies, and 31 are now law.
Of the 770 bills introduced in the Senate and 82 carry-overs, 366 passed both bodies and as of now the governor has signed 20.
Still on the governor’s desk are other bills with broad support, including a sweeping revision of how the state regulates the electric monopoly Dominion Energy, which promises a savings of $6 to $7 a month on a 1,000 kilowatt hour bill that currently costs $137.
The so-called “skinny budget” bill that covers essential spending and makes up for $201 million shortfall in state funds to local school boards resulting from a state Department of Education calculation error is also on his desk.
But the $1 billion difference between what the House and Senate propose for changes to the current two-year budget is still unresolved. Negotiators hoping for a compromise are due to start work this week.
Other broadly supported measures awaiting the governor include the first successful effort in two decades to set minimum staffing standards for nursing homes, and consolidation of the state’s workforce development agencies, a top Youngkin goal.
Other measures with general support include efforts to promote a fishery to reduce the devastating impact of the invasive blue catfish, and a bill that limits the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that can be included in a hemp product or industrial hemp extract.
Among bills that passed with strong opposition that are now awaiting the governor’s decision is one that would eventually allow pharmacists to initiate treatment by dispensing medication for influenza, COVID-19 and urinary tract infection.
Another bill on Youngkin’s desk that saw essentially partisan splits would make organized retail theft – conducted by petty larceny rings that hit more than one store – an offense under the state’s racketeering law.
Dave Ress (804) 649-6948
@DaveRess1 on Twitter