Watch: Virginia lawmakers meet for veto session amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 10:59 AM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 17:14:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Lawmakers met Wednesday for a veto session amid the coronavirus pandemic to consider amendments to passed legislation by Gov. Ralph Northam.

In an unprecedented movie, the House of Delegates gathered outside of the State Capitol in a tent and things quickly got off to a rocky start when there was an issue recording votes.

"The problem seems to be that people have unplugged things," said House Clerk Suzette Denslow.

Once that was sorted out, Democrats voted to have the House vote remotely, but they didn't get the necessary 2/3 votes to change the rules. "We're here any way and the Senate is working," said Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). "We thought we should work and finish our business, as well."

The Senate met at the nearby Science Museum of Virginia. Senators wore masks and practiced social distancing. Things appeared to go more smoothly with senators quickly taking up important debates, like increasing the minimum wage.

Gov. Northam proposed delaying increasing the wage to 9.50 per hour from January to May. Republicans hoped to kill the bill, citing the uncertainty of coronavirus, but Democrats said the crisis shows people need to make more.

"Instead of being sympathetic to these businesses at their worst time, we're tightening the screws," Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) said. "Instead of seeing our restaurants reopen, they're going to remain closed."

"This is a wage that will allow workers to get back on their feet," Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) countered.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax cast a tie-breaking vote to approve the increase and delay. Shortly after, the House approved it as well.

Lawmakers also agreed to accept a recommendation from Gov. Northam on the bill legalizing casinos. Northam wants money from them to go to school construction.

The budget continues to be a bit topic as lawmakers gain a sense of the impact of COVID-19, but for now they wanted to carry out their work.

"The uncertain outlook we now face is not what any of us in either party would've wanted or even contemplated when we adjourned in March," said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). "Just as our predecessors before us we must carry on and complete the business we are here to do for our fellow Virginians."