Elections Matter: Virginia's Lawmakers are Passing Bold Progressive Legislation
Democrats won back Virginia's statehouse last Fall after decades of Republican control, and with Gov. Ralph Northam already in office, they [finally] passed the Equal Rights Amendment and are now considering more progressive legislation.
Gov. Northam, who campaigned on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, pushed expansion through the legislature in 2018 over Republican opposition, and now about 300,000 more Virginians have affordable access to health care. This year, with a Democratic majority in the statehouse, the Governor intends to sign a number of laws that have been blocked by Republicans in the past. There are quite a few bills still pending in the legislature, but many of these will be approved this year.
1. Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana: Legalization may be in the cards down the road, but, for now, VA will treat the possession of small amounts of pot like a parking ticket, resulting in a fine of $25-$50.
2. Laws making it easier to vote. Under proposed legislation, more Virginians would be able to vote absentee, making it easier for workers and students to vote and also reducing wait times at the state's polling places, especially during presidential election years. Another piece of pending legislation would make election day a state holiday.
3. Protections for LGBTQ workers and residents. Republicans have long blocked legislation to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ residents. But, with a Democratic majority, the VA legislature is poised to pass a bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas of employment, credit and housing. Virginia would be the first state in the South to pass such a law.
4. Ending "gay conversion therapy." Virginia will soon pass legislation that prohibits “gay conversion therapy,” a noxious and psychologically harmful treatment, favored by many conservative religious groups, that seeks to change a minor's sexual orientation from gay to straight.
5. Universal background checks. Both houses of the VA legislature have passed a measure requiring background checks for all firearm sales and a bill to limit gun purchases to one per month. Predictably, the NRA is outraged. A "red-flag" bill is still being considered, but might not pass this year.
6. Lee-Jackson Day ended. Virginia's Lee-Jackson state holiday will finally be abolished. It celebrated the birthdays of two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
7. Allow collective bargaining by state employees. Virginia is one of only three states that doesn't allow state and local employees to bargain collectively. That might change this year, but because of differences in the house and senate versions, it could get shelved until 2021.
8. Banning "payday" loans. These high interest, short-term loans [rates up to 900%], which target the poor will be banned in the state.
9. Ending unnecessary and abusive abortion restrictions. Past Republican legislatures created a myriad of impediments to having an abortion in Virginia. Democrats are now moving to roll-back those restrictions. The legislature just passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act which eliminates the forced 24 hour waiting period, counseling and ultrasound requirements, and abolishes burdensome and unnecessary regulations that were meant to limit the number of abortion providers.
We will update you in the weeks ahead on how these, and many other pieces of progressive legislation, are faring in Virginia.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content