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ArlingtonWar of words erupts after governor vetoes Lopez measure

War of words erupts after governor vetoes Lopez measure

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The long and winding saga of a piece of legislation patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez ended with the sound of the governor’s veto pen making contact with paper.

Gov. Youngkin on May 27 vetoed the measure – HB 891 – which would have removed the word “alien” from the Code of Virginia, replacing it with “synonymous” and “appropriate” language.

Initially, it appeared Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) would have no trouble getting the bill through. It passed on a 78-19 vote in the House of Delegates, but then ran into a party-line 22-18 vote of approval in the Democratic state Senate before landing, the first time, on Youngkin’s desk.

The governor proposed two major changes to the measure – setting up a work group to scour the Code of Virginia to see where “alien” was used and determine if there were any unintended consequences to making the change, then requiring that the bill re-approved by the legislature in 2023 after that group had finished it work.


The Republican-controlled House of Delegates approved those recommendations on a party-line vote, but the Senate declined to consider them, sending the original bill back to the governor a second time.

And out came the veto pen.

Youngkin said that without review by a work group as he proposed, there was no way to insure “lasting and unintended consequences” of the verbiage change.

It was among a number of bills the governor vetoed on May 27, after he did not like the General Assembly’s response to recommended changes made earlier in the year.

In response, Lopez said the veto was akin to supporting hate speech.
“When our laws use language that refer to people as ‘illegal’ or ‘alien,’ even as society increasingly considers those terms pejorative and harmful, that language can serve as a justification that continuing to stigmatize immigrant communities is not only OK, but is implicitly approved by the government,” he said in a statement.

Lopez said his bill had been “carefully crafted” and therefore did not need any further review before being signed into law. Youngkin clearly felt otherwise.

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