As We Walk Into Special Session 2020

Here is the link to watch today’s session.


Today the Virginia General Assembly meets after 159 days of declared state of emergency to address issues about the budget, Covid and public safety. Until a few hours ago, we knew very little about the bills coming before us except for what has been made public in the media and press releases. One thing has been made clear and that is the Democrats see this as a political referendum. Republicans see this as a practical referendum.


Practically, we need to solve problems because many have been created during the administration's response to Covid. Starting down a path towards a solution sooner would’ve made a big difference in the legislature being able to perform their role of developing policy and a response.


Separation of Powers:

Protecting the concept of representative government is one of our top priorities. You’re going to see lots of legislation that will clarify the intent of Virginia code related to emergency orders. Particularly that they cannot be instituted and continued in perpetuity without involving the legislature. Current proposals create a limit of 30 days before the Governor is required to receive legislative approval. We understand the Governor needs to be able to issue emergency orders, but one person shouldn’t have the power to make unilateral decisions for an unlimited amount of time.


Data:

Data has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve experienced during the pandemic. There has been such a lack of diligence of sharing with the public what data points are valuable and salient to decision making. I’m carrying legislation to require the Virginia Department of Health to define more clearly community cases versus communal living cases like nursing homes and jails. I’m also asking that they include age demographics of new cases so we can understand clearly who’s impacted by the virus in new cases. Lastly, it directs the Commissioner to publish clear benchmarks so we have an indication that the virus is in check and it’s safe with precautions to pursue school or other community activities.


Testing:

We all know testing has been a big issue. Virginia has now entered into a compact to obtain rapid tests that can give results in minutes. These tests need to be deployed to the front lines where immediate awareness of a positive individual could curtail disease spread. This legislation would ensure that teachers, healthcare providers, first responders, and law enforcement are the first to get the rapid test so decisions can be made immediately to protect the community.


Education:

The epic health issue that we have as a result of the pandemic is children’s health and that risk is not from the virus. School is more than curriculum; it can’t be fully translated to online education. Families are in crisis as they balance imperatives of safety and education and the ability to put food on the table.

Virginia’s students have serious financial challenges