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Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: April 9, 2018
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky,

Governor Northam Finalizes Actions on Legislation in Advance of Reconvened Session

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today finished his review and action on 874 bills passed by the General Assembly for his signature, amendment or veto.

“When I evaluate legislation, I apply a simple test. If it makes our Commonwealth work better for the people who live here, I sign it. If it doesn’t, I amend it or I veto it,” said Governor Northam. “I am proud of the bipartisan work we have done this session to solve real problems our families and businesses are facing. We may not always agree on every policy issue, but I want to thank the men and women of the General Assembly for working with my team and me for the good of our Commonwealth.

“We have made great progress so far this year, and we have an opportunity to build on that record by passing a budget that expands health coverage to people who need it and invests those savings into priorities like education and public safety. I look forward to completing that important work when the General Assembly returns to Richmond this week.”

Below is a summary of actions the Governor took on select pieces of legislation today. For more information on all of his actions, please click here and visit the “Governor” section on this page.

House Bill 1539 and Senate Bill 856: Dedicated Funding for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority
The Governor sent down a number of amendments. The amendments restore $0.10 of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Grantor’s Tax and raise a $0.05 Northern Virginia Transportation Commission Grantor’s Tax. The amendments also increase the NVTC Transient Occupancy Tax to 3% from 2%.

In addition, there are a number of technical and clarifying amendments. 

The Governor’s amendments ensure a funding stream for WMATA while reducing by $30 million the annual negative impacts on NVTA for other transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

House Bill 1609: Returning Horse Racing to the Commonwealth of Virginia
The Governor was pleased to sign this bill, which will enable the return of horse racing to the Commonwealth of Virginia. At the same time, the Governor issued an Executive Directive outlining priorities he would like to see reflected in the regulations that the Virginia Racing Commission will develop. These priorities include extensive stakeholder and public engagement and placement of reasonable limitations on the proliferation of gaming in Virginia. The full text of that directive is at the bottom of this release.

House Bill 1258 and Senate Bill 405; House Bill 1427 and Senate Bill 821: Advancing New Wireless Technologies in Virginia
The Governor amended the legislation to provide flexibility for local governments and encourage deployment of wireless infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas.

House Bill 844 and Senate Bills 934, 935 and 964: Making changes to Virginia’s health care plan offerings
The Governor amended these bills to say that the 2019 General Assembly must consider and pass the legislation before they can become law. He also directed the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a work group to examine recent trends in the individual insurance market and state options for stabilizing that market.  These bills consider only a few of the many options that can help bring insurance rates down for all Virginians.

House Bill 1598 and Senate Bill 106: Establishing certain criteria for redistricting
The Governor’s amendments direct that existing political boundaries are considered, that all communities of interest are considered, that minorities’ voting rights are protected, and that existing political parties and incumbents are not favored or disfavored. Currently, we do not have a nonpartisan redistricting committee in Virginia. This bill with the Governor’s amendments, will help ensure a fair redistricting process.

Senate Bill 942: Tax changes for the Historic Triangle
The Governor’s amendments will remove the increase in the sales tax on groceries and maintain the $2 Transient Occupancy Tax with the proceeds divided evenly between the Historic Triangle Marketing Fund and the locality in which the tax is collected.

The full text of the Governor’s Executive Directive with respect to the horse racing legislation is here below:


Executive Directive I (2018)

Directing the Virginia Racing Commission Regarding Regulations Related to Historic Horse Racing Pursuant to House Bill 1609


Importance of the Initiative

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a rich history of horse racing dating back to when Virginia was still a colony. Virginians have been breeding and racing thoroughbreds for hundreds of years, and it is an important part of our economy. From early days to the Triple Crown-winning Secretariat from Caroline County and continuing to today, horse racing holds a special place in Virginia’s history.

Currently, Virginia no longer hosts thoroughbred racing on the scale that reflects our state’s close historic association with the sport. The horse track at Colonial Downs that once held regular races has not seen a horse race in several years. Without a major thoroughbred track in the state where Virginia-bred horses can race, and without a source of revenue to support the industry, it will be difficult for Virginia to once again be a place where the horse industry can thrive.

For these reasons, I was pleased to sign House Bill 1609 into law. I am hopeful that this legislation will reinvigorate the horse industry and allow thoroughbred racing to return to Virginia.

While I am excited about the opportunities that this legislation presents to Virginia’s horse industry, the signing of this legislation begins an important process regarding the regulation of historic horse racing. HB 1609 authorizes the expansion of Virginia’s pari-mutuel wagering laws to include wagering on horse races that have already taken place. As seen in other states that have adopted similar legislation, this type of wagering often takes place through an electronic machine. These machines can allow for multiple, simultaneous bets and for numerous bets in a very short period of time.  House Bill 1609 allows this type of wagering to take place at a significant infrastructure facility horse track and at up to ten satellite facilities across the state. This is a significant departure from the type of pari-mutuel wagering that has taken place in Virginia to date.

House Bill 1609 empowers the Virginia Racing Commission (“Commission”) to craft regulations regarding the conduct of historic horse racing. The Administrative Process Act (Va. Code § 2.2-4000 et seq.) requires that I approve any regulations promulgated by the Virginia Racing Commission before they become effective.

Given the importance of these regulations to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia horse racing industry, local communities, law enforcement, and various other interests, it is essential that these regulations be crafted in an open, deliberate, and responsible manner. It is also important that the regulations be comprehensive to ensure that any gaming activity in Virginia is conducted responsibly and in a manner consistent with the intent of the General Assembly.

Directive to the Virginia Racing Commission

Accordingly, pursuant to the authority vested in me as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth and pursuant to Article V of the Constitution of Virginia and the laws of the Commonwealth, I hereby provide the following directives to the Commission regarding the promulgation of regulations related to historic horse racing as authorized by House Bill 1609 (2018).

In crafting these regulations, the Commission shall consider the following:

  • Identification of a revenue source for the Virginia horse racing industry in order to support the reintroduction of thoroughbred racing in Virginia;
  • That any license or authority granted by the Commission for the purpose of conducting historic horse racing be used for the purpose of conducting wagering on live horse racing, simulcast horse racing, or historic horse racing and not for any other purpose;
  • Placement of reasonable limitations on the proliferation of gaming in Virginia through historic horse racing machines in order to ensure the safety and welfare of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia;
  • Local community opinions in determining whether to allow historic horse racing in a given locality;
  • Ensuring due attention is paid to gambling addiction education, prevention, and treatment in the conduct of historic horse racing; and
  • Establishment of a maximum number of historic horse racing machines at a racetrack and a maximum number of historic horse racing machines at a satellite facility as well as provisions related to physical size of satellite facilities. 

In order to provide a full opportunity for public engagement during the development of regulations related to historic horse racing, I direct:

  • That the Commission and its staff shall maximize opportunities for public engagement, comment, and public review of draft proposed and final regulations and that such public engagement begin immediately;
  • That the Commission and its staff shall actively engage interested parties in public meetings, including local government representatives and organizations and law enforcement, in drafting regulations and that such engagement begin immediately; and
  • That the Commission shall work to keep the Secretaries of Commerce and Trade and Finance, the Office of the Governor, and members of the Virginia General Assembly informed regarding the regulatory development process.

I further direct:

  • That the Department of Planning and Budget, in conducting its economic impact analysis, consider the impact these regulations will have on potential future revenues to the Commonwealth from other sources.


Effective Date

This Executive Directive shall be effective upon its signing and shall remain in force and effect unless amended or rescinded by future executive order or directive.

Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this 9th day of April, 2018.



Ralph S. Northam, Governor



Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of Commonwealth

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