Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who did not issue any outright vetoes in his first year in office, has now vetoed four measures approved by the General Assembly this year and altered others.
McDonnell’s increasingly wide exercise of executive power could create tension with the legislature, which had approved some measures he amended and vetoed by wide margins.
He most recently vetoed two measures dealing with fines and penalties for environmental violations. One bill would increase civil penalties that can be assessed by the director of the Department of Environmental Quality. It was approved unanimously by the state Senate and on a 62 to 37 vote in the House.
Another bill would, in certain circumstances,allow the State Water Control Board to impose a fine for failing to report withdrawing a million gallons of water a month for crop irrigation or, on average, 10,000 gallons a day in a month.
The measure passed the Senate on a 26 to 14 vote and the House on a vote of 75 to 23.
Those vetoes come in addition to McDonnell’s decision to strike a bill last week to require public middle and elementary schools to offer 150 minutes of physical education a week. He also nixed a bill that had received overwhelming legislative support to raise limits on medical malpractice lawsuit awards.
His veto count still keeps him well below the pace set by Gov. Tim Kaine (D) during his four years in office. Kaine vetoed as many as 15 bills in one year. His lowest veto number in one year was five.
And McDonnell substantially altered a bill that had received bipartisan support to require some insurance plans to offer coverage for services for autistic children and tinkered with a bill that authorizes new spending on state roads.
The actions are in keeping with McDonnell’s reputation as a close reader of bills who is not afraid to recommend changes. Lawmakers last year grumbled that he had attempted too many tweaks to too many bills.
This year, they may do more than grumble. The General Assembly will gather in Richmond next Wednesday to consider McDonnell’s amendments, and they can reject the governor’s recommendations on a two-thirds vote.
McDonnell’s office will also announce amendments to the state’s budget sometime on Wednesday. Last year he suggested 96 changes.