May 22, 2017 Newsletter

On May 12, Governor McAuliffe issued an executive order directing state agencies to ignore parts of the final budget law and to implement the budget as if it contained unconstitutional vetoes rejected by the legislature.

Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order #65 which directs Virginia Executive Branch Agencies to enact the budget in accordance with each of the five item vetoes he returned to the General Assembly.

Executive orders do not carry the force of law, and cannot replace the budget law that was passed by the legislature and signed by this governor.

The idea that an executive order can supersede the Constitution, decades of Supreme Court precedent, and longstanding legislative practice is nonsensical. This is the culmination of four years of executive overreach, disregard for the law, and contempt for a duly elected branch of government by this governor.

The governor may be looking for a way to unilaterally expand Medicaid. But even if his vetoes were valid (they’re not), the sole authority to expand Medicaid rests with the legislature, with or without the Stanley amendment.

In a 2014 analysis, nationally-recognized constitutional law experts Paul Clement and Erin Murphy concluded that, “Whether to extend Medicaid coverage to individuals who do not fit the current statutory requirements established by Virginia law is a quintessential legislative decision.” Nothing in Virginia statutory or constitutional law empowers the Governor to make that decision unilaterally, let alone to execute that decision without the requisite appropriation of funds from the General Assembly. There is simply no constitutional path for the Governor to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program.

The Clerk’s actions were consistent with past practice under both Republican and Democrat speakers with both Republican and Democrat governors over the past 21 years.  Remember, the Governor’s line item veto authority is limited. The Supreme Court ruled that the Governor cannot veto conditions or restrictions without also vetoing the appropriation to which it is tied.

The General Assembly not only will vigorously defend its prerogatives and closely scrutinize any gubernatorial actions, we will take any and all actions necessary to ensure that the budget law is enforced as passed, signed, and printed by the Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth.

The General Assembly passed a bipartisan budget during the 2017 regular session which included language known as the Stanley Amendment to prevent the Governor from expanding Medicaid under Obamacare without the expressed consent of the legislature.

Governor McAuliffe removed the Stanley Amendment and replaced it with language allowing him to expand Medicaid. The House rejected the Governor’s amendment during the 2017 veto session. Governor McAuliffe then issued a statement claiming to use his line item veto authority to strike the Stanley Amendment from the final budget law.

The Speaker ruled the Governor’s veto action as unconstitutional and directed the Clerk of the House and Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth to print the budget without the Governor’s veto.

It is a privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office.  I will be spending the coming weeks meeting and visiting with various groups, businesses and constituents giving updates on the 2017 session. You can email me at DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804)698-1059.  You can also join the conversation on our social media page www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.

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