Opinion: Commentary: Prepping for the 2021 Session of the General Assembly

Opinion: Commentary: Prepping for the 2021 Session of the General Assembly

The 2021 General Assembly session is a month away and my staff and I are busy in preparation. This is the short session, traditionally 45 days, but it could be as short as 30 days if the Republican minority is serious about their intent to vote against any rule that goes beyond the 30-day minimum as outlined in the Constitution. Rule changes require support of two-thirds of the body, and our Democratic majority is only 55 percent.

However, there are ways to work around such a compressed 30-day schedule that could include a round the clock and weekend schedule, or even by adjourning and then being called back into session by the Governor for a “special” session where the adoption of the rule governing the proceedings needs only a simple majority. However long we decide to meet this coming January, rest assured that we will complete the people’s business, focused on the future of the Commonwealth, growing the economy, and to get through this pandemic as quickly as possible.

In response to Covid, the House of Delegates will be meeting on-line and with a severe limit of just seven introduced bills. Compare that to last year when I introduced 27 and passed half of them. The Senate will be limited to 12 bills per member. This will create a combined total of 1,180 pieces of legislation. During the last “short session” in 2019, 2,362 bills were introduced. Fourteen bills have already been introduced by House members, and we will surely see a windfall of introduced legislation as we get closer to the end of the year. The size of our body, 100 members, plus essential staff, press and law enforcement makes any physical convening too large, no matter what measures are taken, especially given the age of our temporary offices located in the Pocahontas Building.

We went on-line during the special session this summer, and though there were some early technical issues, for the most part it was effective and worked well. The public was able to participate perhaps even more than they are normally by tuning in and giving testimony virtually, which allows even more citizens to be a part of the process without traveling long distances and fighting for space in our sometimes small committee rooms. We all now have much more experience at working remotely via our computers and mobile devices, and though it will be more challenging with multiple committee and subcommittee meetings added to the mix, I am confident that the session will progress smoothly and with the public’s input and support.

This time last year I wrote about the many bills I would be introducing for what would turn out to be a historic session of progressive legislative change. We passed bills that made voting easier, the environment cleaner, workers safer, and bettered the lives of all Virginians. My five year long effort to require seat belts to be worn in all vehicles finally came to fruition and the new electric school buses Dominion is investing in are all equipped with shoulder harnesses too. We eliminated the barriers to voting and just witnessed the largest turnout ever in the Commonwealth with early voting eclipsing by nearly five times the total absentee votes during the last presidential election in 2016.

The deadline to submit legislation to be drafted in time for the session was over a week ago and now the difficult decisions need to be made on which of the many bills drafted should be introduced this session. The deadline for introducing bills to be considered during session is 10 a.m. on the morning of the first day of session, Jan. 13. It will indeed be a busy few weeks as I meet with stakeholders and make final edits to my legislation.

As we head into session, I welcome your questions and feedback. Stay tuned, as over the next few weeks, I will publish more information about legislation that I plan to introduce. As there will be no way to meet in person as we normally would do in Richmond please stay in touch by sending me an email at DelPKrizek@House.Virginia.Gov.

It is an honor to serve as your Delegate. Please stay safe, wear your mask in public, social distance, and practice good hygiene by washing your hands well. We must continue to be vigilant and not let down our guard now as we get closer to a vaccine roll out and an end to this health crisis.