Virginia General Assembly Special Session Set for August


The Virginia General Assembly’s second 2021 special session is scheduled for August 2. One of the top priorities for the legislators will be allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Although Virginia has already received the money, it can’t be spent until the legislators allocate it.

Legislative staff told The Virginia Star that the session is only expected to last a few days. Beyond ARPA funds, other issues have also been suggested for the General Assembly to address. Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 state of emergency allowing people to wear masks expires at the end of June, but state law normally in effect makes wearing masks in public a Class Six felony. The law includes some exemptions, including during a governor-declared public health emergency. According to WWBT, Northam expects the General Assembly to work on the problem in August.

In May, Northam and Democratic General Assembly leaders announced their priorities for the ARPA money, including upgrading public health infrastructure, funding the Rebuild Virginia small business recovery plan, adding funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund, modernizing public schools, and deploying broadband across Virginia. Republicans have pushed for back-to-work bonuses to incentivize people to return to work.

But legislators are still figuring out their priorities for the money. Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Star that the Senate Democratic caucus will meet next week to discuss priorities. He explained his personal priorities and what he thought Democrats might focus on.

“First, I think we need to help industries that have been exempted from [the Paycheck Protection Plan] and [the Restaurant Revitalization Fund] such as the tourism and hospitality sector. Second, the water and sewer infrastructure funds give us an opportunity to fund capital projects that are long overdue like Virginia’s three combined sewers and storm water retrofits,” Surovell said.

“Third, our universities have not fully recovered from the non-general fund revenues they lost from food, housing and athletics. Fourth, the current maintenance backlog for Virginia’s State Parks is massive. I’m hopeful we can make a substantial dent in that,” he said. “The Virginia State Parks deferred maintenance is up to $275,000,000. We need to knock that out.”

In a Tuesday Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Meeting, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne suggested that the legislators didn’t need to spend all the money at once.

“They are good for four years. And I point that out as even though we hope this pandemic’s behind us, they were given over four years as we work through this,” Layne said.  “So I would just ask the money committees to keep this in mind. We think the pandemic’s behind us, but we don’t know for sure. There could be some unforeseen consequences of that in the future.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Mike Fonseca CC2.0







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