Although the General Assembly’s veto session does not officially begin until April 18, legislation is already on the chopping block as Governor Ralph Northam takes advantage of his first veto season in office. The governor started by striking down bills that would have imposed limits on fees paid by Virginia’s attorney general’s office to bring in outside legal assistance on large cases and legislation making it tougher for fast food employees to unionize.
Senate Bill 926, introduced by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), was set to limit the contingency fee charged by a special counsel employed by a state agency and passed on a 51-48 party-line vote in the House. Republicans proposed the idea as a fiscally responsible initiative if the state government were wo bring in taxpayer-funded lawyers. However, Northam claimed it would limit the Commonwealth’s ability to bring in highly-talented legal help in big cases.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Northam’s office release a veto statement on Monday which explained, “[The bill] would weaken the commonwealth’s bargaining positions and restrict its potential recovery against those who harm Virginia residents.”
Northam also vetoed House Bill 110. Introduced by Delegate Christopher Head (R-Roanoke), it would have declared franchise owners and those they employ not employees of the larger corporation. In a presentation of strengthening right-to-work laws after the 2015 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) making it easier for franchise employees to unionize, the bill was also passed on a party-line vote in the Senate 21-19.
In his subsequent veto statement, Northam said the legislation would, “create additional burdens upon the franchisee, most of whom are small Virginia-based businesses.” By falling under the NLRB ruling, Northam claims, “These employer responsibilities and obligations would include guarantees of a healthy and safe workplace for all employees.”
It will take a two-thirds vote to override a veto from the Governor if Republicans wish to follow suit. However, considering the GOP holds just a one-member majority in both chambers, the Democratic minorities have the numbers to uphold Northam’s vetoes.