Renters Didn’t Make the Governor’s List

by James C. Sherlock

I just completed a survey of the 50 states to see how many of their legislatures were in regular session or special sessions called to deal with COVID issues between April 1 and August 15, 2020.

That 4.5-month period started when enough was known about COVID to start taking legislative action to back up Governors’ emergency decrees. It ends just before Virginia’s General Assembly will convene in special session to deal with COVID-related measures and other issues.

Thirty-eight of the 50 state legislatures have been either in regular session during that period or in special sessions called to deal with the COVID emergency.

Virginia is one of the 12 whose legislatures have not been in session. The others are Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

Of those, Montana, North Dakota and Texas legislatures meet only every other year and 2020 was an off year. Nevada has identical biennial sessions, but that legislature was called back for a special session.

So, Governor Northam is among a small minority of Governors who have not consulted their legislatures for COVID advice or legislative support. He clearly enjoys ruling without their support — he would call it interference.

His June 7 letter to the Virginia Supreme Court showed that he has known for nearly all of that period that renters and landlords would suffer without additional legislation and appropriations.

It illustrates to Virginia residential renters facing eviction and their landlords needing to pay their bills where the Governor’s priorities have been placed.

Regardless of his public statements and letters to the Virginia Supreme Court, renters and landlords (and the Virginia Supreme Court) didn’t make the cut.

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