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General Assembly begins special session, but has little to show for it

Governor Glenn Youngkin can call lawmakers to Richmond. But he can't make them agree on a budget. That's why Monday's special session of the General Assembly didn't amount to much.

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House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight says House Republicans are still working out differences with Senate Democrats. "The budget negotiations are ongoing," Knight told Delegates. "We are talking to them a little bit back and forth. They're kind of taking their time, and we're ready to meet anytime they are."

Lawmakers say they expect some kind of agreement to emerge before the end of the fiscal year, which is on June 30.

Senator Barbara Favola is a Democrat from Arlington who says budget conferees will be hearing from their local governments. "Local school systems actually offer their teacher contracts usually in April, and they'd like to have some assurance that there is a state budget when they offer the contracts to the teachers. So I expect there will be some -- let's just say -- momentum coming up from the grassroots that will encourage the conferees to come to an agreement."

Special sessions don't happen for free. All 140 lawmakers get per diems. Plus there's mileage to and from the Capitol. So that's a price tag to taxpayers of at least $40,000 for a special session without much to show for it.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.