Some Legislators Call for Virginia General Assembly to Reconvene Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Mar 16, 2020

Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

Virginia is in a state of emergency as health officials try to meet the challenge of coronavirus. Does that mean that lawmakers need to return to Richmond?

After two months of meeting in Richmond, lawmakers are now back in their districts and trying to figure out some way to cope with the public health crisis now gripping Virginia. Should they consider returning to Richmond for a special session?

Delegate Ibraheem Samirah of Herndon says yes, and he made that pitch in the closing minutes of the General Assembly session earlier this month. 

“I’m calling for a special session from the governor’s office, hopefully, to address this crisis that we have of underinsured and uninsured individuals," Samirah said. "A public-option plan, a zero-cost solution to our crisis right now would prove very well for us.”

Lawmakers could be heard booing in the chamber, and not just because they were eager to return home.

Delegate Marcus Simon of Fairfax County says it’s probably a good thing the General Assembly is not in session because that means the governor has more authority to handle the crisis. 

“When the General Assembly is not in session, he’s got more budget authority. He has more flexibility to move money around. There are certain funds, reserves he can only access without our permission when we are not in session," he explains. "And, frankly, during a coronavirus or an outbreak like this I think this is one of those times when you need to give the executive the maximum amount of flexibility possible.”

And Republican state Senator Tommy Norment is now among those calling for a special session. In a statement, Norment says the General Assembly needs a revenue reforecast in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers are scheduled to come back to Richmond on April 22nd, when they will consider the governor’s actions on all the bills they passed this year.

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