By Editorial Board
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox used a few minutes of Wednesday’s veto session to offer his critique of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s job performance. He heaped his indignation on the chief executive’s eagerness to exercise veto power in recent weeks.
Cox decried not just the substance of the bills rejected by the governor, but the style in which McAuliffe issued those vetoes. He maligned the governor for taking “pride” in undoing all the work done by the legislature, especially the social agenda advanced by a few House members this session.
Perhaps the most fascinating revelation of the Cox’s after-action analysis is that he considers repugnant social measures passed by the Republican-run legislature an example of responsible governance.
Here’s an alternative review: Virginians warily eyeing the rolling disaster in North Carolina over that state’s so-called “bathroom bill” — or who recall with shame the commonwealth’s transvaginal ultrasound proposal — should jot off a note of thanks to the governor, because there but for his veto stamp go we.
McAuliffe spared the commonwealth similar ridicule and financial loss by rejecting bill after extremist bill that emerged from the General Assembly this year. Ultimately the governor nixed 32 of the 811 laws approved by the legislature, and tried to soften a great many more.
That’s the most for a chief executive since Jim Gilmore vetoed 37 bills in 1998. Many of the bills McAuliffe rejected bore a similar patina — that of social warriors who dwell primarily in the House that Cox ostensibly helps lead.
Consider, for instance, the so-called religious freedom legislation that would have rolled back state protections for same-sex couples and Virginia’s LGBT residents. It squeaked through the Senate on a 21-19 vote and earned enthusiastic passage in the House, by 59-38.
Only McAuliffe stood in the way. In issuing his veto during an appearance on a radio program, the governor offered a spot-on assessment: “It’s unconstitutional. It is discriminatory. It demonizes folks. It brings fear and persecution. We can’t tolerate that.”
North Carolina is hemorrhaging job opportunities, revenue and reputation as a result of its lawmakers’ decision to codify discrimination in state law, a choice Gov. Pat McCrory was all too happy to affirm — until the blowback began.
Virginia would be in similar straits were it not for McAuliffe providing some balance in Richmond.
Nearly three years through his term, the governor is understandably eager to cite accomplishments on the economic front — to sell Virginia as a welcoming place for business and expand markets for products made in the commonwealth.
But he’s also provided employment for plenty of conservative activists. Whether it was turning back attempts to gut funding for women’s reproductive health clinics or halting the expansion of where gun owners can carry their firearms, McAuliffe held the line on Virginia’s rightward tilt this year, adhering to a moderate philosophy for state government.
Sure, McAuliffe has proven unable to persuade, cajole or entice lawmakers on a host of important issues. His head-strong approach in 2014 extinguished most hope of expanding Medicare until he leaves. More recently he sparred with Republicans, uselessly, over judicial appointments.
But he has served as a bulkhead against the strident legislative initiatives on the House’s extreme flank, an agenda that would harm residents and tarnish the commonwealth’s reputation.
Cox and his colleagues may not like the governor thwarting their plans — and doing so happily — but Virginia is better off as a result.