Tommy Wright: The news just won’t stop

A reporter said this week, “The news just won’t stop.” It was an eventful week, with developments on vetoes, the budget, the arena deal, and more. 

Governor Youngkin issued key vetoes over the past week, defending the Second Amendment, blocking a retail marijuana market, and a destructive minimum wage hike. 

Democrats declared war on the Second Amendment during the 2024 session, passing bill after bill that were at best suspect and at worst plainly unconstitutional. Rather than focus on the real solution to Virginia’s most prevalent form of firearm violence, Democrats attacked law abiding gun owners.

A ban on modern sporting rifles, an end run around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, unconstitutional waiting periods, and age limits all made their way to the Governor’s desk, where they were all vetoed.

Group violence intervention programs like Ceasefire and Safe, Alive, and Free get results — proven results, time and time again. But Democrats cut funds for those programs in their budget.

Democrats also expressed surprise that the Governor vetoed the marijuana market bill, despite the Governor’s warning for months that he had no interest in signing it.

Virginia’s gun laws are among the toughest in the nation, the market should set labor prices, and marijuana is dangerous to Virginians, the Governor said, wrapping up his veto messages.

Meanwhile, the Governor continues to invite Democrats to discuss the state budget before he sends down proposed amendments, but Democrat leadership will not have any part of it. Sen. Louise Lucas said she’s not interested in negotiating with Youngkin if it means helping him find parts of “her” budget plan that can be dropped.

“I am not going to own his cuts to my budget,” she said. Democrats seem to have forgotten that divided government means compromise.

ABOUT FARMERS/H2A WORKERS

Governor Youngkin vetoed HB 157 which would remove the farmwork exemption from the Virginia Minimum Wage Act. 

Farmers that employ H-2A workers must abide by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) that is set at $15.81 per hour. Farms that don’t hire H-2A workers pay the AEWR to compete with those that do. 

Farmers are in a tough position because they must operate with unpredictable weather and fluctuating production costs. 

Because of federal regulations and worldwide market conditions, farmers often lack control over the prices they receive for their goods. Agricultural budgeting and operations are already challenging, and imposing a wage mandate without considering these factors could drive small and medium-sized farms into debt or closure. 

The agricultural industry is already under pressure, and this bill will significantly affect the industry. 

The data from the USDA Census of Agriculture and the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Policy strongly emphasizes the importance of supporting our farmers. America has lost five thousand farms and nearly five hundred thousand acres of farmland in the last five years. This has dramatically altered our economy and communities. 

This affects the economic growth and stability across Virginia, making agriculture a crucial component of the state’s prosperity. The AEWR already materially determines the labor rates. A further wage mandate financially strains farmers, leading to farm closures, job losses, and increased consumer food prices. 

In short, this Democratic approach to force wage mandates will financially strain farmers, leading to farm closures, job losses, and increased consumer food prices. House District 50 heavily relies on agriculture. I strongly opposed this bill from the beginning because the last thing we need are city Democrats telling rural farmers how to operate. 

GUN VETOS

Governor Youngkin vetoed House Bill 585 that would criminalize home-based firearm dealers who maintain their place of business at their residence within one and a half miles of an elementary or middle school. 

By all appearances, this legislation targets one individual in Prince William County, to whom the Prince William Board of County Supervisors granted a home-based firearms license.

This legislation is unconstitutional under Virginia’s Bill of Rights. Home-based firearm dealers are already subject to comprehensive federal, state, and local regulations. The imposition of this restriction on lawful commercial activity appears unconstitutional, retaliatory, and arbitrary. 

Governor Youngkin vetoed House Bill 799 that required fingerprints to be submitted with an application for a concealed handgun permit or a renewal of such a permit. 

This legislation targets individuals already subject to background checks and mandatory training, creating more regulations and senseless restrictions on citizens exercising their Second Amendment right to self-defense. 

Despite an existing comprehensive instant background check system, this proposal would include an additional and redundant step in the concealed carry permit process. 

The legislation mandates the destruction of fingerprints collected by the Commonwealth during the application process, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation retains these fingerprints for the individual’s lifetime. This record retention raises legitimate concerns regarding the privacy and civil liberties of those seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The Governor also vetoed House Bill 2 which created a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person who imports, sells, manufactures, purchases, or transfers an assault firearm and prohibits a person who has been convicted of such violation from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for a period of three years from the date of conviction. 

The bill also prohibits the sale of a large capacity ammunition feeding device. The bill provides that any person who willfully and intentionally sells an assault firearm to another person or purchases an assault firearm from another person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and that any person who imports, sells, barters, or transfers a large capacity ammunition feeding device is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

The bill also makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person younger than 21 years of age to import, sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, transport, or transfer an assault firearm regardless of the date of manufacture of such assault firearm.

ABOUT THE BUDGET

I voted against the budget because it would raise taxes in Virginia by 2 billion dollars. 

The budget also requires Virginia to rejoin RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) that will cost taxpayers 600 million dollars. 

As a Commonwealth, we should try and find ways to cut taxes so people can earn more money to support their families. Putting a financial strain on Virginians by raising taxes will do nothing but make it harder for people to provide for their households. 

We could have increased funding for teachers, law enforcement, and first responders by not funding bogus left-wing agendas Democrats tied into the budget. Ultimately, Democrats played politics with the budget. I will continue to advocate for Southside Virginia when the General Assembly reconvenes on April 17th. 

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