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Independent News
By Brandon Jarvis
Republicans in the House of Delegates killed two efforts on Tuesday that would have allowed for the House to meet virtually. However, the Democrats eventually passed a motion on their third attempt that allows the delegates to hold virtual meetings during the current special session.
The Delegates met in the Siegel Center on VCU’s campus in downtown Richmond to begin a special session to provide criminal justice reform and to address the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. 
The House of Delegates focused on deciding the rules and procedures for the special session. The Speaker of the House has Eileen Filler-Corn arranged for the Delegates to meet in the Siegel Center to provide for appropriate social distancing measures, but her caucus is still supportive of providing what they feel is the safest method for legislators to meet by doing so virtually.
Democrats presented multiple motions to suspend Rule 81, which would allow the House to meet virtually. In order to suspend the rule today, the motion required a two-thirds majority vote. If the motion to suspend the rule fails to reach the two-thirds majority, then the rule states that the resolution “shall lie on the Speaker’s table for five days and be read by the House each day during that time.” 
After five days, the motion only needs a simple majority to pass. The Republicans voted against the motions killing both motions until Sunday when the Democrats will have the votes to pass.
Speaker Filler-Corn said that if the Republicans would have supported the motions today, that committee meetings would be able to begin on Thursday instead of Sunday.
 After the second motion failed, VPM’s Roberto Roldan reported that Delegate Marcus Simon (D) said they’ll meet virtually going forward. Roldan reported that Simon indicated that if Republicans do not vote with Democrats on a rule change today, then they will wait until the weekend to pass it with a simple majority – meaning the House will have to wait to begin their work next week. 
However, a third resolution called HR 515 that authorizes the Speaker of the House to allow for virtual meetings only needed a simple majority to pass. House Republican leader Todd Gilbert (D-Shenandoah) spoke out against the bill from the floor – “This is wrong Madame Speaker”.
Gilbert told Filler-Corn that he was impressed with the way she was following the rules for the two previous resolutions, but that he was perplexed by the way the Democrats handled HR 515. The resolution passed, allowing the House of Delegates to meet virtually during this special session. The Delegates will now meet virtually over the next five days to hear the rule being read. Once the rules are changed on Sunday, committees can start to vote virtually.
Moments later the House went to recess in order to receive a Zoom training. Mel Leonor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Republicans voiced concerns of being muted, specifically when requesting points of order. “As a general rule, we won’t mute you. We may ask you to mute yourself,” said a trainer from the clerk’s office according to Leonor.
“With a single vote, they declared that they have no need to meet in public, they have no desire to receive public input, and they have no intention of changing that practice anytime soon,” said Gilbert in a press release.
Gilbert accused the Democrats of lying to the press about coordination for today. “Both the Speaker and the Majority Leader told the press that this had been worked out ahead of time between Republicans and Democrats,” said Gilbert. “That is false. But sadly, this is what we’ve come to expect from the Democratic majority.”
“Nothing that happened today was a suprise,” said Filler-Corn. The Speaker noted that it is a confusing process, but she was adamant that there was ample communication before the session began.
The Senate began committee meetings in-person today.
In regards to committees having to wait five day before voting, Filler-Corn told reporters that there is work to be done on the budget. The Speaker also noted that legislators can still meet virtually, they just have to wait until next week to vote.
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