House Democrats are enjoying a secure six-seat majority in Richmond but are not making much progress on their agenda.
As of Tuesday, a single piece of legislation worked its way out of a house committee and onto the House floor — a vote ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, said he is concerned that Democrats have drilled down on a single issue that is more symbolic than practical.
“The story there is not just how much they’re prioritizing an amendment that, by the Justice Department’s reckoning last week is dead and invalid,” Gilbert said. “But really it’s that they’re doing that, and at the same time, that’s the only piece of legislation that has come out of a House committee yet and we’re five days into the session.”
Last week the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel released an opinion that squashed hopes that Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment would result in the constitutional amendment going into effect.
Gilbert is a well-known opponent of the ERA but he said his concern is about the overall pace the session is moving at.
“Literally no other legislation is moving here,” Gilbert said. “At this rate, we will not get our work done if it can’t pace the flow of legislation a little better. Or a lot better for that matter.”
On the Senate side of Richmond, 68 bills have worked their way out of committees and are set for floor votes.
Besides legislation gridlock, Gilbert said there were procedural hold-ups that slowed the beginning of the session down, too. He said the House did not pass a set of rules on opening day as it usually does and there was a delay in passing rules that govern the session.
“Generally speaking, we have not hit the ground running here under the new Democratic leadership,” he said. “Either they are intentionally slowing things down or they haven’t figured out how to run the place yet. I don’t know which is the case — it could be both.”