Virginia Capitol

The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond

The General Assembly’s reconvened session Wednesday was abnormal as the House dealt with technical difficulties, disruptive protests and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, collapsing at the podium. 

Filler-Corn was standing for over three hours before she fell, just as the House was going into a break. Emergency medical services immediately attended to her and she resumed her post after an hour break.

“She looked like she was ready for a break, and then I looked down and suddenly, I just heard a collapse,” said Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria. “By the time I looked up she was down.”

Lawmakers considered holding this session remotely. Levine said Republican delegates were concerned there would be technical difficulties, so legislators opted to meet in person but not in their respective chambers.

“I think it was that they wanted to make it as difficult as possible because the Democrats are in control,” Levine said. “But they’re not going to stop us from going forward, if we have to risk our lives, we will risk our lives, but we shouldn’t have to.”

Delegates congregated under a tent on the lawn of the Virginia State Capitol. The session was punctuated several times by technical difficulties, even delaying the start. The Senate met a few miles away inside the Science Museum of Virginia. 

Legislator sat at tables set up roughly six feet apart to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus. Many delegates wore face masks, but often removed them when speaking. Some delegates elected to wear gloves, though that was not the majority. Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, wore a mask and sat inside a plexiglass structure that lawmakers jokingly called “the cage.” Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax kept his face mask on while at the podium, though Filler-Corn opted not to.

Virginians for Constitutional Rights 2020, formerly Reopen Virginia, gathered outside of the Capitol to protest Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order. Northam’s order was recently extended to June 10. Protesters cited the tanking economy as the reason the state should reopen. The protesters, most in vehicles, honked their horns for nearly three hours as they drove a circuitous route around the Capitol. At times legislators strained to be heard amid the cacophony of horns.

The protest and technical difficulties did not impede the session from conducting business. Of the 100 delegates, 95 were in attendance. All 40 senators attended the Senate session. Some delegates elected not to attend due to COVID-19 related concerns, Levine said.

The House, with 97 items on the agenda, started by accepting Northam’s only vetoed bill: HB 119, a measure to define milk. The bill would only allow products that are “lacteal secretions” from a “hooved mammal” to be labeled as milk, excluding products such as almond, oat and soy “milks.” 

“Not only are [dairy farmers] not making enough money on their milk, they are now dumping it down the drain,” said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, the bill’s sponsor. “My bill was to send a signal that we sympathize with you and want to offer our support.”

Lawmakers grappled at length with issues related to the budget, which must be amended in response to the economic blow of COVID-19. Northam suggested 181 total amendments to the budget bills. The governor called for a freeze on many budget items and said that new circumstances required lawmakers to revisit initiatives such as early childhood education, more affordable college tuition, and pay increases for public employees and teachers. Northam said in his amendments that he may ask lawmakers to reconvene at a later point to vote on these items after they have reforecast state revenues. 

Northam's recommendations included $55.5 million for “sufficient disaster declaration authorization” and $2.5 million for “deficit authorization for housing.” The House accepted these amendments. 

Lawmakers rejected Northam’s budget amendment to delay existing capital projects “in order to address cash flow and debt capacity concerns resulting from the COVID-19 emergency.”

Northam’s proposal to push the May 5 municipal elections to November was contested. Initially, the House voted along a slim majority not to adopt the amendment. After debate, confusion and technicalities, the amendment passed with two votes. The Senate, which accepted most budget recommendations, did not vote on moving May elections. Levine, who voted to accept the amendment, said this means elections will be held in May, despite public health concerns. He suggested that since the Senate did not vote to move the elections, the senators should man the polls.

Other budget recommendations approved by the House and Senate:

  • Increase nursing facility rates by $20 a day per patient in response to COVID-19.

  • Provide authority for the Director of the Department of Corrections to discharge or reassign certain inmates until July 2021.

  • Expand access to long acting reversible contraceptives.

  • Authorize the governor to appropriate Congressional funding related to COVID-19.

Many of the other legislative amendments were technical and made minor changes to some pivotal legislation passed in the historic session. The session marked the first time since 1994 where Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s office. Two of Northam’s recommendations to the marijuana decriminalization bill, HB 972, were rejected, regarding an extension for the study on the legalization of marijuana and not allowing a trial by jury for the civil penalty of simple possession.

The governor’s recommendation to delay the $9.50 minimum wage increase from January until May 2021 was accepted after several impassioned pleas. Other lawmakers voiced concern that the economy can not handle increasing the minimum wage. In the Senate, Fairfax cast a tie-breaking vote to accept the bill’s delay.

A major concern during the reconvened session was that all in attendance take precautions amidst the pandemic. 

“This is definitely unique,” Filler-Corn told the Washington Post. “Health and safety are a top priority.”

Levine wished that the session had been held remotely for safety reasons, but understands that it was necessary to meet, even if in person. 

“Any of us could have [the coronavirus] and the longer we all stay in this environment around each other, the more likely it is that it will be transmitted,” Levine said. 

Each session began at noon and after over eight hours of discussion, voting and interruptions, the House erupted in applause when they came to end. The Senate adjourned shortly after 10 p.m.

“Am I willing to risk my life to continue to serve this commonwealth?” Levine said. “Yes, I got elected for it, I’m going to take that risk, but we shouldn’t have to.”

 

(26) comments

LetsBreal

Very eye opening article. Let's not take the same path in Virginia...

"Why Illinois Is In Trouble – 109,881 Public Employees With $100,000+ Paychecks Cost Taxpayers $14B" - By Adam Andrzejewski, Forbes Magazine, April 27, 2020

amerigirl

That's one person's take on Illinois, don't see how that applies to VA.

ace10

And yet, a couple of days ago you posted a comment about an ENTIRELY unreleted event that at a Walmart in Illinois in a local story. The purpose of which was solely to PUSH YOUR AGENDA of race-baiting. Nice try. But you contradict yourself, yet again.

amerigirl

Ace, ace, ace, yes I posted about another crime in the crime section,, what a crime. You think that was an agenda, what other conspiracy theories would you like to cram down peoples throats?

pual mase

How about we tell anyone that’s responsible for over half the posts for an article and a majority of the words posted, to pound sand and get a life,....... especially when most of it are lies and propaganda.

amerigirl

Oh now it's a coup. You wouldn't know the truth if your mama told it to you. You just keep listening to the liar in chief and blindly believe all of it. Over 18,000 verified lies so far.

pual mase

Sticks and stones comrade AG

pual mase

Ironic a resistance liberal like AG cries “coup”.

amerigirl

pual, comrade?? Are you a commie? That's a pretty lame comeback you have there. Try to make up lies about anyone that doesn't agree with you. Your trump is showing

BobOhneiserEsq

How about asking feds to return Dulles Airport to VA control?

How about increasing state sales tax on cigarettes to equal that of our contiguous state so we collect more funds and there is less illegal interstate trucking of the crap that makes people more susceptible to Covid-19?

How about modifying the composite index to stop stealing hundreds of millions from Loudoun and Fairfax?

How about demanding VDOT do its job to maintain roads in state border counties like Loudoun even if it makes West Virginians and Maryland folks more able to commute?

Is that really so hard? If not then how about insuring your pension managers do their jobs so our teachers get their pensions instead of just telling counties to kick in more money because they continue to FAIL (yes I believe some board members are related to politicians but should that be the issue) to meet actuarial minimums? :-)

amerigirl

Why would MWAA give us the toll road when we were the ones that made the deal and took funding for it? It’s not like they just used Emanate Domain. It was obtained through a deal that was started by Bob McDonnell and Tim Kaine due to lack of funding in Virginia. Funding that they are still paying into. March 27, 2006, MWAA took over from Virginia the operation of the Dulles Toll Road, including the outstanding debt and the obligation to construct the Silver Line in the median strip of the toll road. Now that Virginia has money we just want it turned over to us?

Why don’t we just raise the taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, fattening food and any other thing that can cause illnesses and premature death among people? If you are worried about susceptibility to Covid-19, then worry about the EPA lowering their standards to make the country more polluted, they can now put out much more pollutants than smokers.

LetsBreal

Now, Pelosi is champing at the bit to push through a 'long and expensive wish list,' of additional stimulus - including $500 billion for mismanaged state and local governments amid the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats also want an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, along with expanded workplace safety protections for front-line workers, and a boost in funding for food stamps. - "Pelosi, McConnell Set to Collide on Follow-Up to $3 Trillion Aid" Bloomberg

NOPE. No more bailouts.

amerigirl

Let's you need to think long term. If the states start getting to far in debt because of the crisis that will also affect the stock market, there will be no confidence and stock could go down and could crash. It is not just democrats that want to extend unemployment. If the republicans hadn't taken out the safety net that kept millionaires from taking most of the money from the first package then we may not have even needed another.

This statement is right from the article you citied: Democrats may have an unlikely ally: President Donald Trump. His re-election may hinge on the economy turning around in the last critical months of his re-election bid, and he’s indicated willingness to include state aid and other spending in another stimulus.

Trump needs another rescue package far more than Democrats do. The economy he loves to brag about has shed more than 16 million jobs. As workers are laid off by the millions, states have become overwhelmed by the volume of requests. That is not mismanagement it is a crisis; do you understand the meaning of the word crisis? more than 16.7 million people have filed for temporary unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. That number is likely low, since certain states like Florida and Texas have only recently closed nonessential businesses and many workers are still struggling to file claims.

hardworkingamerican

WOW AG he was reading the same article that anyone who is sick of this crap and not from the scare of Corona. The verbiage like, "grappled with" is so pathetic. These idiots that never met a tax they didn't like whine and act so sanctimonious that they had to meet. And you can't stand for 3 hours? Really, try being a fire fighter, or SSO at a school or any one of another 100s of jobs where people stand on their feet ALL DAY LONG! Boo Hoo. I see that Northam is right on top of the "labeling milk" problem. Wow what an important item. Gosh and of course let's not forget his increasing costs to people that have no money because of his actions and of course letting criminals out and of course contraceptives, because he likes killing babies no matter where they are or what stage in development they are. You need to quit attacking this country, which is made up of hard working tax paying American citizens. NOT POLITICIANS and that, before you go on one of your monologues, means ALL OF THEM. American citizens that make this country possible, of course no ones right to know how much tax anyone pays because as you pointed out taxes are "easy" to do, are the ones that control this country. Keep America Great, Keep America Growing, Keep America Independent, Keep Americans Working and Make America the manufacturing center of the entire world. In this way, as opposed to the insane AOC, who of course like you do, whines about President Trump wanting to get people back to work, we like to work and be independent and hold people who hate America and this amazing President responsible. Now Pelosi is launching another multi, multi million dollar fake investigation while all of this is going on? This sick Botox speech slurring idiot who has screwed every American and wasted billions of dollars. Vote all Democraps out, vote them all out, vote anyone out who is not 100% pro America, pro life and pro love for our amazing country.

LoudounPulse

Hopefully this slows down the liberal agenda of working to wreck Virginia.

LetsBreal

Los Angeles plans to force city workers to spend 26 days on unpaid leave as revenues are forecast to drop as much as $600 million next fiscal year.

Detroit has proposed laying off 200 workers and furloughing thousands more.

In Ohio’s Hamilton County, Commissioner Denise Driehaus is taking a 10% pay cut alongside county workers.

"Massive layoffs and pay cuts are likely coming to state and local governments as federal aid goes elsewhere" - CNBC

amerigirl

Ohio’s Hamilton County, Commissioner Denise Driehaus is taking a 10% pay cut alongside county workers. That’s great but they just got a raise last August, it has been 8 years for our board, but they are putting their raises off for now. Detroit is in awful shape with an extremely high death rate. I gotta feel for them. The crazy thing is that McConnell wants the states to claim bankruptcy, which right now is illegal. Bankruptcy law doesn’t allow states to declare bankruptcy. States are obligated to many long-term debts such as state healthcare, life insurance payouts, government services, and pension plans. If a state can’t pay its debts it must cut funding to services and pension plans when legal. We don’t need the state funding to hospitals cut off right now. Because Virginia has balanced budget requirements, they were forced to make deep cuts. Research after the recession found that this weakened the recovery and did lasting damage to the nation’s schools. We would lose almost every perk from the state that we have paid into over the years.

LetsBreal

It's actually not crazy. What's crazy is a state wanting the federal tax payer to step in because they are financially illiterate and their state politicians have the view they can just promise the world because it gains them more votes. As far as the "law", there are also the laws of economics and mathematics. They aren't as forgiving.

All that needs to be done is to amend the federal bankruptcy code. Let's get on with it. Time to stop socializing every problem and want on the backs of people who earn their keeps. My view is government produces very little, it's very expensive and inefficient and it's a drag on everyone. It should perform the legitimate functions of government under the constitution, such as meet out justice and protect borders and do little else. If you want save the world via climate change carbon credits and offsets, "universal" basic income, universal health care, and subsidizing any other dreams you have, you do it on your own. Stop abusing the tax payer. Oh, and declaring everything you want a "basic human right" and therefore "mandatory" ain't cutting it either.

Detroit mismanaged itself. So did Stockton and San Bernardino, CA. Time for everyone to get realistic on government's role and that includes everything from Washington DC on down.

amerigirl

Lets, where do most of your tax dollars go? Not the state, they go to the feds. It is for programs and dept. of government that are there for the people. HHS has FEMA for a reason. They are supposed to be there in a crisis. If there is a crisis, it doesn’t make a state financially illiterate. the federal bankruptcy code does not allow, and has never allowed, state governments to declare bankruptcy only municipalities. The contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 10) prohibits state governments from ‘impairing the obligation of contracts.’ Which prohibits state legislatures from passing any laws to relieve either private debt or the state government's own debt. Now if you want sky high state taxes then they can claim bankruptcy and we can pay higher taxes for a very, very long time. A state government that declared bankruptcy would find it more difficult and more expensive to obtain credit, and would have to pay a higher interest rate. Vendors wouldn’t want to conduct business with the state unless they were paid in full for their work, in advance. Pay and morale in the state government's career work force would suffer. There would be a high possibility that would cut their losses by selling government buildings or state parks or state vehicles to foreclosure, liquidation of some components of a bankrupt's estate to satisfy creditors is an ordinary incident of bankruptcy. If you think that Loudoun is overcrowded now wait what happens when they need to attract more tax dollars. You don’t just get a new start. You mentioned Detroit that came out of bankruptcy fast and is noted for how well it came through its bankruptcy, only 16 months, but still has a long way to go. The population exodus has slowed, and unemployment is down to 8% from 22% since the 2013. Detroit was only allowed to get rid of half it’s debt. It took San Bernardino 5 years and Stockton 3 years to get out of debt. Just how long do you want to pay high state taxes that will be paying off some debt and not doing much for the county?

LetsBreal

I would not mind sky high state taxes. That would get the people paying the bills to launch the incompetents right out of office (or leave the insanity of the state). See, that means the politician voting on the spending that is creating the problem is closer to the voter. Understand? The founders wanted strong states and a weak federal govt. That's just a fact. Today, that's upside down. Not only that, but the Dept of Agriculture produces no agriculture. The Department of Energy produces no energy. Dept of Commerce produces no Commerce. And so on. They all just get in the way with highly paid bureaucrats and more policy, paper and regulation. HHS is just a transfer payment service. In fact, SEVENTY percent of the federal budget is transfer payments. It's starting to look like the Soviet Union around here with a govt that encounters a crisis every ten years and then proceeds to destroy ten years of GDP in one fell swoop.

More difficult to obtain credit? Selling govt buildings and state parks? Are you trying to get on my good side?

Look, an elected official promises the world to get elected and then lays financial waste to the state/district/country he or she is responsible for in the name of "caring" when it's actually anything except caring. It's detrimental and it needs to stop or we will be a third world country in short order as the U.S. dollar is repudiated.

Please review the stunning numbers at usdebtclock dot org and especially the debt per citizen/debt per tax payer that this country has today. Then lecture us and the next generation on crises.

amerigirl

Let’s you would be an exception to people not wanting to pay higher taxes. But why did you make remarks like “state wanting the federal tax payer to step in because they are financially illiterate” and “erase all debt of postal service at tax payer expense”, “This is abusing the tax payer” or “They are confiscating private property through taxes on ordinary citizens”? But then again you thought cruise lines should be able to evade taxes. It wouldn’t matter who was in the assembly your taxes would still go up, there would have still been a national emergency. The dept of Agriculture is not supposed to produce agriculture, the jobs of those departments are to oversee, provide leadership and regulate, not produce. It protects the producers from abuses and committing abuses.. If meaning that governments would have to sell things that taxpayers aid for gets me on your good side, then yes! But getting rid of schools would be crowded classrooms. I would miss the parks and I’m sure that people whose kids play sports or like nature would feel the same way. The elected try to fulfill their promises. I can tell you that because the assembly is doing what they promised and those against it like 2A people are having a fit. Every time they pass something that they promised you can see the backlash in these comments. I have seen usdebtclock and it has looked much grimmer since trump came into office. The federal budget is a mess and has been since trump got in and thought it was all his money to do whatever he wanted with it, move it here, take for pet projects etc. He doesn’t abide by the constitution that delegates the control of the money to Congress’

As of April 13, 2020 federal debt held by the public was $18.2 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $6.0 trillion, for a total national debt of $24.2 trillion. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress and President Trump enacted the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) on March 18, 2020. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the budget deficit for fiscal year 2020 would increase to a record $3.8 trillion. There has been a humongous uptick in debt since. trumps first year in office he added $1.271 trillion, the next year $1.203 trillion, and that was with a good economy . The most Obama ever added in any of his 8 years was $1.423 trillion in the great recession.

amerigirl

Detroit has also had over 3,000 deaths. I'd rather be furloughed

LIfetimeLoudouner

Boo Hoo State legislators actually had to go to work. They just wanted to phone it in but were forced to actually go to work. While average citizens are either unemployed or are essential and must work, legislators think they are better than the little people. The ones who did not want to go do their job in person should just resign now. I guess they are not essential.

amerigirl

WOW, what article were you reading?

amerigirl

Which was stupid when there were safe ways to do the job. What century are they in don't they know there is a pandemic? Haven't they heard of Zoom?

btm11

I know many people in various white collar jobs who are working at home. They can still hold meetings using Zoom or other computer apps. One of my daughters is working at home and complained when I interrupted her work with a phone call during work hours.

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