- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2020

An increase in coronavirus cases has prompted the Virginia House of Delegates to convene virtually for the 2021 legislative session, and Republican officials say 30 days should be “sufficient” time to complete the work.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Fairfax Democrat, said Monday that the decision to go virtual comes as the country is experiencing “some of the largest numbers” of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“As legislators, we must set an example on how to conduct our business and adapt during this pandemic,” Ms. Filler-Corn said in a press release. “Our announcement today is about maintaining the health and safety of all 100 members of the House of Delegates, the staff that would be required to conduct an in-person session, as well as the health and safety of the communities to which each member and their staff would return.”

For the first time, the House convened virtually during a special session that started in mid-August and lasted more than 80 days. During that time, the 40 members of the Senate met in a big conference room that allowed for social distancing.

Shortly after the House announced its decision to go virtual again, Republican leaders in the state Senate and House said they will oppose extending the 2021 session past 30 days. To accomplish this, two-thirds of each house must oppose an extension.

Virginia law allows for General Assembly sessions to be limited to 60 days in even-numbered years, and 30 days in odd-numbered years.

“The Constitution limits the duration of General Assembly sessions to ensure we have a citizen legislature, not one populated by full-time politicians,” House Republican leader Todd Gilbert said in a press release. “Given that we’ve already addressed the primary purpose of the upcoming session, amending the state budget, it makes sense that we keep within the constitutional minimum until the people of Virginia can once again fully participate in their government.”

A rise in coronavirus cases prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to expand restrictions last week. The new rules include limiting public gatherings to 25 people, and halting restaurant alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and requiring the establishments to close by midnight.

As of Monday, the state recorded 204,637 total cases, of which 2,677 are new and the health department attributes the high number “to a catch-up” from a weekend system upgrade. The case positivity rate is at 7.3%, and the death toll is 3,806.

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