Column – It’s a strange special session

Published 5:16 pm Thursday, August 27, 2020

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Last Tuesday we returned to Richmond to make adjustments to the state budget caused by COVID-19.  Certainly not because the governor wanted us to interfere with his sole power, but rather because the state constitution requires it.

The constitution states that if the expected tax revenue is lower than anticipated on June 30, then the General Assembly must be called into session to adjust downward expenditures for the next two-year budget.

This is as it should be, but his friends in the General Assembly convinced him that he should let them take a crack at several other liberal ideas that they didn’t accomplish last winter.  Such things as gun control, free-for-all voting, defanging police, and giving some greater rights over small businesses.

 I went to Richmond expecting the Democrats to be better organized and come out guns blazing.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  The first misfire was when the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Eileen Filler-Corn,  offered rules which would control the special session.  However, she had not shown them to anyone in the Senate, Democrat or Republican, to review and possibly amend.  Thus, when questions were asked, it fell apart.

The Senate rejected the House rules unanimously 40-0.  By the time our vote had been taken, the House Democrats had voted to hold the rest of the Special Session virtually from their homes rather than together in Richmond.  The only other action they took was to vote themselves payment for each day they sat at home as if they were in Richmond.

At least the Senate continued forward with the session and held committee meetings.  Having said that, their focus seems to be expanding the liberal agenda rather than focusing on getting the budget back under control.  For example, most of our General Laws Committee focused on a bill that would exempt renters from paying rent until next April.  Forget about the property owner losing his property due to foreclosure because he couldn’t make mortgage payments.

On Monday, the only bill that is before us is one that would allow the state to mail a ballot to every voter so that they could vote by mail.  This clearly explains why the Department of Elections is refusing to match up with the National Change of Address to prevent voting in two states.  This will be a particularly bad problem with college students who often try to vote in their home state and their college state.

About 180 bills were introduced in the Senate.  They can be broken down in to those that are focused on breaking down the values that most Virginians hold, and those protecting Virginians and Virginia’s businesses.

Two of the latter were my bills focused on problems caused by COVID-19.  One would help the school systems as they plan their budgets for the 2021-22 school year.  The other would protect those nearing retirement age with the state to prevent them from being harmed by forced furloughs this year.

I co-sponsored others, many which will never get out of the General Assembly much less signed by the governor.  The most important one is a bill that limits the length of time a governor can declare and enforce a state of emergency without getting the approval of the General Assembly.  Thirty days is fair, however, we have been under Gov. Northam’s fiat for six months with no end in sight.

Other Good Bills to Watch

Legislation that would provide for sick pay for teachers out with COVID-19 if they were in school teaching.

Tax credit for those who have lost income because rent was not paid by renters.

Immunity for those caring for those with COVID-19 and businesses that have followed mandated guidelines.

Greater penalties for those who riot in our communities and endanger others, particularly law enforcement and first responders.

Other Bad Bills

Bills that will tie the hands of law enforcement, more Second Amendment restrictions. Efforts to bypass the laws established to ensure that elections are fair and secure from those who would tamper with them. Bills that would allow those in hotels to stay in motels and hotels without paying.

These are just a few examples of what we will be dealing with in the coming weeks.