DeSteph: Pocahontas Building restrictions ‘unprecedented obstruction’
Yesterday afternoon I was informed that Majority leaders, Senator Mamie Locke, Chair of Senate Rules, and Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn have determined that “due to the rise in COVID-19 numbers” the Pocahontas Building—the structure that contains the offices of both House and Senate members—will only be open for credentialed legislative employees and current legislators during the upcoming Regular Session of the General Assembly.
This action is an unprecedented obstruction to the legislative process, and is designed to do nothing more than to stifle constituent input. Never before in the history of the legislature has the public been denied access to these lawmakers. Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol with the intent that it be open to the People. To alleviate this issue, a constituent hotline is being established to “take and transmit messages” from the public. Unfortunately, the establishment of a bureaucratic hotline provides me little comfort that the voice of the People will be heard. Far too many Virginians have expressed their dissatisfaction with our existing state phone systems and I imagine it will be no better than the hotlines established for the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) that have seemed to frustrate many throughout this pandemic.
Sadly, the Majority leadership has forgotten that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The Majority has instead decided the people will be shut out of the General Assembly Building and subsequently impeded from free participation in the legislative process.
Bill DeSteph represents the Eighth District in the Virginia Senate.