- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates tossed out a pair of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s line-item budget vetoes Monday while a new Republican majority took control of the state Senate.

House Speaker William J. Howell ruled during a legislative veto session that two of McAuliffe’s attempted vetoes were outside the scope of the governor’s authority. Howell’s ruling effectively dismissed the governor’s vetoes without the General Assembly voting to override them.

The most prominent veto concerned a Republican-backed amendment to the state’s roughly $96 billion two-year budget aimed at preventing the governor from expanding Medicaid without legislative approval.

House Republicans successfully blocked McAuliffe from putting Medicaid expansion into the state’s budget after a months-long impasse. McAuliffe, who signed the budget Saturday, said last week he’ll seek to expand health care coverage for the poor through executive action.

Howell also ruled that a veto concerning funding for new state judgeships was out of order. The speaker said McAuliffe’s vetoes of the Medicaid amendment and the judgeship funding did not conform to the Virginia Constitution or past legal precedent, which says the governor can only veto a budget item in its entirety, not just a part of a budget item.

McAuliffe said his office is evaluating the House’s actions, and cast Howell’s decision as a politically motivated “procedural gimmick” aimed at thwarting Medicaid expansion.

“I am continually surprised and disappointed by the lengths to which Republicans in the House of Delegates will go to prevent their own constituents from getting access to health care,” he said in a statement.

In the Senate a new 20-19 GOP majority reorganized various committees to put Republicans in charge. The Senate had been split 20-20 with Democratic Gov. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam casting the tie-breaking vote until Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett unexpectedly resigned on June 9.

Democrats said the Senate should hold delay reorganizing until after the Aug. 19 special election to fill Puckett’s state.

The General Assembly did not override the governor’s six other budget vetoes, including one that blocks funding for a new ethics commission. McAuliffe said the commission was unnecessary because he plans on introducing stricter ethics legislation.

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