RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Despite new majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, Democrats may be limited on what they can accomplish with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in office.
Democrats won a majority in Virginia’s General Assembly during this year’s election, giving the party full control of the legislature — but the GOP could have acquired power in three different areas of the Commonwealth’s government had there been a different outcome.
This new control will allow Democrats to oppose various plans Gov. Youngkin has proposed, such as tax cuts and a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Youngkin has the power to veto legislation if he so wishes — however, there is one route Democrats could take that would not need the governor’s approval.
“I think if the Democrats were smart, they will use the constitutional amendment process, just from a political perspective,” Randolph-Macon Political Science Professor Rich Meagher explained.
In Virginia, constitutional amendments must be passed by majorities in both the House and Senate the year it is proposed — and then passed by majorities in both bodies again after a House of Delegates election has taken place.
This would mean if an amendment is approved in 2024 or 2025, it would have to be approved again in 2026.
“There certainly will be amendments introduced into the General Assembly this year, probably on some of those issues like restoration of rights for convicted felons, perhaps gun control [and] perhaps removing outdated language from the constitution on marriage equality,” Meagher explained.
Meagher says the issue that will draw the most attention is abortion rights. It’s important to note that if Democrats pass one resolution, they would still need to pass another after the 2025 House of Delegates election before any amendment could go to voters.
“So, if they want to put abortion on the agenda front and center for the 2025 election, they can pass a first resolution and say now it’s up to the voters, Meagher told 8News. “If they want us to continue on this process and get a chance to vote on this themselves, then they need to return us to power next year in our next election.