Latest on 2021 session: Va. House approves paid sick leave bill and Northam calls special session to give lawmakers more time

Capitol Connection

FILE – A waiter wears a mask and face covering at a restaurant with outdoor seating Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the 2021 General Assembly session approaches its crossover deadline, both chambers are ramping up their work in order to get legislation through to the other by the end of the week.

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates must finish bills within their own chamber by Friday, a deadline that is forcing state lawmakers to extend their work day and propelling key legislation to the floors of the Senate and House for a final vote. 

Legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic, measures to legalize marijuana and repeal capital punishment have advanced during the 2021 session. Like past sessions, some measures have failed to get through committee while others have moved through without many complaints. 

Bills that have survived are being debated — as you read this — and eventually both chambers will vote on legislation they have worked on since mid-January. 

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called for a special session to begin Feb. 10 on Thursday, an expected move to give lawmakers additional time to go over the bills introduced for the 2021 session. Sessions during odd-numbered years are scheduled to be 30 days but are extended to a customary 46-days eventually.

GOP members of the General Assembly blocked the effort to extend the 2021 legislative session after lawmakers met during the summer for an unprecedented special session, setting the governor up to fulfill his promise to sign a proclamation.

On the heels of crossover, 8News will provide an update each day on what you may have missed, legislation to watch out for and the impact the bills are expected to have on Virginians.

What you may have missed

The movement to make Virginia the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty inched closer to reality Wednesday as the Senate passed a bill to end the use of capital punishment in all cases. 

The Democrat-controlled Senate approved the legislation with a 21-17 vote following an emotional debate that lasted nearly two hours. The Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee approved its own bill to abolish the death penalty with a 15-6-1 vote on Wednesday. READ MORE

Read Wednesday’s update: Va. Senate passes bill abolishing the death penalty

A measure seeking to legalize marijuana in Virginia has made it through another panel, advancing out the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee with a 11-4 vote on Wednesday. The legislation — which has seen major changes as it moved through subcommittees and committee meetings — will now head to the Senate floor.

Debates to watch out for today

The Virginia House of Delegates started its floor session early Thursday, 10 a.m. instead of 4 p.m., as the chamber prepares for a long day of debate and final votes. Here are some of the bills that were discussed and agreed to already:

HB 2137 — Paid sick leave — This bill requires employers to provide sick leave to certain employees (essential workers who work an average of 20 hours per week or 90 per month)

HB 2004 — Virginia Freedom of Information Act; law-enforcement criminal incident information, criminal files — The bill adds criminal investigative files for inactive cases to be included in the records available for FOIA requests.

The House’s bill to repeal Virginia’s death penalty was engrossed to its third reading and will be voted on Friday. Measures to legalize marijuana by July will also be heard and voted on. Both are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled chambers.

Other 2021 session headlines

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