Virginia Democrats, eager to repeat their “long parliament” experience over the summer and fall of 2020, were looking forward to attempting to keep state legislators in session for enough extra innings to consist of an entire season of baseball.
Indeed, Democratic Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) announced Monday that the Virginia House of Delegates would meet virtually for the upcoming session, expecting a repeat of the previous session’s shenanigans:
While I look forward to the time we can return to conducting business in person & go back to the way we operated prior to the global pandemic, at this time we must continue to listen to the experts & make informed, responsible decisions based on their recommendations & science. pic.twitter.com/SoCcrdpZhx
— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) November 16, 2020
Small problem with that.
Filler-Corn was quickly one-upped (and reminded) by Republican Senate Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) and Republican House Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), who jointly announced the session would be limited to 30 days per the Virginia constitution.
Republicans will oppose extending the 2021 General Assembly session beyond the 30 days mandated by the Constitution of Virginia pic.twitter.com/qb65hB9pFX
— VA Senate GOP (@VASenateGOP) November 16, 2020
There is little indication that Filler-Corn or the leadership in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly even bothered to discuss the finer points of governing-by-recliner.
The law however is quite clear.
Under the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly meets annually. In even-numbered years, the session is limited to 60 days. In odd-numbered years, the session is limited to 30 days. But there is a catch — with a two-thirds vote, the short sessions can be extended by up to 30 days. Now for as long as anyone can remember, the short session has been extended to 45 or 46 days every year.
Yet as Republicans hold more than enough votes to block the procedural move required to extend the session and the progressive arm of the Democratic Party continues to govern under a lockdown mentality, given the “long parliament” there seems to be little appetite from either House or Senate Republicans to continue to waste taxpayer dollars and collect per diems for doing… well, nothing.
“Considering the lengthy regular and special sessions held this year, the General Assembly should be able to complete its work for 2021 in the 30 days the Constitution allows,” said Norment. “This year’s regular session lasted 65 days and the special session stretched out over 84.”
“The Constitution limits the duration of General Assembly sessions to ensure we have a citizen legislature, not one populated by full-time politicians,” Gilbert noted. “Given that we’ve already addressed the primary purpose of the upcoming session, amending the state budget, it makes sense that we keep within the constitutional minimum until the people of Virginia can once again fully participate in their government.”
A 30 day session with at least one half of the General Assembly meeting virtually would be one of the least productive sessions in history.
Yet given the Democratic agenda — further attempts to restrict firearms, repealing right-to-work, defunding and complicating matters for state and local law enforcement, enacting an expensive carbon tax, enacting gas rationing for transportation, and raising taxes yet again on working class families — that’s probably not the worst thing for Virginia.