New Bills Keeping McAuliffe Busy - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

New Bills Keeping McAuliffe Busy

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Governor Terry McAuliffe is keeping himself busy.

Weeks after lawmakers adjourned the regular session of the General Assembly, the governor is reviewing hundreds of bills with big changes for the commonwealth.

A bill signed Wednesday afternoon will reorganize part of the state's leadership structure. Born out of a state review of disaster preparedness last year, the bill consolidates homeland security and disaster response under the same department - the newly named Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Governor McAuliffe says the law, which went into effect upon signing Wednesday, will improve crisis coordination and response to keep Virginians safer.

"This legislation streamlines Virginia’s ability to keep our communities safe by putting our homeland security planning and preparedness in the same place as our emergency and disaster response functions," McAuliffe said.

"It allows command and control and operational readiness to increase," said 17th District Senator Bryce Reeves (R), one of the bill's sponsors.

The law also charges the newly named Department of Veterans and Defense Affairs to oversee the commonwealth's relations with an estimated 840,000 veterans, and more heavily focus on Virginia's robust defense sector.

Earlier this week, McAuliffe also approved the so-called "caboose" budget bill, finalizing state finances for the fiscal year ending June 30. Included in that bill is a $300 million investment in a new Capitol Square office building, parking structure, and renovations to the Old City Hall building.

McAuliffe approved spending on the new complex with some hesitation, as lawmakers continue to grapple over expanding Medicaid health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

"I wasn’t too keen on spending $300 million for a legislators’ building at the same time we’re not providing healthcare for 400,000 Virginians," McAuliffe said.

Several high-profile bills are still waiting for the governor's signature. McAuliffe says he will approve bipartisan reforms to Virginia's Standards of Learning assessments without hesitation. Ethics reform, on the other hand, might not sail through so easily.

The governor says he and his policy team will spend part of Thursday reviewing ethics legislation passed by the General Assembly, which includes the formation of a new state ethics commission, a $250 annual cap on individual gifts to lawmakers, and required gift reporting from immediate family members.

Ethics reform became a top issue for lawmakers after former Governor Bob McDonnell and his family came under fire for a gift scandal last year. McDonnell and his wife currently face 14 charges related to federal corruption, and are expected to go to trial July 28.

McAuliffe has not said whether he will approve the ethics reform bill as drafted, or if he will send it back to lawmakers with amendments.

All bill changes will go back before the General Assembly when they return to Richmond for the reconvened session later this month.

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