The 2021 Session of the General Assembly got off to an interesting start. The pandemic has pushed us into a corner. On January 1st, we lost a member of the Senate. Senator Ben Chafin was a good man who cared about the people he represented and the issues he fought for. He will be missed. His death from complications of COVID-19 brought home the real consequences of this novel coronavirus. While the vaccines have been developed and everyone is tired of social distancing and wearing facemasks, we must remain careful. Until a sufficient number of people are vaccinated, we will not have this disease under control. [Read more…]
As 2020 is draws to a close, I cannot help but reflect on the unusual nature of this year as we prepare for the 2021 Session. From a legislative perspective, the regular session lasted 65 days, and we convened again in August for a 84-day special session. Of course, the General Assembly did not meet every day during the 65- and 84-day spans. During a regular session, legislators typically go home to spend time with family or to work their full-time jobs on the weekends. The special session met even more sporadically.
Politically, this year saw the return of Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate and a lot of pent-up demand from Democratic constituencies. The change in power meant the General Assembly was busy. [Read more…]
The Reconvened Session of the General Assembly met in Richmond on Wednesday, April 22. The purpose of the Reconvened Session under the Constitution of Virginia is to consider amendments and vetoes offered by the Governor. It has been part of the Virginia process since the 1971 Constitution. Before that time, the legislature did not have an opportunity to override or consider the Governor’s actions.
The age of social distancing made it an interesting day. Without question, we all want to get back to work and get back to normalcy as quickly as possible. However it is also clear that social distancing is working. We are slowing the spread of the virus, and therefore saving our medical assets and lives. We are all in this together, and we must be patient. Knowing all of that did not make the Reconvened or Veto Session any easier.
Because of the social distancing rules, the House and Senate could not meet in their chambers in the state Capitol. The Senate arranged for us to meet in a spacious room at the Science Museum of Virginia on Broad Street in Richmond. In that room, we had desks that were spaced six feet apart. We were all required to wear masks, and we were equipped with gloves and hand sanitizer. Debate, questioning and presentation while wearing a face mask made it even more unusual. [Read more…]
On March 12, 2020, the regular session of the General Assembly adjourned after adopting a budget for the next two years. It is a budget that will take us forward and that we can be proud of, but there are caveats.
The biennial budget is built on projected growth over the next two years of three percent. The February forecast showed Virginia experiencing about six percent growth to date, so three percent seemed to be a conservative estimate. However, the stock market has fallen more than 25 percent over the last few weeks. We need to be concerned about the economy at this point for several reasons. Major forecasts are predicting a recession this year, so there are a few things we need to take into consideration. [Read more…]
The 2019 Regular Session of the General Assembly is now over. For the books, we adjourned one day late due to the length of discussions over the budget. A budget agreement was not reached until the morning of February 23. We amended the rules several years ago to require posting of the budget 48 hours before the vote. Even with the extra day, we did not comply with the rules. The budget work during the short session consists solely of amending the two year budget we adopted the prior year. However, there is good reason to allow an intentional “waiting period” before a final vote is taken. [Read more…]