Virginia lawmakers gavel in for start of General Assembly special session

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 2:23 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 5:54 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Lawmakers in Virginia’s statehouse got right to it Monday to figure out how to spend $4.3 billion from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

“We really want to make sure that we are focused on expanding broadband, addressing some of the issues around our schools and HVAC repairs,” said State Senator Jennifer McClellan, (D) 9th District.

Governor Ralph Northam called for the special session so lawmakers can allocate the funds.

Democrats, in control of the House and Senate, have laid out spending priorities. They include $862 million to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

Other top priorities include $700 million to expand broadband and $485 million to bolster the state’s behavioral health system.

“To our disappointment, Republicans have no say in where that money is going to be allocated,” said State Senator Amanda Chase, (R) 11th District.

Chase said a lot of the money is being spent on good things; however, she does have issues with judicial appointments that will be made.

Lawmakers expanded the court of appeals and its jurisdiction. Eight judges will be appointed; it’s the most since the 1980s.

“I call it packing. I think we’re packing the courts. Republicans lost the House, the Senate, the governor’s office, and now, it sure seems like they’re going after courts and packing the courts,” Senator Chase said.

Additional funding priorities include hundreds of millions to increase access to clean water, public safety and fast-tracking critical upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The session is slated to last two weeks, but it could end quickly.

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