READ would provide $100 million for virtual learning needs

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, August 27, 2020

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When the 2020 special session convened on Tuesday, Aug. 18, Democrats presented HR 514, a rules change that would have, if Republicans had consented to its immediate consideration, allowed for virtual meetings of the House and votes to be taken at virtual committee meetings.

By introducing the resolution in the first place, Democrats admitted that the rules do not allow for virtual meetings of the House.  When their effort to enact HR 514 failed, Democrats introduced HR 515, which purports to authorize the speaker, Eileen Filler-Corn, to hold virtual meetings.

Democrats have then proceeded to use HR 515 as a way to avoid in-person meetings of the House — and wait out the five days required to change the rules. Either HR 515 has the power to allow virtual meetings of the chamber, or a rules change is required. This is a binary question, and no amount of explanation can change that fact.

‘Virtual’ Session

This is no way to run a legislative body. Democrats can’t assure anyone that the votes being cast are being cast by members.  Members were “kicked” from the virtual floor sessions at random times. The public could not see their legislators, giving them no idea who was casting votes, if anyone.  The public can only see the member speaking, not the body as a whole.

For the majority of the session, there was no way for the public or the press to see if a member was seeking recognition — the virtual software gives the speaker the ability to silence the minority physically, which is impossible in a real session.

Democrat Per Diem Disaster

On the opening day, Democrats also introduced HR 516 that would allow House members to be paid per diem, which is used for travel expenses when in session in Richmond, when meeting virtually from our homes.  On Wednesday, a united Republican caucus wrote to the clerk to tell her we want no part of travel reimbursement for sessions when we don’t travel.

Said simply, it’s not appropriate to take money for hotel rooms when we’re not sleeping in hotels.  We were told on the floor Tuesday that HR 516 allows for payment of travel per diem for virtual sessions.

On Wednesday, Del. Marcus Simon defended the practice, saying that it was acceptable to take travel money for virtual sessions.  Later that day, the speaker’s spokesman said no one would be paid for travel they didn’t do, and any information to the contrary was Republican misinformation.

Said simply, House Democrats got caught once again not knowing what they’re doing and making it up as they go along.

Our caucus will continue to do what is right with taxpayer money — no matter where we meet.

While the House only dealt with the procedural items last week, committees are scheduled to begin meeting this week and I will have a full report on any actions taken.

I know that parents and school administrators are still struggling with the current school reopening situation.  I think we should be working to get our children back in the classroom full time as soon as possible, but until that happens we need to do everything we can to make sure parents and students have the resources they need.

That is why during this special session I am supporting a budget amendment to create the READ Fund being introduced by Delegate Kirk Cox.

This amendment will use $100 million of Virginia’s remaining $1.3 billion CARES Act money to fund local programs to provide parents with direct financial assistance for technology, internet access, tutoring, small-scale instruction like PODs, or other educational support.

During these challenging times, we must work to provide students with the resources they need.  I am hoping House Democrats will join me and my Republican colleagues in establishing the READ Fund.

I hope you will continue to contact us if there is any way we can be of assistance.  You can reach my office at 434.696.3061 or