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Some State Republicans Want to "Sunset" Any Legislation Passed During a Virtual Session


Lawmakers are about to begin the 2021 session of the General Assembly, and Republicans are not happy about meeting virtually.

The House of Delegates will meet virtually this year. The Senate will meet in person, although people who want to testify at their committee hearings will appear virtually. It's a situation that Republicans are trying to push back against.  


Republican Delegate Mark Cole of Fredericksburg says any bill that becomes law during a session where one or both of the houses are virtual should be limited to one year. 


"The big protest we had last year over the gun-control laws, that can't happen in a virtual session," he says. "And so I do think that it does limit people's ability to redress grievances, if you will, with the General Assembly." 


Lawmakers already have some experience with virtual government during last summer’s special session, and Democrats acknowledge that some of the people who wanted to testify were not able to participate. But they add that meeting in person to consider bills at the last minute -- sometimes at 7:30 in the morning -- wasn't always ideal in the previous sessions either.  


Delegate Marcus Simon is a Democrat from Fairfax County. 


"What's really happening here is they want to sunset bills passed in a Democratic majority probably in the hopes that they can take back that majority after the 2021 election and then they don't even have to go about the hard work of undoing some of the progressive legislating that we've done during this session," Simon explains. 


This fall, all 100 seats of the House of Delegates will be on the ballot, and Republicans are hoping to win back some of the positions they lost over the last two election cycles.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.