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State Democrats Pushing for a Speedy Special Session

Michael Pope

Democrats who are in charge of the General Assembly are hoping to oversee a swift special session to spend billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

Lawmakers are back in Richmond and they're trying to figure out how to spend more than four billion dollars of stimulus money. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have a plan to get lawmakers in and out of the Capitol in a handful of days. But that means most members — Republicans and Democrats — have little say in how the money gets spent.

"We might have a good idea," House Republican leader Todd Gilbert argued Monday. "They might have a good idea, but they're not letting their members put in ideas either," Gilbert says. "It's just whatever has come from the governor's office is the final version and that's it. We don't think that's any way to govern."

House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian says Democrats want to act as swiftly as possible to get the money in the hands of people who need it.

"For 10 years on this side of the aisle, we sat and we watched and had limited input on the budget," Torian says. "But, for those 10 years, for those of us who served on Appropriations, when that budget came forward, the majority of us voted for the budget of the Commonwealth of Virginia — with limited input I mind you."

Republicans say they plan on offering floor amendments, although by the time spending bills are on the floor it's usually too late to make major changes.

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

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