Legislature returns in August

July 21, 2020

The Virginia General Assembly will reconvene Aug. 18 to retool the state budget in the wake of the COVID-19 virus emergency.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that he was calling the special session, which will follow the governor’s traditional report at the end of the last fiscal year to the House and Senate money committees.

In April, the governor’s office noted, Northam worked with legislators to “unallot,” or freeze, more than $2.2 billion of new spending in Virginia’s new biennial budget.

Legislators will now consider a number of items previously “unalloted” — including the governor’s proposed funding initiatives in early childhood education, tuition-free community college, affordable housing and broadband.

Another topic will be law enforcement, Northam announced. There will be measures aimed at police accountability and oversight, use of force, increased training and education and officer recruitment, hiring, and decertification, he said.

The governor “has directed the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Virginia African American Advisory Board, and the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law to assist the administration in developing policy initiatives,” the release noted.

In a separate press release, District 40 Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, noted that Northam declared a state of emergency 127 days before he announced the special session and “since then, unilateral decisions have been made that significantly affect every Virginian. We have a system of checks and balances for a reason, and I look forward to fulfilling our constitutional duty.”

Pillion stated that his priorities during the session include:

• More resources to support local school reopening plans.

• Economic recovery efforts supporting businesses and jobs.

• Strengthening the state budget and “public health response.”

• Supporting law enforcement and school resource officers.

• “State of emergency authority reform.”