Special Session Update

Friday, August 21st, 2020

A couple weeks ago, we shared a preview of what we’d be focusing on during the General Assembly special session that started August 18. See below for an update on the special session and issues we’re working on.

How to Follow Special Session

The Senate and House did not agree on procedural rules for the special session, and there has been confusion about how things will proceed. This makes it difficult for the public to follow legislation, so we created a Special Session Action Center for you to follow along and contact your legislators. Watch for our action alerts!

The Budget

When the General Assembly reconvened session in April, they agreed to postpone all new spending to consider the economic effects of the pandemic. The Governor introduced a new budget bill for the special session (HB 505 and SB 5015). Most of the new spending has been taken out of the budget including measures VPLC supports to increase access to health care and improve child welfare. The House and Senate budget and finance committees will now be considering the budget, and VPLC will be working on budget amendments to fund initiatives that are crucial to Virginians.

Virginia has $1.1B in unused reserve funds. This is often called the rainy day fund.  The pandemic has brought the “rainy day” to Virginia, and VPLC will be advocating for reserve funds to be used to support low-income Virginians who have been especially hit hard by the pandemic.

Special Session So Far

After moving a batch of bills, the Senate adjourned to await resumption of work by the House of Delegates. The Senate has been meeting in-person at the Science Museum of Virginia. We expect the House to meet virtually starting next week.

Preventing Mass Evictions in Virginia During the Pandemic

Halting Evictions (SB 5051, introduced by Senator Hashmi): VPLC supports halting evictions except in cases where the tenant’s behavior poses a threat to the life, health, or safety of the landlords or other tenants. The RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University estimates that as many as 262,000 households in Virginia are at risk of eviction. A Senate committee heard the bill Wednesday but postponed a vote until next week to see if landlord and tenant groups could agree on compromise language.

Promoting Payment Plans Over Evictions (SB 5088, Senator Ebbin): A compromise bill that limits the applicability of the payment plan requirement to states of emergency passed a Senate committee unanimously and will be heard on the Senate floor next week. HB 5064 (Delegate Price) has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in a House committee.

Protecting People Living in Hotels and Motels (SB 5089, Senator Locke): This bill requires that the same protections given to all tenants be given to all people who live in hotels and motels during the pandemic. We expect it to be heard in committee next week.

Paid Sick days

VPLC is working with other organizations to get legislation passed that would require all employers to provide paid sick days. A Senate committee has already killed the Senate bill (SB 5076, Senator Favola).

We expect a similar bill to be introduced in the House by Delegate Guzman.

Keeping Utilities on During the Pandemic

Senator McClellan introduced a bill (SB 5118) to require every utility providing electric, gas, or water service to develop an Emergency Debt Repayment Plan (EDRP) for residential customers. We expect this bill to be heard next week.

We also support Delegate Ayala’s Bill (HB 5068) that prevents creditors from taking stimulus checks issued during the pandemic.

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