April 25th, 2016 Newsletter

The Virginia General Assembly convened Wednesday for the “reconvened” or “veto” session to consider Governor Terry McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.

Governor McAuliffe signed over 700 bills this year, but he vetoed 32 bills and amended 57 more. He made 30 amendments to the conservative and responsible budget passed by the General Assembly.

Many of my colleagues and I in the House were disappointed by the nature of the Governor’s vetoes. Over the last five weeks, he seemed more interested in dividing Virginians than highlighting much of the bipartisan work done this year. The Governor vetoed legislation to keep our kids safe in schools, empower parents when it comes to educational decisions, and protect coal jobs in Southwest Virginia.

In fact, the Governor vetoed six bills that passed the House with veto-proof majorities thanks to the support of Democrats. But in Richmond last Wednesday, many Democrats flipped their votes to support Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes.

The House was able to override the Governor’s vetoes on two bills, but Senate Democrats voted to protect the Governor’s vetoes. The House voted to override a veto of legislation that would protect historical war monuments and memorials from being altered or destroyed at a later date. The House also voted to override the Governor’s veto of the coal tax credit.

Governor McAuliffe also made several major amendments to the General Assembly’s two-year budget. The House rejected the Governor’s effort to expand Medicaid and provide taxpayer funding for abortion through the budget.

With the reconvened session complete, the General Assembly has completed its work for 2016. We will return to Richmond in January of 2017 for the next legislative session.

I am proud of what the legislature accomplished on behalf of Virginians this year. We passed a conservative and responsible state budget. The General Assembly passed a major, bipartisan agreement to secure the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens. We passed legislation to strengthen our economy, give more children the opportunity to succeed, and fought to advance conservative values.

I will be back in my legislative office for the remainder of the year. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

On Friday, Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order to restore the civil rights (to vote or sit on a jury) to every convicted felon who has finished his sentence and probation.  This blanket restoration would apply automatically to all, including Virginia’s most violent offenders.

Of course, Virginia already has a process for Governors to restore a felon's civil rights.  This is done on a case-by-case basis, and in recent years thousands of offenders - most of them nonviolent - have had their rights restored this way.

However, no prior Governor has announced a blanket restoration that applies for all felonies.  By lumping all offenders together, McAuliffe allows no consideration of: (1) the seriousness of the offense, including the injuries or death of the victim, (2) whether the felon has paid his victim’s medical bills, (3) whether the offender committed multiple offenses, or (4) whether the felon has committed new offenses since his release.  Far from determining that the felon has “paid his debt to society,” McAuliffe’s order doesn’t even ensure that the felon has paid his debt to the crime victim.  He makes no effort to determine whether Virginia’s most violent and dangerous criminals - many of them repeat offenders - have changed their ways.  And in addition to voting, those previously convicted of crimes - including rapists, robbers, and child pornographers - will be eligible to sit on juries hearing similar cases.

McAuliffe's order literally treats an unrepentant murderer the same as a serial shoplifter.

In addition, because it is blanket restoration the executive order is subject to constitutional challenge.  Legal teams for Governor Kaine and Governor McDonnell looked at such an order and concluded that under the Virginia Constitution, any restoration had to be done on a case-by-case basis.  Governor Kaine’s lawyer himself stated that a blanket restoration “would be a rewrite of the law rather than a contemplated use of the executive clemency powers. And, the notion that the Constitution of the Commonwealth could be rewritten via executive order is troubling.”

 Given these consistent legal opinions, we are already reviewing legal options to get the order before a court for a ruling on its constitutionality. In the meantime, please e-mail the Governor.  Tell him that you don’t think violent felons should serve on criminal juries.  Tell him to follow the Constitution.   You can e-mail him here .
   
 
If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434)821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov. You can also keep up with me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss .

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