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Taking a Look at What to Expect from the 2021 General Assembly Session

Lawmakers are about to begin the 2021 General Assembly session. They're already at odds with each other over how long the session will last.

Democrats want a 45 day session, but Republicans are pushing for a 30 day session. Because they can't agree, the most likely scenario is a 30 days session followed by an immediate special session.  


Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says the debate over the calendar reflects an ideological difference between the parties about the role of government. 


"That's why you're going to hear Republicans argue against extending the session and Republicans argue that it should be only 30 days and you're going to hear mostly Democrats say, ‘Look, we should be there as long as we need to be there to solve the problems that we've been sent here to solve,’" Kidd explains. 


Usually when a General Assembly session ends, all the bills that were being considered also end. But, Democrats are talking about a procedural move where they might carry over unfinished legislation to the special session.  


Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says majority rules.  


"The legislative majority will get what it wants, and if that means parliamentary procedure of carryover as a mechanism of keeping it simple in a subsequent special session, expect that to be employed," he says. 


The session will open with Governor Ralph Northam delivering a State of the Commonwealth address to an empty House chamber, part of new protocols to keep lawmakers safe during the pandemic.


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.
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