- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Republican lawmakers failed to override several of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes Wednesday on coal-related tax credits, legislation related to clergy opposed to same-sex marriage and other issues.

Lawmakers returned to Richmond for a one-day legislative session to vote on McAuliffe’s vetoes and amendments to legislation passed earlier this year. Here’s a look at some of the most-watched actions:

COAL TAX:

Despite a lengthy and impassioned debate on the merits of coal-related tax credits, Republicans in the state Senate were unable to get the two-thirds majority necessary to override McAuliffe’s veto of legislation extending the credits for several years.

GOP lawmakers from the state’s coal country in Southwest Virginia said the credits provide vital relief to an area hard-hit by coal’s decline.

Utilities using coal and coal mine operators claimed $37 million worth of tax credits in fiscal 2015, according to state records.

McAuliffe said the credits haven’t worked and are an expensive giveaway to coal company executives.

Both chambers of the General Assembly approved the legislation by veto-proof margins earlier this year, but some Democrats in the Senate changed their minds to help uphold McAuliffe’s veto.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM & SEXUALLY EXPLICIT BOOKS:

McAuliffe’s vetoes prevailed on two other highly charged issues.

The Senate upheld a veto of legislation that states clergy and religious organizations cannot be penalized for declining to participate in same-sex marriages.

Similar legislation has been proposed in states across the country to protect those who - due to religious beliefs - decline to employ or serve certain people.

Recent laws denounced as discriminatory in North Carolina and Mississippi has prompted a growing backlash from opponents. Supporters say the legislation protects religious freedom.

The Republican-led House fell one vote short of overturning a measure that sought to force schools to warn parents if their children will be assigned books with sexually explicit content.

ETHICS:

Lawmakers rejected proposed changes by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to the state’s new ethics law, saying they were unnecessary.

McAuliffe had sought to tighten some of the limits on gifts lawmakers can accept from lobbyists and others. Lawmakers agreed to a $100 cap on gifts in last year’s session, but passed legislation this year that makes exceptions for certain kinds of gifts, including food and drinks under $20.

The governor also wanted to prohibit lobbyists from bundling gifts together from multiple clients to avoid exceeding the $100 cap.

Brian Coy, the governor’s spokesman, said McAuliffe was disappointed that lawmakers “voted against amendments closing a loophole” in the state’s ethics laws that could “expand the practice of wining and dining public officials.” Coy said the governor will review whether to veto the legislation following the General Assembly’s rejection of his amendments.

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