Lawmakers react to special session
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Legislating during a pandemic was a challenge for state lawmakers.
But Friday was the “finish line” for most of the work they took up during the special session.
Whether it was a major success or a miserable failure depends on who you ask.
The House session that started on the floor of VCU’s basketball arena in mid-August quickly moved online.
“Having a hundred people on one Zoom call, you talk about herding cats, that’s pretty much what we were trying to do,” said Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt Co.).
Members of the Senate continued to gather in person in a Science Museum of Virginia meeting hall that allowed the lawmakers to spread out, but even there the session moved forward in fits and starts.
“It kind of went on and on and on,” said Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), “but we finally got it done.”
Ultimately, Edwards said he was thrilled with the results of the special session, including sentencing reforms, more training for law enforcement officers and a ban on no-knock warrants and choke holds.
'I was very pleased with what we did on criminal justice reform," Edwards told WDBJ7. “We spent a lot of time on it, heard from a lot of people and I think this brings Virginia into the 21st century."
Delegate Chris Head has a different view, fearing reforms will lead to more crime and fewer people who are willing to serve as police officers.
“I think this has been a devastating session for law enforcement in Virginia,” Head said. “And I think there’s just a lot of things that are going to have long-lasting, very negative impact on the Commonwealth and the people of the Commonwealth.”
The special session continued as long as the regular session earlier this year.
And now, lawmakers are preparing for the next round in January.
While Head would like to see the plywood come down at the State Capitol and lawmakers return to their chambers, it appears likely COVID concerns will continue to dictate a more cautious approach.
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