Va. lawmakers kill bill requiring businesses to provide sick leave, put off eviction moratorium vote

As Virginia lawmakers considered pandemic-related relief bills during their special legislative session Wednesday, they decided to kill a measure that would have required businesses to provide paid sick leave.

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted 13-2 to get rid of the legislation.

It would have forced businesses with at least 21 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave during the coronavirus pandemic and future health emergencies.

Republican Sen. Tommy Norment noted that a paid sick leave bill had failed earlier in the year during the Virginia General Assembly’s regular session.

“This was not a business-friendly idea during the regular session and it is a less friendly concept right now,” Norment argued.

Another bill that failed to make it out of committee would have blocked evictions until May 2021.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted to delay action on that measure, even though supporters claimed it was a vital protection for renters who are struggling to pay bills during the pandemic.

“I know a lot of people have been concerned with the prospect of an eviction moratorium, and I acknowledge that it is unprecedented. But we are living in unprecedented times,” said Democratic Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, the bill’s sponsor.

Opponents claimed it would put unfair burdens and risks on landlords who would need to try to recoup lost rent through government programs.

“This bill is one-side punitive,” said Steve Pardon, a chapter leader of the National Association of Residential Property Managers.

More Coronavirus News

Legislation that would limit the power of the state health commissioner was approved by the Senate Education and Health Committee on a bipartisan vote and will now head to the full Senate.

Under that bill, emergency orders or regulations from the commissioner would expire after 30 days, as opposed to the current system under which there is no expiration date.

That 30-day limit could be extended, however, if the Virginia Board of Health approves it.

Gov. Ralph Northam called lawmakers into special session Tuesday to address the budget impacts of the pandemic, criminal justice reform and other measures.

While Senators are meeting in-person in Richmond at the Science Museum of Virginia, House members will carry out their business virtually online.

House Democrats pushed through a change that allows lawmakers to hold meetings and votes online over strong objections from Republicans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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