Tommy Wright: Looking ahead beyond the budget

The May 13 Special Session was a one-day affair, and a budget has been signed into law for the next two years, averting any chance of a government shutdown. Meanwhile, the Governor took action to help fix a serious problem with the VMSDEP program and issued another stack of vetoes.

When Republicans noticed serious problems in the budget with the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, the Youngkin administration moved quickly to address those concerns.

The program provides higher education benefits for disabled veterans, their children, and Gold Star families. As drawn in the budget, the program will become a “last dollar” rather than “first dollar” resource.

The Governor issued an Executive Directive that creates a task force to examine ways to minimize the impact of the changes and possible program changes. Republicans are committed to seeing this program be preserved for those who have given so much to defend our Commonwealth and country.

Governor Youngkin also vetoed legislation that would have created a right to contraception in the Code of Virginia. While Democrats were quick to criticize this legislation being vetoed, they had no answer to concerns raised by Republicans during the session.

The bill that was passed contained no conscience clause, which could have forced anyone involved in the provision of health care to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or face a lawsuit.

The bill was also drawn so widely that a woman denied a prescription for birth control pills could have sued her pharmacist or doctor, even if her medical history indicated that they could cause life-threatening complications.

No medical provider should feel compelled to give a prescription to someone that could kill them simply because they could lose a lawsuit if they don’t.

Governor Youngkin signed several bills, even though Democrats rejected his recommendations.

Among those are SB 498, which will begin the process of formalizing the Governor’s Executive Order regarding parental notification for overdoses in K-12 schools.

He also signed House Bill 707, which expands online protections for children. If social media were a drug, it would already have been put off limits for children. More work needs to be done to cover children ages 13-17, but this bill is a good place to start.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.