The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.
(The Center Square) – The Virginia General Assembly will convene a special session Aug. 18 to address COVID-19-related budget issues and police reforms after Gov. Ralph Northam called for the session Friday.
Virginia passed a budget that was stripped of $2.2 billion worth of proposed spending with the intention of reconsidering the proposals when the economic effects caused by the response to COVID-19 were known better.
Some of the proposed spending the General Assembly froze included new initiatives on early childhood education, tuition-free community college, affordable housing and broadband. The governor also directed state agencies to cut spending.
The General Assembly will reconsider these programs based on new revenue projections.
“I look forward to bringing legislators back in session as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times,” Northam said in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity to provide critical support to Virginians, invest strategically in our economic recovery, and make progress on policing and criminal justice reform. Let’s get to work.”
After the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for policing reforms. Democratic lawmakers have called for an end to no-knock raids, banning chokeholds, more requirements for deescalation and other reforms.
Northam directed several departments to help the administration develop policy initiatives: the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Virginia African American Advisory Board, and the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law.
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, responded to Northam’s call for a special session on Twitter, saying the governor should include proposals for getting students back into the classroom.
“[Northam] issued a statement on the special session today with no mention of addressing the looming crisis in public education and the thousands of children who will be negatively impacted,” Gilbert tweeted. “Hoping things will improve is not a plan of action, and kids need to be in school.”
The governor is requiring public schools to enforce social distancing, which will force many schools to create a plan that includes some in-person and some virtual learning for students because there won’t be enough space in the schools for everyone every day of the week. Republicans have urged the governor to establish a plan that allows public schools to adopt plans that allow every student to be in class five days per week.