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Despite Republican Calls for a Short Session, General Assembly to Continue This Week

The General Assembly session is now at its midpoint. Republicans tried to force Democrats into a shorter session, but that strategy failed.

One of the benefits of being the party in power is that you get to set the calendar and write the rules, for the most part. Republicans – who are now in the minority – tried to force Democrats into a 30-day session. But Democrats found a way around that, ending the normal session at the midway point and carrying over all the bills over into a special session that starts this week.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says the Republican strategy seemed to be doomed to fail from the start.

"The first rule of politics is pick fights you can win," he explains. "And this was a fight it seems to me that the Republicans were not going to win because they didn't have the means of compelling an outcome of a shorter session."

Democrats did put limits on the number of bills that could be introduced; 12 bills in the Senate and seven bills in the House. But Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says even that ended up focusing everybody's attention.

"We're going to oddly enough come out of this session with fewer bills considered," Kidd says. "But the bills that were considered taking more time than would have otherwise been allowed initially and those bills are going to do big things."

Big things like ending mandatory minimum sentences, abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana – all things that Democrats are very likely to accomplish this year just before campaign season heats up this summer.

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.