By State Sen. Bill Stanley
January 19, 2021
The Virginia General Assembly opened its 2021 regular session on Wednesday, but for the first time, we are not in the Capitol. While the Senate convened in a large auditorium at the Virginia Science Museum, the House of Delegates’ Democrat leadership decided that they would stay home and hold their sessions by Zoom.
The space in this new Senate Chamber allows everyone to practice safe social distancing – and then some. Senators wear masks, our temperatures get checked, and each of our desks have our own bottle of hand sanitizer. Every precaution has been taken so that Senators can conduct committee work and meet in-person during Session to fulfill their duties as the Virginia Constitution requires.
You might wonder why the Senate has gone to such great lengths to meet in person, especially since the House of Delegates is meeting remotely. The Senate prides itself on being more deliberative than the House. Our debates and discussions over bills can be longer, often going into detail. And although partisan leanings may lead to some predictable results, it is not unusual for our debates to lead to significant changes to legislation and even bipartisan consensus.
A remote conferencing platform like Zoom simply cannot replicate this process. While individual senators are permitted, for health reasons, to participate in session remotely on occasion, the overwhelming amount of our legislative work is done in person. It makes a real difference.
The Constitution of Virginia sets the length of sessions held in odd-numbered years at 30 days. On Wednesday, we set the schedule for the 2021 at 30 days. Democrats are not happy about this, but the Constitution requires a super-majority to extend session beyond the 30 days. Republicans committed to adhering to the Constitutional session length back in November, a week after the 84-day special session ended.
That special session ended with the General Assembly completing its work on amending the 2020-2022 Biennial Budget, which is the primary purpose of session in odd-numbered years. But since we completed that objective just two months ago, it shouldn’t take so much time to repeat the process. The Democrats disagree.
I must tell you that this Session is not turning out to be “regular” in other ways; the most significant is that the opportunities for constituent input and our local residents’ ability to visit Richmond during session have been seriously curtailed by pandemic safety measures. Although we’ve made several changes to increase the avenues for citizens to weigh in on legislation being considered, COVID restrictions preclude the kind of interactions to which lawmakers and their constituents have become accustomed.
Making a shorter short session more manageable, the House and Senate have placed limits on the number of bills legislators can submit for consideration. Delegates can submit seven bills and senators are permitted twelve. That caps the maximum number of bills under consideration at fewer than 1,200, 40 percent fewer than were permitted in 2019, our last short session.
A shorter session with fewer bills will encourage legislators to focus on issues requiring the most immediate attention. Ending Virginia’s vaccine distribution backlog, getting public schools open and children back in the classroom, and reviving our economy are urgent priorities. Republican senators are committed to making progress on these and other important issues.
Because our Senate office building has been essentially closed to the public, I moved my Senate operations to my law office in Richmond, which has the space to accommodate both my staff and any visitors. You can contact us at the following number, to voice your opinion, or set up a meeting: (804) 225-0528. We are located at 26 N. 8th Street, right across from the Virginia Supreme Court/Court of Appeals building.
By Del. Charles Poindexter
Week 1, Jan. 13, 2021
The 2021 Session of the Virginia General Assembly began on Wednesday, January 13. The Speaker, Clerk, and historic Speaker’s Podium were in the House Chamber. We other 99 Delegates were virtual attendees from our local offices, homes, or locations nearby that usually have a decent internet connection. This arrangement exists because the NoVA-based Speaker and her Democrat Majority ruled we cannot meet in the Capitol building, in the huge VCU gymnasium, or elsewhere in Richmond, even though the Senate is doing so safely.
While the start of Session is always exhilarating, the thrill and anticipation of representing you is smothered by the barrier of a remote computer screen. Unfortunately, the many issues we experienced with virtual governance during the 84-day Summer Special Session remain: members of the public unable to speak to legislation, inability of legislators to meet with one another, technical failures, bills rushed through by the Democrat Majority with little or no real debate, and other undesirable elements remain a hindrance to our democratic and historical process of governance.
Foremost in our minds is wondering when our citizens will receive virus vaccinations. While the good news is Virginia has received roughly one million doses, our primary concerns regard the plan and infrastructure to carry out the vaccination program. Virginia is near the bottom of the list in getting shots into arms. Eleven Health Districts in Virginia are entering Tier 1b (essential workers and people age 75 and older) while we in the West Piedmont District (Franklin, Henry, Patrick, and Martinsville City) are still in Tier 1a (health providers, nursing homes, etc.). This is inexcusable.
For months, the CDC, the American Pediatrics Society, and parents statewide have been saying to open the schools to in-person K-12 education, as the evidence is overwhelming that virus spread is negligible in schools. School boards have been reluctant to comply, likely due to pressures from the VEA, labor unions, and similar groups to reopen. Late last week, the governor flipped positions on this subject, and is encouraging the reopening of our schools. It is past time. Virtual school districts personnel are reporting student achievement and failure rates statewide are abysmal and discouraging.
In the House of Delegates. the other side of the aisle doesn’t appear to be listening. Their focus appears to be on legislation to coddle or release criminals; restrict our police; ignore or subject families and victims of crime to traumas associated with early release or retrials of criminals; further increase your electricity and transportation costs by conforming Virginia’s laws to radical California-based laws; forcing Virginians to join a union to have a job; raising taxes on the middle class; legalizing marijuana; additional gun control restrictions.
Regardless of one’s opinion or position about recent elections fairness, accuracy or fraud allegations, with half of the electorate highly concerned, my position is Virginia, the federal government, and all states should take steps immediately to restore public confidence in our election processes. That’s why my Republican Caucus is sponsoring bills to disallow ballot harvesting, reinstate voter ID, assure poll and vote count watching, and more. One of our bills would change the State Board of Elections composition from 2-1 membership (with two from the sitting Governor’s party) to equal numbers with the chair selected by the Board, thus removing potential political influences in the state election apparatus. We are also introducing bills to curb or limit the Governor’s ability to issue long-lasting states of emergency without the People’s Representatives’ oversight; use federal stimulus funds to help parents and children to adopt and use virtual education and force the State Parole Board to follow the law as regards paroling criminals.
To contact me during Session, call (540)576-2600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Del. Les R. Adams
16th House District
On Wednesday, January 13, the Virginia General Assembly was obligated under the state constitution to convene. Although the Virginia Senate did so in person at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond (close to the actual Capitol building) to comply with safety protocols related to the ongoing pandemic, the leadership of the House of Delegates made no similar arrangements. Instead, all Delegates met “virtually,” on Zoom technology, as mandated by the House Speaker and approved by her Democrat majority over Republican objections.
This technological approach to conducting the people’s business, which is not contemplated under our state constitution and is not employed by many other Democrat governed state representative bodies, including those in nearby Maryland and even the one-party state of California, presents its own serious challenges to basic lawmaking functions. These Zoom meetings follow the course set last year with the unprecedented special session called by the governor that went as long as a regular session but accomplished a fraction of the work normally achieved in that timeframe. As you might imagine, this “new normal” the political left is so eager to cement in our civic life, limits public involvement and facilitates the majority’s efforts to fundamentally change our Commonwealth with as little opposition as possible.
Fortunately, Article IV, Section 6 of Virginia’s constitution requires “the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected to each house” to allow the customary extension beyond thirty days of regular session during odd numbered years. Of all the years to withhold that concurrence, this is the one, especially since pressing state budgetary concerns were recently addressed. And in consideration of the governor’s stated objectives to repeal longstanding and demonstrably successful policies that protect the public safety, the fewer days available, the better.
Most regrettably, however, for all of us concerned about not just our Commonwealth, but also our place within the nation, is the truly sad state of affairs at play in Washington D.C. where the bitter political divisions that separate our countrymen have been made vividly manifest following the federal elections held several weeks ago. And now, as became the case in Virginia following the 2019 state elections, one party dominance over all our governing institutions is about to commence. Amidst the ongoing national turmoil is the daunting prospect of this reality: that the views of most voters in our Southside region, and indeed in all of rural Virginia, are now subject to an increasingly authoritarian approach to governing at every level that is hostile to our values. It is a troubling backdrop made worse by the unrelenting censorship and propaganda pressed by major corporations and social media platforms that work in concert with those in office to achieve their objectives, cancelling voices of dissent and distorting political reality.
That is the challenge we now face. As your state representative, I intend to meet it head on, with professionalism, and in constant remembrance of the privilege it is to act on your behalf.