Sharp divisions expected during special session

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 7:35 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A special legislative session that started as first aid for the state budget has expanded to include criminal justice reform and the full range of the state’s coronavirus response.

And with lawmakers returning to Richmond Tuesday, advocacy groups were busy rallying support.

Monday morning it was a new coalition calling for paid sick leave.

Kim Bobo is Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

“There are more than 1.2 million workers in Virginia who have no paid sick days, no paid time off, no time off at all to care for themselves and their family members,” Bobo said during a news conference. “This is a crisis in normal times, but especially in this pandemic.”

Democrats hold the majority in the General Assembly, but Republicans are promising strong opposition to measures like the paid sick leave requirement they say would threaten businesses struggling to stay afloat.

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

“So to add this burden we think is just another example of Democrats not understanding what it takes to be in business, the fact that those who are going to be harmed by additional burdens on businesses are the workers themselves,” Gilbert said during a Republican news conference Monday afternoon.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, responded during an interview with WDBJ7.

“It’s tough for businesses. It’s tough for everyone,” Herring said of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. “It’s probably toughest on those low-income workers, the service workers, the hourly workers because they were the first to be let go. They were the first to be furloughed.”

That is just one of the issues lawmakers will consider during the special session.

They have pre-filed more than 60 bills on a wide range of topics.

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