The opportunities and challenges presented by the August 18th Special Session of the General Assembly are a welcome opportunity to bring much-needed relief to Virginians suffering from the increasingly devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 state of emergency.
As you know, the case numbers in Virginia have increased all over the state. As a consequence, we will meet in person in Richmond and follow up with virtual hearings, committee meetings and votes.
All meetings will be streamed and Committee meetings will offer the opportunity for virtual public comment as was available for the joint Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committee hearings we held in the past several weeks.
The Speaker has determined that we consider legislation involving the budget and policing/criminal justice reform.
Our Democratic Caucus is working as a team on legislation being drafted that will cover the most pressing budget reallocations and the criminal justice reforms that our citizens are demanding.
The Constitutional limits on a Special Session will most certainly drive our choices of legislation to consider this month. The most important restriction is that any legislation passed during the special session will not go into effect for four months. However, that does not apply to the budget. The governor’s budget goes into effect as soon as it is passed and he signs it.
Many of you have contacted me about changes to our voting system that would ensure a more fair result than our current system. I absolutely agree that we need many new voting safeguards for November. However any legislation concerning voting will not become law until after the November 3rd election. The only vehicle for voting regulation changes is the Governor’s budget.
I have been working with many grassroots organizations on criminal justice system and policing reform.
I believe that the most important reforms we can make are in Crisis Response Teams, SRO’s, policing practices, prisoner sentencing, health care (includes paid sick leave, workman’s comp Covid-19 presumption) and the civil rights of our disabled friends and neighbors. Some budget changes may have to wait until the January 2021 session. We must begin to work on initiatives for 2021 now. Many budget reallocations are widely supported within the General Assembly, but because our revenues are seriously reduced, we may not be able to move on some of our keystone accomplishments. I am working on both the budget language and stand-alone legislation in areas I consider crucial to begin building equity and justice in our state.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]