By Steve Haner
The coming Special Session of the General Assembly will be narrowly focused but filled with controversy, based on the legislative wish list just released by House of Delegates Democrats. Only two bills listed fall outside of the major categories of “COVID-19 Relief” or “Criminal Justice and Police Reform.”
Under the heading “COVID Relief,” the Democrats wish to reopen their drive for employee paid leave, and as predicted want to designate COVID-19 as a workplace disease.
The Senate Democrats have their own list, released in June and reiterated in a more recent news release. The release claims that one of the bills is ready for public viewing, but provides no link and the bill mentioned is not yet available through Legislative Information Services. Neither caucus has yet revealed any thoughts on how to amend the state budget, a task where Governor Ralph Northam naturally takes the lead.
Here is the list from the House Democratic Caucus, with some thoughts following:
- Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
- Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
- Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
- Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
- Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
- Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
- Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
- Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.