House goes virtual, as lawmakers spar over length of legislative session

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 11:38 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn addressed an empty chamber as she opened the 2021 regular session Wednesday.

“We will do the people’s work, and we will let no obstacle stand in our way,” she said.

The House of Delegates is meeting virtually, because of the continuing pandemic.

“I have no idea what’s coming around the bend,” said Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt Co.), “because we’re operating virtually, because there are so many questions about how it’s going to run, about how this can be done.”

Head and Del. Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke Co.) were in their Richmond offices for the start of the session, hoping a short session will limit the progressive agenda that Democrats have been pressing since they took control last year.

“I’m hoping it’s time we take a breather,” McNamara said. “We start thinking of our small businesses, we open our schools and we allow Virginians to thrive.”

But Democrats argued the pandemic alone demands the 46 days lawmakers traditionally reserve in the years when they aren’t crafting a new two-year budget.

“We are being professionals, trying to be professional, doing the people’s business,” said Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg), “and that takes more than 30 days.”

Roanoke Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) said he remains hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground to help individuals and businesses that continue to struggle.

“And what they need to know is they’ve got leadership who’s ready to focus on them and their pain and their struggles day to day,” Rasoul said, “and so that’s where I want to be laser-focused and I’m sure the governor will be as well.”

The motion to extend the session past 30 days required a two-thirds majority, and Republicans voted no, but a special session could still allow Democrats to extend their work, if necessary.

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