Democratic leaders’ limits on special session debate draw GOP pushback
A decision by Democratic leaders to impose broad restrictions on the Virginia General Assembly’s upcoming special session is drawing criticism from Republicans who say the rules will sharply limit meaningful debate on how the state should spend $4.3 billion in federal pandemic relief money.
In a memo earlier this month, House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian, D-Prince William, told state lawmakers both money committees won’t entertain amendments proposed by members and won’t reopen discussion of the state’s regular budget.
In a virtual news conference Tuesday morning, GOP leaders in the House of Delegates said that arrangement will result in rank-and-file lawmakers and the public being largely shut out of the process, with the details of how the money will be used potentially being hashed out in private by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and a small group of Democratic leaders.
“The oldest ongoing legislative body in the New World is all of a sudden being turned into a rubber stamp for the governor’s ideas,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah.
Gilbert said the two weeks planned for the session starting Monday should give ample time for the legislature to consider a range of ideas from Republicans and Democratic members alike.
“If they’re just going to shove this down everyone’s throat I have no idea why we need to be there more than two hours,” Gilbert said.
In a statement, Torian noted some spending plans have already been worked out and announced by the governor’s office.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.
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