State lawmakers have a lot on their plates in the state capitol Wednesday evening, and we're not talking about the budget.
They returned to Richmond for the annual "veto session" as work on the state's two-year spending plan sits at a standstill. McAuliffe vetoed just five bills passed by the legislature, and amended dozens of others. Wednesday, lawmakers reviewed them all, with one big elephant in the room: budget gridlock, with no end in sight.
From school prayer to ethics, lawmakers had their hands full Wednesday. House lawmakers voted 78 to 19 to override McAuliffe’s veto of a bill allowing people to appeal red light camera citations to circuit courts. Supporters say it's an issue of due process, but opponents believe the measure could crowd circuit court dockets.
This clogs up inappropriately. I trust our judges in the district court level,” said 39th District Delegate Vivian Watts (D).
Senate lawmakers did not reach the two-thirds needed to override the veto. Meanwhile, lawmakers did approve many of the governor's amendments, including technical changes to bipartisan ethics legislation and close to $1 million in new funding to fight child sex crimes.
“This is a program that's been proven to work, it's been proven to save lives,” said 25th District Senator Creigh Deeds (D).
But with all the work that is getting done, there is some that isn't, as lawmakers continue to squabble over the state budget and health care expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
“We're ready to go. We've been ready to go,” said 35th District Senator Dick Saslaw (D).
“The place to decide a public policy like that is not in a budget,” said 76th District Delegate Chris Jones (R).
Both houses are stuck in a procedural tug-of-war, with neither willing to approve the other's budget proposal. And while lawmakers are eager for a deal as soon as possible, this isn't the first stalemate to stretch on.
“This is not unusual. I mean, in the Warner administration it was June, in the Kaine administration it was like the 28th of June,” said 10th District Senator John Watkins (R).
This debate could very well stretch on that long. If nothing changes, and a budget isn't passed by the end of June, Virginia's government could shut down for the first time ever.
Lawmakers are now further away from a deal than they were a month and a half ago.