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McAuliffe vetoes development fund ethics bill

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Local,Virginia,Watchdog,Terry McAuliffe,Ethics

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would have prevented him from asking for political donations from companies seeking loans or grants from a state economic development fund.

The bills passed with unanimous support from both chambers of the General Assembly. They would have limited donations from companies seeking money from the Governor's Development Opportunity Fund, a $35 million pot that can be used to help attract businesses to Virginia.

McAuliffe's veto came after he unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to include the same fundraising restrictions on state lawmakers. In his veto statement, the governor said that because the General Assembly controls funding for the Opportunity Fund, "the provisions and protections for ethical standards associated with these awards also apply to legislators."

One of the vetoed bill's sponsors, Republican Del. James LeMunyon of Fairfax County, said he plans to reintroduce the bill next year.

The vetoes from the Democratic governor drew swift condemnation from several Republican lawmakers.

House Speaker William J. Howell said Virginia's elected officials should be focused on "working hard to restore the public's trust."

Both McAuliffe and the General Assembly enacted measures earlier this year designed to tighten some of the rules governing gifts elected officials can accept. The moves came after a federal corruption investigation and subsequent indictment of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

"This legislation was a key part of the General Assembly's efforts to strengthen and improve Virginia's ethics, transparency and disclosure laws," Howell said.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy replied that the governor had enacted a more stringent gift ban for himself, his family and his staff than the General Assembly had passed for itself. He said Howell's "professed concern for transparency and accountability" was unconvincing.

The governor vetoed a handful of other less controversial bills, including one that would have exempted certain state residents over the age of 45 from having to take a boat safety class.

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