Thursday, January 14, 2021

Haner is Right - Virtual Assembly Amounts to Legislative Malpractice

Late yesterday afternoon, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee convened via Zoom video conference to meet and take up legislation.  VSSA had previously signed up to speak in favor of HB1799, a bill that would add public land to the places that were allowable for Sunday Hunting.  Citizens were warned at the time of signing up that they would only receive a link to the meeting if it was anticipated that time may be available to speak - sign-up was "first come first served".  VSSA did receive a link to the meeting so it was presumed our representative would at least be given an opportunity to state the Association's support for the bill.  When the bill came up for a hearing, the chairman said 50 people had signed up and were in the waiting room to speak for or against the bill.  He said there was not enough time for all to be heard, and asked the patron if he and anyone he wanted to speak.  The person he suggested was a representative of the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation.  He was the only person allowed to speak for the bill, and one person spoke against the bill - a representative of the Farm Bureau.  The bill was defeated on a 6-16 vote.

Last week, legislative veteran, lobbyist, and blogger Stephen D. Haner wrote about this year's session at the blog Beacon's Rebellion:

From our “Be Careful What You Ask for Department,” I give you the General Assembly “short session” that opens Wednesday, which is supposed to last only 30 calendar days instead of the usual 46. The Republican effort to limit the session’s possible output and impact is being answered by Democrats seeking to accelerate the process instead.

I was asked recently what my priority was for the coming session. The answer is to avoid a deep vein thrombosis from sitting all day, five or six days a week, straining to follow intense legislative discussions and legislative maneuvers with lousy sound and a screen that looks like Hollywood Squares crossed with musical chairs.

Doing a General Assembly at all under these conditions is legislative malpractice, a danger that should frighten all Virginians of any ideology. Nobody – not lobbyists, agency folks or average citizens – will have much luck getting input considered. Bills will be acted on far faster than even the digital tracking system can report. Expect fiscal and other impact reports to post well after bills have passed or even after the gavel falls “sine die” around Valentine’s Day.
Steve is write, what was experienced yesterday is nothing short of "legislative malpractice."

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