Partisan fight over 2021 Virginia General Assembly session all but guaranteed
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced plans today for a 45-day remote House of Delegates session in 2021, as Republicans announced their own plans to limit the session to the constitutionally-mandated 30 days.
First, to Filler-Corn and the remote session, which a press release from her office suggested is being done in conjunction with the new statewide measures enacted by Gov. Ralph Northam last week to limit public and private gatherings to 25 individuals to stem a recent increase in COVID-19 positive tests.
“As legislators, we must set an example on how to conduct our business and adapt during this pandemic,” Filler-Corn said. “While I look forward to the time we can return to conducting business in person and go back to the way we operated prior to the global pandemic, at this time we must continue to listen to the experts and make informed, responsible decisions based on their recommendations and science.”
The scheduled start date for the 2021 session is Wednesday, Jan. 13, eight weeks away.
A 45-day session would run through the end of February, but getting to 45 days requires, per the Virginia Constitution, the concurrence of two-thirds of members of each house – and House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, will be directing their fellow partisans against agreeing to the usual extension from 30 days.
“Considering the lengthy regular and special sessions held this year, the General Assembly should be able to complete its work for 2021 in the 30 days the Constitution allows,” said Norment, noting that the 2020 regular session went 65 days, and the special session that began in August ended up going for 84 more.
“The Constitution limits General Assembly sessions to 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 in odd-numbered ones. Since this special session amended the budget, 30 days is sufficient time to complete our work in the upcoming regular session,” Norment said.
“The Constitution limits the duration of General Assembly sessions to ensure we have a citizen legislature, not one populated by full-time politicians,” Gilbert said. “Given that we’ve already addressed the primary purpose of the upcoming session, amending the state budget, it makes sense that we keep within the constitutional minimum until the people of Virginia can once again fully participate in their government.”
Story by Chris Graham