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Reconvene session brought some changes

The 2020 Reconvened Session was memorable if for nothing else than for the first time in 400 years, the House of Delegates met outdoors. Republicans stood firm to protect jobs and our business community from increased costs, the integrity of our elections and for the safety of our communities. I wanted to give you a breakdown of what happened at the veto session.

JOBS & THE ECONOMY

The new majority voted to briefly delay, by only four months, a number of new laws and regulations that will burden businesses further during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats did this in defiance of logic. If bills such as a higher minimum wage, collective bargaining for public employees and labor agreements for public works projects are enough of a problem to delay in an economic downturn, then they are bad for the economy – period.

They should have voted against the delays, asked the governor to veto the bills and revisit them next year when we have a better handle on the health of our economy.

Employers cannot pay higher wages if they go out of business. Employees can’t receive a raise if they don’t have a job. Local governments can’t pay more for public works projects if their tax base has collapsed.

EARLY RELEASE

OF PRISONERS

Democrats in both chambers voted to allow the early release of thousands of violent felons from prison in response to COVID-19.

The list includes murderers, kidnappers, arsonists, robbers and more. The governor could have limited the list to non-violent offenders only or only those serving time for drug possession, but he did not. The new majority instead chose to allow dangerous criminals back onto our streets. More than a third of those now eligible are deemed a “high risk” to re-offend.

This comes at the same time Democrats voted to make it more difficult for Virginians to purchase and own a firearm for self-defense. This move is irresponsible. We hope and pray that it does not lead to tragedy.

BUDGET ACTIONS

Major changes to the state budget were among the less controversial things approved by the House at the reconvened session. Members approved the governor’s request to put on hold more than a billion dollars in new spending in the two-year budget.

No one wants to cut employee raises and other important items from the budget, but given the uncertainty of the current state of the economy, putting on hold the funds was the prudent thing to do. The moves essentially curtail all new spending in the budget.

The governor has said he will call a special session in the summer to address the budget after a new revenue forecast. The House was also able to defeat attempts by the governor to grant unprecedented spending authority to the executive branch.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.