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The Legality of Next Year's General Assembly Session Could Be Called Into Question


The newly elected House of Delegates will have to deal with a thorny question about its legitimacy.

The upcoming session of the General Assembly will be so extra; extra-constitutional that is because the Virginia Constitution says the next General Assembly should be representing new maps based on the new Census. That will not happen because the Census data was late, which is why Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says anything they do could be scrutinized as unconstitutional.

"Let's say they pass a piece of legislation that costs an industry, any industry, millions and millions and millions of dollars," explains Kelsey. "They're certainly going to turn to around to their counsel and spend $100,000 to see if they can get it thrown out. Why wouldn't they?"

So what would happen in that lawsuit? Would the judge say that part of the Constitution requiring a new House of Delegates with new maps is unimportant? Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond Law School says it’s an open question.

"Well it is important. It's a real issue, and maybe that point will be raised when they come into session," says Tobias. "It’s certainly possible. And one remedy might be to adjourn until we have a resolution of the issue."

Adjourn until the state Supreme Court draws new maps and then maybe hold a special election to determine a House of Delegates that meets the requirements of the Constitution or risk the consequences. Or perhaps lawmakers decide to go on with business as usual and fight any challenge in court.

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.