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We’ll see if they can make it stick, but Republicans in the General Assembly (not in recent years known as the most adept of tacticians) appear to have found an ingenuously diabolical way to ensure that the extremely narrow Democratic majority in Richmond doesn’t get further carried away with legislative overreach in the coming session.
Traditionally, odd-numbered years see 46-day legislative sessions (compared to 60 days in even-numbered years, in which budgets are proposed and passed). But GOP lawmakers plan to withhold what for years been routine support from both parties for going the full 46 days, and aim to require the legislature to complete its business in the 30 days that is mandated in the Virginia Constitution as the rock-bottom minimum length of the session.
Those 16 additional days mean a heck of a lot in the legislative meat-grinder in Richmond, and if Republicans can enforce their intention, it will require Democrats to stick solely to their major priorities, eschewing tangential measures that might clog up the process.
In normal times, we’d say Republicans were guilty of playing games and engaging in procedural machinations. But the reality is that Democrats under Gov. Northam used the pandemic pandemonium to embark, several months ago, on a far-too-lengthy special session, passing all kinds of measures that were far from emergency in nature. Tit for tat, in this case, seems not terribly unreasonable.
Democrats had their fun, using their exceptionally slim majorities in the House of Delegates and state Senate to get their way. But that’s enough; let’s make 2021 about basic governance, not pet priorities and far-out (though decidedly not groovy) legislation.
Both sides can take their case to the electorate, as November 2021 will see all 100 seats in the House of Delegates up for grabs.