Va., Md. General Assemblies to be More Virtual in 2021

Both Virginia and Maryland’s general assemblies will take some unprecedented steps to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, with most deliberative business being conducted remotely.

In the Commonwealth, Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) announced last month that the House of Delegates will conduct all committee hearings, and likely all floor votes, virtually. The Virginia Senate will convene in Richmond at the Science Museum of Virginia, but the chamber’s office buildings and committee hearings will be closed to all except legislators and their staffs.

All committee hearings in both chambers will be live-streamed, and leaders of both chambers have said that Virginians will be able to participate in hearings and submit comments as they have in prior sessions. The session will be just 30 days this year, making it highly unlikely that many bills (outside of the state budget and a few other major labor provisions) have a chance to pass both chambers.

In Maryland, General Assembly leaders had explored holding an entirely-virtual session in 2021, but were warned by Attorney General Brian Frosh that it could run afoul of the state constitution. As a result, the legislature will convene in Annapolis for its usual 90-day session, but only legislators, designated staff, and credentialed media members will have access to the building.

General Assembly leaders agreed to a rules package that requires frequent COVID-19 testing for everyone who will be at the State House, and time limits on floor debate. Nearly all committee hearings will be held remotely, with most public comments being submitted through written remarks, or via videoconference.

Both states will begin their 2021 General Assembly sessions on January 13.

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