Virginia Senate Reconvened, Did Not Move Forward on Skill Games

Written By Phil West on June 24, 2024
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has yet to approve a skill game bill despite a special legislative session

The Virginia Senate reconvened last week with skill games as one of two agenda items for the special session. However, it adjourned after just one day, with the possibility of revisiting one or both issues later this month.

Criticism over budget cost cutting led to special session

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed the budget on May 13, after a bipartisan effort brought the two House Bills (HB 6001 and 6002) to his desk.

According to the Virginia Mercury,

“the stated reason for the unusual June work session is the intense blowback legislators and Youngkin have received after adopting a budget last month that quietly imposed cost-cutting measures on the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program. That program waives tuition at public colleges and universities for eligible families, and policymakers say a recent spike in VMSDEP participation has created a growing financial strain on public universities that have to absorb the costs.”

But the legislature was also looking to address the skill games issue. However, Youngkin said revisiting that issue was contingent on the General Assembly addressing the VMSDEP concerns.

Why the Virginia legislature needs to revisit the issue rests firmly with Youngkin himself.

During the regular session, Youngkin endorsed a bill, Senate Bill 212, that would have legalized skill games and which the General Assembly approved. However, shortly after approving it, Youngkin added amendments addressing where skill game machines could and could not be located, and those amendments were shot down. Instead of giving final approval to his original bill minus the amendments, Youngkin vetoed it, and the skill game debate ended.

Late effort to rekindle skill game debate goes nowhere

Senate Finance Committee Chair Louise Lucas offered an olive branch in Senate Bill 6008. That bill would have legalize skill games and used the money, per the News-Post, for “a special fund for K-12 public education, but not school construction,” as “the budget already includes additional funding for renovating or replacing outdated schools.”

Lucas has also included language in a separate budget bill providing for “an interest-free Treasury loan of up to $20 million to the Virginia Lottery to carry out ‘electronic gaming device oversight.'”

However, last week’s session was fruitless, as Lucas decided to form a workgroup rather than consider any VMSDEP bills.

That led one Republican state Senator, Bryce Reeves, to comment regarding the inaction in light of testimonials from those affected that “we don’t have a bill to take up. So, theoretically, I don’t know why we’re here. We’re wasting taxpayer dollars to the tune of $40,000 to $50,000 for us to come in and do a finger drill all day, and that’s pretty upsetting.”

The Virginian-Pilot added that the workgroup planned to “collect public comments and submit recommendations to the committee by mid-September.”

Youngkin rebuked the senators on Tuesday afternoon via a public statement, which read,

“I stand with our military heroes, first responders, and their families today who are stunned that Senate Democrat leadership failed to even consider a simple bill, supported by a bipartisan majority of Senators, to reverse the changes to VMSDEP by fully repealing the language, and addressing this in the full light of day. These men and women deserve so much better.”

House members are slated to convene on June 28, with Democratic leadership ready to act on that issue should the Senate not move on it before then.

Photo by Steve Helber / AP Images
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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