Virginia legislature: Gov. Youngkin signs 64 bills into law, vetoes 8

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took final action late Friday on 84 pieces of legislation, signing 64 bills into law and vetoing eight others, including legislation that would add more restrictions on firearm transfers.

Youngkin, a Republican, had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Friday to act on the legislation sent to him by the Democratic-led General Assembly last week. The governor usually has 30 days to take action on legislation, but a 7-day deadline applies to bills sent to his office before the last week of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end Saturday.

Most of the bills were not highly contentious. The 64 bills Youngkin signed into law had bipartisan support, including legislation to enshrine the legality of same-sex marriage in Virginia in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

The legislation provides state-level protections by prohibiting the denial of marriage licenses on the basis of sex, gender or race and requiring that lawful marriages be recognized by the state. It allows religious organizations or members of the clergy the right to refuse to perform any marriage.

Another bill signed into law will prohibit public universities in Virginia from giving preferential treatment in admissions to students related to donors or alumni.

In a statement, Youngkin said the bipartisan bills he signed into law are “a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when we set politics aside and work together for Virginians.”

Youngkin vetoed a bill aimed at clarifying that a law requiring parental notification of sexually explicit materials in schools is not meant to enable censorship.

He also vetoed legislation that would have required the state commissioner of elections to rejoin a data-sharing interstate compact aimed at fighting voter fraud. Last year, Virginia became the eighth Republican-led state to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center after the group was targeted in a series of online stories that questioned its funding and purpose.

Virginia was one of the founding members when the center was formed in 2012, an effort promoted by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican. The voluntary system aims to help about two dozen member states maintain accurate lists of registered voters by sharing data that allows officials to identify and remove people who have died or moved to other states.

Following state elections in November, Democrats now have narrow control of both the House and the Senate. During the current legislative session, Democrats have pushed to have Virginia rejoin the compact.

It will take a two-thirds vote to override Youngkin’s vetoes.

Youngkin sent 12 bills back to the General Assembly with amendments he said he hopes “will be reviewed with serious consideration.”

One of those bills would require local school boards to provide an annual notification to parents of their legal responsibility to safely store all firearms in their homes, and to provide parents with statistics on firearm-related accidents, injuries and deaths among young people, as well as safety tips.

The legislation was proposed in the wake of a shooting last year of a Virginia teacher by her 6-year-old student at an elementary school in Newport News. The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, survived but was seriously injured.

Youngkin’s amendment includes a reenactment clause and directs the state Department of Education to convene a work group to create a comprehensive list of the parental rights and responsibilities and to develop an efficient method for distributing the list to parents.

Democratic and Republican leaders declined to comment on Youngkin’s vetoes and amendments, saying they would speak about them Saturday during the final day of the legislative session.