McDonnell vetoes give him a nod of respect

GOP’s Cuccinelli says governor is gaining traction

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RICHMOND | Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II sees Gov. Bob McDonnell’s embrace of his veto power as a sign that the governor is hitting his stride.

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican in his second year, flexed his veto muscle last week during a special General Assembly session after bypassing the privilege last year. He nullified one bill that would have expanded physical-education requirements for schools, two that would have raised fees for environmental violations and another to increase the cap on medical malpractice awards by $1 million.

“I think he’s a lot more comfortable as governor now,” Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, told The Washington Times. “I know that for myself, I would tell you it took through the summer of my first year to feel like the dust had settled on the office.”

Lawmakers reached the two-thirds majority needed to override one of the governor’s four vetoes — the legislation raising the medical malpractice cap from $2 million to $3 million.

The increase over last year would have received more attention had it not been for the distractions from the process of drawing new political-district lines, Mr. Cuccinelli said.

Mr. McDonnell’s immediate predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine, tried to halt 12 bills during the first two years of his term. Three of them were overridden by a Republican-led House and Senate.

Mr. McDonnell exercised his veto power slowly, waiting on three bills until shortly before a midnight deadline on March 29.

Taking the time to read bills is one of the governor’s trademarks, Mr. Cuccinelli said. In the past, Virginia Democrats and Republicans have said Mr. McDonnell spends more time than other governors talking with lawmakers and reading bills, after his 14 years in the House.

“He didn’t veto the [physical education] bill without reading it,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “He didn’t veto the water bill without reading it.”

Mr. McDonnell also proposed 133 bills and 86 amendments to the state’s two-year, $78 billion budget. Last year, he submitted 218 bill and budget amendments.

Legislators approved 92 percent of the 2010 amendments, according to Mr. McDonnell’s office.

Lawmakers finished voting on the governor’s vetoes and amendments late Wednesday. The General Assembly is expected to convene late Monday afternoon as legislators work toward redrawing House, Senate and congressional districts in time for the August primary elections.

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