In two weeks the General Assembly will convene for its annual session that will mark 50 years since the people voted to ratify revisions to the Jim-Crow-laden Constitution of 1902. Up until those revisions, the state legislature met only every other year. The revised Constitution provided for annual sessions to be sixty days in the even-numbered years and thirty days in the odd-numbered years with a provision that any session could be extended up to half its length by a two-thirds vote of the members. Full sixty-day sessions have run over a day or so but have not been extended; thirty-day sessions have always been extended to 45 days to get the work done. The minority party leadership in both houses has indicated that they will not vote to extend the session this year. Not only will the session be shorter, but it will also operate under the restrictions of the pandemic. The House will meet virtually by Zoom, and the Senate that has the smaller number of members will meet partly in Richmond and partly by Zoom. Much business is on the agenda, and careful planning is essential to having a successful session.
The agenda will be full. The budget will need to be revised to reflect the changes brought on by the pandemic. Criminal justice reform that got underway this year has remaining work to be done. Climate change continues, and we must do our part to combat it. Help needs to be given to the unemployed and the homeless or those under threat of eviction. The list is long.
Your help with the planning is essential if the General Assembly is going to be responsive to the needs and interests of the people. Several opportunities exist for you to participate in that planning.
Senator Janet Howell and I will be holding our annual pre-session town hall meeting virtually this coming Tuesday, January 5, 7 to 8:30 p.m.. To take part, register at Virtual Town Hall. After you register you will receive a link by which to join the virtual town hall meeting. You may join to simply listen, but we encourage you tell us your priorities and recommendations. Remember we will have a time crunch during the session that means we will be dealing only with priority items.
Senator Howell and I will also be participating with the Northern Virginia members of the General Assembly in a virtual public hearing on Saturday, January 9 from 9 a.m. to noon. Look for a registration link to be publicized soon so you can participate in the hearing.
I also encourage you to participate in my online voter survey that is accessible on my website, www.kenplum.com. While some complex issues have been simplified to the survey form, I encourage you to fill in the details of your recommendations in the comment section of the survey or in an email to [email protected] While time does not permit me to respond personally to every survey submitted, I do consider your ideas and recommendations.
We will get the New Year underway with challenges and hope. By planning together we can be successful. Happy New Year and thank you for your help!