Virginia Democrats will get more time to pass legislation after Governor Ralph Northam called a special legislative session to begin February 10. Northam’s announcement effectively adds 16 days to the current regular session, which is scheduled to end February 11. The proclamation comes after Republicans blocked a move to extend the 30-day regular session, hoping to limit their losses in a Democrat-controlled legislature.
In his announcement, Northam said, “People across our Commonwealth are facing tremendous challenges, and they expect their elected officials to deliver results. I look forward to continuing our work together to move Virginia forward.”
Constitutionally, sessions in even numbered years can last 60 days, and in odd numbered years, sessions are limited to 30 days. But traditionally, the short 30-day sessions are extended to 46 days.
“Ever since Republicans objected to extend the 30-day session from day one, we were planning on this,” Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star on Thursday.
He said, “So to the extent of our objectives, nothing has changed. The special session is only necessary to get another 16 days to work with.”
Surovell said no new bills would be filed; the extension would just allow the General Assembly to finish considering bills from the current session.
The announcement is not a surprise; Democrat leaders have been transparent about their desire for a longer session. In January, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) said, “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 in January. “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.”
On Thursday, Surovell said, “This just allows us to finish our work in the normal time frame.”
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