An unprecedented session for unprecedented times.
With new members, new priorities, and new political forces at play, every year the Virginia General Assembly looks a little bit different than the year prior. This year, however, even the most seasoned political operatives might find themselves in unfamiliar territory — literally.
Instead of convening at the capitol building in Richmond, state senators are meeting 10 miles down the road at the Science Museum of Virginia — a roomier alternative that will allow for social distancing amid the pandemic.
Delegates, on the other hand, will be joining the rest of us in working from home, meeting virtually to discuss the critical issues in front of the legislature this year — including criminal justice reform, budget concerns, and of course, pandemic-related legislation, even continuing their work on vote at home legislation.
All of this must be accomplished in just 30 days — or maybe 45, depending on what sort of agreement the parties can reach.
Of course, there may still be other priorities the legislature chooses to take up, including those brought to attention by constituents. Indeed, even during the pandemic, constituents may still have an option to meet with their representatives in-person. The state will have four conference rooms available for constituents to make appointments with legislators or their staff in an office building adjacent to the museum.
Certainly, the 2021 legislative session will be busy for legislators. Redistricting continues to cast a long shadow over Richmond, and re-election will be on the minds of most lawmakers, spurring partisanship, especially in the House of Delegates, where all 100 seats will be up for grabs come November.
In these unprecedented times, finding leaders who seek common ground on policy that puts Virginians first has never been more paramount.