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Virginia Senate Democrats Celebrate Legislative Accomplishments

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From the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus:

Democrats highlight success of pragmatic, forward-looking bills that passed the Senate

RICHMOND, VA — After two months of lawmaking and debate, Senate Democrats celebrated the fact that a large part of their 2014 agenda had successfully passed the Senate.

Democrats touted their work to make Virginia a fairer, safer, and more prosperous state, highlighting the success of bills designed to improve education, promote equality, reduce gun violence, and protect women’s access to health care.

Specific bills included:

Education

  • SB 270, introduced by Senator John Miller (D – Newport News), was a bill to limit third-grade SOLs to math and English, ensuring that young students are not swamped with tests. The bill passed both chambers.

  • SB 324, introduced by Senator Miller, was a bill to delay and improve implementation of the new A-to-F grading system for schools. The bill passed both chambers.

Elections

  • SB 16, introduced by Senator Miller, was a bill to allow senior citizens to vote absentee without having to provide a specific reason. The bill passed the Senate.

  • SB 158, introduced by Senator Miller, provided for a statewide referendum on creation of a bipartisan redistricting commission for General Assembly and congressional districts. The bill passed the Senate.

  • SB 333, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D – Alexandria), was a bill to increase the number of absentee ballots that are counted by removing a confusing technical restriction. The bill passed both chambers.

Environment

  • SB 127 was a bipartisan bill to repeal the $64 annual tax on hybrid electric vehicles. The bill passed both chambers.

  • SB 498, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), was a bill to require that participating Renewable Portfolio Standard utilities use renewable energy certificates within five years, helping to ensure that Virginia’s RPS program works as intended. The bill passed both chambers.

Ethics

  • SB 649 was a comprehensive ethics reform bill, which was strengthened by Democratic amendments and passed on a bipartisan basis. It would create an ethics advisory council, increase the frequency of disclosure filings, cap the acceptable value of single gifts from lobbyists to legislators, and reduce the disclosure thresholds for various economic interests from $10,000 to $5,000, along with other reforms. The bill passed both chambers.

Gun Safety

  • SB 65, introduced by Senator Henry Marsh (D – Richmond), was a celebratory gunfire bill. It would prohibit random or non-targeted gunfire, and is designed to reduce deaths and injuries from stray bullets. The bill passed both chambers.

  • SB 510, introduced by Senator Barbara Favola (D – Arlington), was a bill to prohibit those convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member from buying or owning a firearm for five years from the date of conviction. The bill passed the Senate.

Health Care

  • SB 30, the bipartisan Senate budget, contained Marketplace Virginia, a “private option” plan that would recapture federal tax dollars that Virginians already pay in order to fund premium supports, enabling up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians to buy private coverage. The plan would also hold down premiums for Virginians with insurance, keep endangered hospitals open for business, and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The bill passed the Senate

Jobs & Economy

  • SB 250, introduced by Senator McEachin, was a bill to “Ban the Box.” It would prohibit state agencies from inquiring about criminal history on employment applications. The bill passed the Senate.

  • SB 587, introduced by Senator George Barker (D – Fairfax), was a bill to protect employees from age discrimination. The bill passed both chambers.

  • SB 590, introduced by Senator Dave Marsden (D – Fairfax)was a minimum wage bill. It would gradually increase the state minimum wage to $9.25. The bill passed the Senate.

  • SB 643, introduced by Senator McEachin, was a bill to incentivize development of offshore wind energy sources, creating jobs and boosting the economy. The bill passed both chambers.

Immigration

  • SB 503, introduced by Senator Ebbin, was a bill to prevent notaries public from offering legal advice or representation on immigration issues unless those notaries are actually attorneys or accredited representatives. The bill passed both chambers.

LGBT Equality

  • SB 252, introduced by Senator McEachin, was a bill to enable (among others) the LGBT partners of state and certain local public employees to buy health insurance through their partners’ employers. The bill passed the Senate.

Mental Health

  • SB 260, introduced by Senator Creigh Deeds (D – Bath County), was a mental health reform bill that passed with bipartisan support. It would require the development of a psychiatric bed registry, establish and clarify procedures for placement of those subject to an involuntary temporary detention order, and extend the maximum duration of an emergency custody order to 24 hours — reforms that would help ensure that those who urgently need treatment for mental illness are able to receive it. The bill passed both chambers.

Women’s Access to Health Care

  • SB 617, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke (D – Hampton), was a bill to repeal the mandatory ultrasound requirement that Republicans passed in 2012. Under that law, women seeking an abortion must submit to an abdominal ultrasound — regardless of their wishes, and regardless of the wishes of their doctors. The bill passed the Senate.

Democrats vowed to revisit several issues in 2015, noting the failure this year of bills to allow students with deferred action status to access in-state tuition (SB 249); to protect state employees from workplace discrimination (SB 248); and to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without providing an excuse or reason (SB 3).

They also pledged to continue working to close the coverage gap in health insurance.

Majority Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, “We've worked hard to bring pragmatic, common-sense leadership to the Senate. With our focus on creating jobs, helping working families, and stopping extreme Republican legislation, we've been able to show Virginians that Democrats are focused on finding commonsense solutions that move Virginia forward.”

Democratic Senate Caucus Chair Sen. McEachin said, “This year, we worked to pass pragmatic, forward-looking bills that will make Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family. We didn’t win every battle, but we’ve worked to make our Commonwealth a better place. I look forward to continuing that work in the months to come.”