Tommy Wright: Youngkin steps in to help Virginians

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

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Session is over, but legislative related events continue apace in and around Capitol Square. Governor Youngkin continues to act on legislation, and Democrats have begun an organized PR push to support the budget. 

Governor Youngkin issued a raft of vetoes last week on legislation regarding public safety, with more expected this week.

Among those include HB 455, which would have allowed prosecutors to charge possession of less than 1 gram of a controlled substance as a misdemeanor.

The Governor also vetoed HB 267, which would have created an affirmative defense of mental illness when assaulting a police officer, and SB 334, which would have put major restrictions on plea agreements.

These vetoes will protect Virginians by keeping the most dangerous felons behind bars and ensuring that the deterrent effect of our criminal justice system remains strong.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Chair Luke Torian and Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Louise Lucas wrote to the Governor last week, chiding him for his actions to date.

It is hard to envision productive negotiations being undertaken during your statewide tour touting a “backward budget,” they wrote.

“Your desire to engage the legislature in crafting amendments to the budget prior to the reconvened session is unprecedented, much like your ongoing threats to veto the entirety of the budget if it does not meet your demands.”

Previous tax cuts already “strain our ability to meaningfully serve working Virginians and their families,” they added.

Lucas and Torian also deny that the $2 billion plus tax hikes included in the budget are tax hikes.

We have not proposed increasing taxes. instead, we are working to avoid further erosion of our sales tax base and modernizing our tax system by recognizing the shift toward digital rather than physical goods,” they added.

Democrats also announced a four-stop tour around the state — Portsmouth, Richmond, Manassas, and Pennington Gap — in support of the budget.


HB 972 regards a defendant and prohibits inquiry into immigration status.

Deportation is a serious outcome for noncitizens convicted of crimes, however, the Court must absolutely have the right to inquire as to the immigration status of a defendant, as it is relevant information to the way the justice system should handle his or her case, including whether the defendant is a flight risk.

Courts must be able to inquire if an individual is in the country illegally as it can affect absconding potential and inform legal proceedings. 

This establishes a precedent lacking a clear endpoint. In other contexts, a future General Assembly could use this proposal as the basis to prohibit inquiries into mental state to prevent civil commitments or restrict questions about military status to avoid dishonorable discharges.

Such limitations on the information available to courts risk impeding their ability to adjudicate cases fairly and accurately, potentially resulting in severe consequences for those outside the courtroom.

HB 45 deals with earned sentence credits and incarceration prior to entry of final order of conviction. 

This bill would make our crime problem worse. Not only would it necessitate recalculating virtually every inmate’s sentence, but it would also undermine public safety by releasing individuals at a heightened risk of re-offending. 

Data shows that similar measures have led to higher re-arrest rates, increased volumes of new convictions, and elevated recidivism risks. By prioritizing leniency over accountability, it disregards the interests of victims and places our communities at risk.

HB 267 & SB 357 addresses assault or assault and battery against a law-enforcement officer. 

First and foremost, the Commonwealth has made great strides in handling our mental health crisis and remains focused on providing treatment to those individuals.

A new, loosely defined, and excessively broad affirmative defense is unnecessary because Virginia laws already provide protections for individuals who are not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

The proposal significantly reduces the protections afforded to law enforcement and erodes the Commonwealth Attorney’s discretion in evaluating cases, needlessly introducing logistical and procedural challenges that further burden our strained court system.


HB 698 and SB 448 allowing retail marijuana in Virginia was voted by Governor Youngkin. The Governor released a statement on his vetoes and said “the proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the Commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety. States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue. It also does not eliminate the illegal black-market sale of cannabis, nor guarantee product safety. Addressing the inconsistencies in enforcement and regulation in Virginia’s current laws does not justify expanding access to cannabis, following the failed paths of other states and endangering Virginians’ health and safety,”


Governor Youngkin vetoed House Bill 1/Senate Bill 1, which mandates an increase in the minimum wage in Virginia. Implementing a $15-per-hour wage mandate is detrimental for small businesses, especially in Southwest and Southside. 

This proposal, which increases the starting wage of all employees by 25%, will result in higher prices and higher inflation hurting the workers effected by this legislation. 


We return for veto session on April 17. I will return to the General Assembly to make sure the traditional values of Southside Virginia are properly advocated for. God Bless!

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at or (804) 698-1061.