RICHMOND, Va. – The General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday for a regular session that will look a little different because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The House is once again meeting virtually, as it did during the special session last fall, while the Senate will meet in-person in Richmond with strict social distancing.
The coronavirus is not only dictating those circumstances but dominating the conversation for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
All four local representatives 10 News spoke with Tuesday agree that the coronavirus is top of mind; however, they differ on where to focus.
“Our priorities are going to be making sure that our kids get a good education and are able to get back to school,” said Del. Kathy Byron, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 22nd District, which covers parts of Bedford, Campbell and Franklin counties, as well as part of Lynchburg.
“I’m very concerned that the vaccination program in the Roanoke, Lynchburg area is way behind. We need a lot of help,” said Sen. Steve Newman, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 23rd District, which contains Botetourt and Craig counties, as well as parts of Campbell County, Bedford County, Roanoke County and Lynchburg.
“We really think about three pieces of that: the healthcare response, the education and how we can help our small businesses,” said Del. Sam Rasoul, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 11th District, which covers part of Roanoke.
“We need to make sure that workers like that all across Virginia that we have called heroes, that we have called our front line defense, that we have called our first responders that they’re taken care of,” said Del. Chris Hurst, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 12th District, which covers Giles County and Radford, as well as parts of Montgomery and Pulaski counties.
Democrats said they’re proud of the COVID-19 relief and criminal justice reform accomplished in the lengthy special session but Republicans told 10 News that division between parties last fall has strained relationships across the aisle.
Still, though they pledge to work together, there’s more than just COVID-19 relief and the budget on the table as legalizing marijuana and continued criminal justice reform are expected to be topics this session.
“We certainly need to be able to come together right now more than ever. Virginians need us to step up,” said Rasoul.
“Doing everything we can to get people back on their feet again,” said Byron.