The Virginia House of Delegates voted against extending the regular session from 30 to 45 days on the first day of the regular session. The move by House Republicans to block extending the session means that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have a short amount of time to handle standard government business and check off items from their progressive wish list.
Constitutionally, sessions in even numbered years can last 60 days, and in odd numbered years, sessions are limited to 30 days. But House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) said passing an extension is common practice in the General Assembly.
“We have to extend this session beyond 30 days,” Herring said. “For the last five decades, the General Assembly has consistently extended an odd numbered session beyond 30 days.”
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) told his caucus not to approve the extension. “We have sort of staked out a position that the constitutionally mandated 30-day time frame is appropriate this year despite the history, despite the practice.”
Gilbert said the extension was meant to allow time to discuss a budget, something that was already addressed in the recent lengthy special session.
The bill needed two-thirds approval to pass, allowing House Republicans to defeat the bill with just 45 “nay” votes.
Democrat leaders stripped three Republicans of some of their committee seats after signing a letter last week calling for Vice-President Mike Pence to nullify the results of the 2020 general election. Delegates Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun), Mark Cole (R-Stafford), and Ronnie Campbell (R-Lexington). LaRock was removed from the Transportation Committee, Cole from the Privileges and Elections Committee, and Campbell from the Courts of Justice Committee.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn’s spokesperson Kunal Atit said in a statement posted to Twitter by reporter Ben Paviour, “By seeking to disenfranchise millions of Virginians and undercut faith in our democratic institutions, Delegate Dave LaRock, Delegate Mark Cole and Delegate Ronnie Campbell showed exceedingly poor judgment and conducted themselves in a manner unbecoming of their office.”
He added, “Their attempt to cast doubt on our elections process in order to impede the peaceful transfer of power between one president and another is an affront to our democracy and violates the public trust.”
LaRock told The Virginia Star, “When people are punished for having an opinion that is not shared by the majority party, one that is held by a huge segment of the population, that amounts to putting politics ahead of governance and becomes an obstacle to those who are committed to doing what we are elected to do.”
The day began with a virtual prayer breakfast — a video featuring pre-recorded messages from speakers including Chaplain of the U.S. Senate Admiral Barry Black. During the House meeting, members voted to adjourn in honor of fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and in memory of recently deceased Senator Ben Chafin (R-Russell.)
Only a handful of people were present in person in the chamber, including Filler-Corn and Clerk of the House Suzette Denslow. But Gilbert’s communications director Garren Shipley told The Star that most of the GOP caucus was present in their offices on Wednesday. When a technical glitch interrupted Gilbert’s comments about having a 30-day session, he complained about the virtual format.
“I’m going to use what’s happening right now as yet another example of how this is not ideal,” Gilbert said.
He added, “Here we are in this format having problems already within the first hour. And while I appreciate again everything you’re trying to do, we think there’s a way to balance, as they are doing in other states, even our neighboring states, public health concerns, health concerns of our staff and members, and doing the people’s business properly.”
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