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Youngkin signs 100 bills, many sponsored by Democrats

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(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 100 bills into law on Tuesday and vetoed four, bringing his tally so far this session to over 360 bills signed and a record 132 vetoed.

In addition to his vetoes, this batch included more Democrat-sponsored legislation, several health care bills, and an anti-discrimination bill lauded by the governor.

With the Democratic majority in the General Assembly, the percentage of Democratic legislation the governor signs in each round of bill action will likely continue to grow. Youngkin is almost halfway through the legislation sent to him by the body, but both the House of Delegates and the Senate passed substantially more legislation patroned by Democrats than Republicans.

Thus far, signed Democratic legislation hadn’t drastically outpaced signed Republican legislation, but on Tuesday, the governor signed 62 more Democratic bills than Republican. All of the governor’s vetoes, however, have been Democratic legislation.

One of the health care bills responded to recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which conducts reviews on the effectiveness of state agencies and policies.

In December, the Commission released a report on Virginia’s state psychiatric hospitals, revealing turnover rates much higher than those for most state government employers. This was due to staff feeling unsafe at work, as well as some uncompetitive pay. House Bill 806, introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, partially addresses the problem by requiring nursing staff and psychiatric technicians who work at least 36 hours per week to be designated as full-time employees. The bill also attempts to add some employee pay and benefits protections.

HB 503, patroned by Laura Cohen, D-Fairfax, dictates that licensed behavior analysts be included in the commonwealth’s definition of “credentialed addiction treatment professionals,” to help meet the demand for addiction treatment. No organizations or individuals testified against the bill when it was presented to the committee or subcommittee.

House Bills 314 and 515 both concern state hospitals’ discharging practices.

Several others aim to improve Virginia’s health insurance landscape, updating reporting requirements and penalties for noncompliance for pharmacy benefit managers, prioritizing premium reduction targets for the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program, and regulating insurance companies’ interference with patients’ prescription drug coverage.

HB 1085, also patroned by Rasoul, establishes a PFAS Expert Advisory Committee to aid the state in reporting and containment of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “forever chemicals.”

In the press release from his office regarding his latest signing session, the governor celebrated signing HB 18 and Senate Bill 7, companion hate-crime and discrimination bills, tying them into his efforts to combat anti-semitism.

“As one of my first executive orders, I formed the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which issued a recommendation that Virginia revise its laws to ensure Jewish Virginians are protected from hate crimes, along with Muslims, Sikhs and other ethnic and religious groups. Today, after two years of hard work, I’m pleased to sign SB7 and HB18 which codify that recommendation,” Youngkin said.

The bills were sponsored by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Orange, in the Senate and Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, in the House.

Youngkin vetoed bills requiring the state Board of Education to create and adopt model policies on climate change curriculum and enforcing penalties for retail sellers of unmarked invasive plant species, as well as a bill from Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, enabling academic research on aggregated district court case data.

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