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Examining Next Steps for Legislation Passed During 2021 Session

AP Photo / Steve Helber

The General Assembly session may be over for 2021. But, the process isn't.

Senators have left town, and House members have turned off Zoom. But in many very important ways the session is not over yet. That's because Governor Ralph Northam gets an opportunity to weigh in on all 900-something bills lawmakers put on his desk.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says people forget how powerful Virginia's governor is.

"In many ways, a Virginia governor is a legislator in chief," Farnsworth explains. "They can amend bills. They can veto bills in their entirety like a president can, and they can make suggestions to improve the legislation in their view."

That means the governor could amend the marijuana legalization bill to move up the timeline to make possession legal this summer. Or he could amend the paid sick days bill to expand the requirement to the private sector.

But as Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says, that might jeopardize the end result.

"There may be minor revisions here and there," Kidd says. "But I don't think we're going to find any big surprises quite frankly because I think the governor's people were involved in most of the negotiating that went on between the House and the Senate."

Lawmakers will get the last bite at the apple when they reconvene on April 7th. That’s when they can either accept the governor's version of the legislation or vote it down and start over again next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.