Veto Session Wrap Up

April 8, 2021

Dear Friends,

As you may or may not know, a few weeks after Session ends each year, my fellow Senators and I gather for a one-day meeting called Reconvene Session. On this day, we vote yea or nay on any bills for which the Governor offered amendments and vote to overturn any bills he vetoed.

This year because Democrats in Richmond passed so many of his liberal priorities and defeated so many of the bills we sought to implement as conservatives, the Governor did not veto a single bill. 

However, he did offer amendments to a few bills, perhaps most significantly the bill to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Let me be clear, I remain opposed to the legalization of marijuana. 

And the fact that the legalization under this bill would not take place until 2024 did not change my opinion. That is why I was appalled when Governor Northam – in a fashion all too similar to the arbitrary and dictatorial way he yielded his authority during the COVID shutdown – decided to amend the bill to move legalization up to July of 2021 – yes, that is THIS July, less than 90 days from now. He bucked all the input and research that went into the 8,000-line bill, that his office actually crafted, he reversed course and determined that legalization should occur immediately. 

As if that was not bad enough, he slipped 4 lines of language into the bill that are wholly unrelated to this topic to throw a bone to the job-killing, left wing organized labor interests from whom he has received millions of campaign dollars. 

These are 4 lines provide that licensees who grow, manufacture or sell marijuana products will lose their licenses if they do not “remain neutral” in response to efforts of union organizers to unionize their businesses or if they do not pay a “prevailing wage” dictated by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is even worse than it sounds, as these businesses can be shut down if they block union organizers from trespassing on their property to solicit employees in their organizational efforts. This is a serious infringement upon the property rights of farmers and other business owners and it undermines Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state. 

Licensure of marijuana businesses was supposed to be a means of ensuring the safety of marijuana products being grown, manufactured and sold to the public — not a tool to force the unionization of the work force. 

Requiring business owners to allow union organizers to trespass on their property to solicit their employees has become a hot-button issue for right-to-work and property rights advocates. Only two weeks ago an appeal brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of a California nursery owner was argued in the United States Supreme Court. There, union organizers trespassed on the business’s property asserting it as their right under a California state law that allows private-sector unions to come onto private property for three hours a day, 120 days out of the year, to recruit workers into joining their ranks. The language slipped into Virginia’s marijuana bill may be even more intrusive and disruptive. I hope that the Supreme Court will rule for the California businesses. For more information on that case click here

This bill is bad and this amendment is bad. Period. 

The Senate voted 20-20 and Justin Fairfax, the Lieutenant Governor and Democratic candidate for Governor, made the tie-breaking vote to pass these amendments.  Remember when Democrats and certain editorial pages urged Virginians to vote against the Constitutional Amendment to place Right to Work in our Constitution arguing that nobody wants to undermine our right to work laws? This action demonstrates the falsity of those assertions. 

In other news from yesterday’s session, the Democrats predictably voted to adopt the Governor’s $250,000 budget amendment to hire outside counsel to do a very limited and partisan “investigation” in response to the Parole Board scandal. The “investigation,” of course is a sham. It authorizes an investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG), not the Parole Board.  What is needed is a real investigation; one that covers all of the widely reported incidents of Parole Board misconduct, the targeting and firing of the OSIG whistleblower, as well as the involvement, if any, of members of the offices of the Governor or the Attorney General in a cover-up.  Instead, now we will end up with a sham “investigation” that is nothing more than window-dressing designed to divert public attention from this serious and potentially dangerous breach of public trust.  For more on this you can read the Senate GOP Caucus statement below and the RTD story from last night here

As we conclude the 2021 Session, I will continue to fight for our shared conservative values and freedoms – support our small businesses, and our right-to-work laws. I support a strong and fair criminal justice system that keeps our communities safe while showing respect to victims, and those in law enforcement. It is an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the 26th Senate District. 

I’m back in my district office in Harrisonburg and look forward to serving my constituents on state government related issues.  Please feel free to contact me at 540-437-1451 or at [email protected] .


Mark Obenshain