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Another bill backed by Governor Youngkin is dead for the session

Steve Helber
Then Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin speaks to the media after a transition luncheon in front of the Governor's Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

Virginia's governor may be one of the most powerful governors in the country. But he still has to deal with a legislature that can derail his agenda.

At the beginning of the General Assembly session, Governor Glenn Youngkin called on lawmakers to allow felony homicide charges against drug dealers who supply fentanyl in cases that result in fatal overdoses. The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Richard Stuart, a Republican from King George County.

"We're not talking about addicts here," Stuart says. "We're talking about drug dealers that are selling fentanyl to people, and they know it's going to kill them. And they ought to be held accountable."

Senator Scott Surovell is a Democrat from Fairfax County who says it's way more complicated than that.

"Many of the drug dealers that I've seen in my practice are addicts, which is how they become a drug dealer, number one," Surovell explains. "Number two, I've also seen situations where a lot of users get turned into dealers because they want to cooperate with prosecution, and they never were a dealer to begin with but they ended up getting caught dealing because they’re under pressure to cut a deal to work their sentence down. It's easy to talk about drug dealers, but the world is not that simple."

On Monday, a Senate panel rejected Stuart’s bill and ended the governor's effort to go after fentanyl dealers. In a written statement responding to the vote, a spokeswoman for the governor says he's disappointed that Senate Democrats are preventing votes on what he calls common sense bills.

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.