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Historical precedents few for Virginia General Assembly snow cancellations

Rosalind Helderman

The Virginia Senate has canceled all committee meetings for Friday, as well as its regular floor session because of snow. Unlike the House of Delegates, which has canceled its floor session entirely, two Richmond-based members of the Senate will gavel in a session and quickly gavel it out in a "pro forma" session, in accordance with the Senate's reading of the Virginia Constitution requiring the assembly to meet at least once every three days during its annual legislative session.

So the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest Democratic body in the Western hemisphere, the body that once counted Thomas Jefferson among its members, is heading home early because inclement weather is in the forecast.

Leaders say they fear for the safety of their members, some of whom travel long distances to and from their home districts each weekend. Some members traverse rural, mountainous roads. Others must brave the Capital Beltway. And they note that some members were trapped in Richmond due to snow last weekend and will also spend next weekend here for cross-over. Three weekends in a row is too much to ask, they argue.

But the move is highly unusual. How unusual?

Susan Schaar, clerk of the Senate, said this is the first time in her 36 years of working for the General Assembly that the tradition-bound body has canceled due to snow. In the House, members were saying they could not recall a previous cancelation.

We checked in with former delegate Vince Callahan this afternoon on the question. Callahan served 40 years in the House of Delegates before retiring in 2007. Callahan said he personally missed three days over those 40 years--once for his mother-in-law's funeral and twice because he was personally snowed-in at his Fairfax home.

But the General Assembly? It continued on along without him. Never could he remember the assembly canceling.

"Maybe they're not as tough as we used to be," he laughed.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 4, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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This seems completely sensible. It was idiocy for Congress to stay open during the last blizzard, forcing its members and staffers to put themselves and others in danger on the roads.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 5, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

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