From COVID-19 to criminal justice reform, full calendar awaits Virginia lawmakers

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 8:14 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia lawmakers return to Richmond next week for a special session of the General Assembly. Their to-do list is long, with measures related to COVID-19, the state budget and criminal justice reform on the calendar.

Lawmakers will not gather at the State Capitol when the session opens Tuesday at noon.

Both the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia will meet in other Richmond locations that offer more room for social-distancing.

And while legislators will take up the COVID-19 response and the resulting budget issues, Democratic leaders say Virginians have also demanded police and criminal justice reform in the months following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) is the House Majority Leader.

“People were concerned that it wasn’t just Minnesota, but there are actions happening here in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Herring told WDBJ7. “And now is the time, before we hear of a tragic story, or more tragic stories, that we take action.”

Democrats hold the majority in the General Assembly, but Republicans are pushing back.

Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah Co.) is the House Minority Leader.

“I feel like a number of their proposals actually do target police,” Gilbert said in an interview, “and make policing harder and make it harder to do that job, you know, trying to handcuff, no pun intended, the police in very dangerous situations.”

Virginia Tech Professor and WDBJ7 Political Analyst Bob Denton says issues related to police reform and social justice will likely fuel the most intense debate during the session.

“We’re seeing the Democrats, especially the more progressive ones, they want to make a real strong statement and keep the movement alive in some of the social justice measures and also police reform.

Lawmakers will convene at noon on Tuesday. How long the session is likely to last is still unclear.

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