Under normal circumstances, lawmakers would be preparing to head back to Richmond in a few weeks to consider actions taken by the governor on all the legislation they passed this year.
But, this year may end up being different.
Governor Ralph Northam is now in the process of signing, vetoing or amending all the legislation that passed this year. Lawmakers need to consider all those amendments, though, and figure out a way to do that in an age of social distancing.
Legal Expert Rich Kelsey says Northam has the ability to call for a virtual General Assembly session. “The governor is well within his authority to issue a proclamation that would have them meet virtually, but if the legislature is unhappy with that and the legislature is concerned there might be a challenge to their lawful actions there certainly are practical solutions.”
Practical solutions like convening the House of Delegates in a larger venue — like a convention center or a large space in the Capitol complex — would allow for members to keep a safe distance from one another.
Megan Rhyne at the Virginia Coalition for Open Government says whatever they end up doing needs to be done in public. “As long as the public knows exactly where and when the meetings are occurring and are able to listen in at a minimum but watch electronically more preferable then that’s how things are going to need to be.”
Here’s another potential scenario: delay. Members of the General Assembly could convene for a pro forma session and just delay the session to some future date, hoping that things get better.
The governor’s deadline to take action is April 11, and all those new laws need to be finalized before July 1.