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Republicans object to special session rules

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 8:16 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia Republicans say GOP lawmakers and the people they represent are being shut out of the legislative process.

They made that claim Tuesday, with the special session of the General Assembly now just days away.

Lawmakers will return to the State Capitol Monday for the first time in over a year. They will decide how to spend more than $4 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. But Republicans say Democrats are changing the rules in an effort to rubber stamp the governor’s priorities.

“We’ve been told we need to be there for two weeks. If they’re just going to shove this down everyone’s throat then I have no idea why we need to be there more than two hours,” said Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah).

At issue is a decision by the House Democratic leadership. In a memo, delegates were told neither the House Appropriations Committee nor the Senate Finance Committee will accept any member requests for amendments to the governor’s proposed budget.

“When we spend money it’s a collaborative process,” Gilbert told reporters during a virtual news conference Tuesday morning. “Both Republicans and Democrats, no matter who is in charge, are allowed to work on it. We’re allowed to submit ideas. We’re allowed to have those ideas either accepted or rejected. That’s been completely shut down in this process, unfortunately. And it’s very troubling, to say the least.”

Democratic leaders declined an interview, but in a statement, Appropriations Chairman Delegate Luke Torian (D-52) said the committees must act quickly.

“It would be impossible to thoroughly evaluate amendment submissions in the short time of this unique Special Session,” Torian said. “Our priority is expediency in getting relief funds where they’re needed.”

A spokesperson for House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41) provided the following response:

“This is yet another political attack proving Virginia Republicans will choose politics over their constituents every time,” wrote Communications Director Sigalle Reshef. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to help Virginians recover from the pandemic, and Republicans have opposed it every step of the way ... The Democratic majority will continue to govern effectively and help Virginia build back stronger, regardless of the roadblocks the GOP tries to put in their way.”

Democrats note, and Republicans acknowledge, members will be allowed to bring up amendments on the floor of the House, though Republicans complain that will be late in the process.

We’ll be hearing more Democratic proposals this week, and Republicans are promising their own, even if the odds are stacked against them.

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