RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed more bills into law, including a measure that aims to boost the sale of electric vehicles and another permitting the removal of a statue of segregationist Harry F. Byrd Sr., a former governor and U.S. senator, from Capitol Square.
Northam's office announced Friday morning that he had acted on over a dozen more bills as he makes his way through this year's legislative work. Also among them were measures intended to modernize public health funding, continue allowing to-go cocktails and give Virginians who rely on Medicaid up to a 12-month prescription of birth control.
“We are making tremendous progress on the issues that matter most to Virginians, from heath care and education to economic opportunity and our environment,” Northam said in a statement.
The bulk of the work of this year's legislative session wrapped up in late February. Next month, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will reconvene briefly to consider any amendments or vetoes Northam proposes.
Northam's office announced two bills Friday he would seek to change.
One deals with the research and reporting requirements of the Virginia Parole Board. Northam wants part of the bill related to monthly reporting to kick in sooner than lawmakers envisioned. The measure was touted by Democrats as a way to increase transparency at the board, which has been facing criticism from GOP lawmakers, victims' families and prosecutors for nearly a year. Republicans said the measure didn't go nearly far enough.
Another proposed change to a bill sponsored by Del. Don Scott intends to clarify that so-called “ games of skill ” will be prohibited beginning July 1, 2021, Northam's office said.
Lawmakers had been set to ban the machines, which have proliferated in restaurants, bars and convenience stores in recent years, last year. But they agreed to a reprieve of just one year with the intention of taxing the machines and using the revenue to fund a coronavirus-relief plan.
The Virginia Mercury reported earlier this week that confusion had spread about a bill from this year's session and whether it could end up giving the industry the chance to operate into 2022.
As the governor continues his work evaluating bills, advocates of marijuana legalization are anxiously waiting to see what action he will take on a complicated measure that would would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use in 2024. Many organizations were deeply disappointed in the version that squeaked out of the legislature at the 11th hour and have asked the governor for changes, including moving up the legalization date.
The bill was a top priority for Democrats, who framed legalization as a necessary step to end the disparate treatment of people of color under current marijuana laws. But talks between Democrats in the House and Senate grew tense, and a compromise version of the massive bill that almost no one seemed completely satisfied with did not emerge until the final hours of the last work day.