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The Indispensable Virginia Progressive Legislative Action Network (VAPLAN) Updates Us on Week #4 at the General Assembly

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Another week of the 2020 Virginia’s General Assembly’s gone by…another superb update by Cindy of the Virginia Progressive Legislative Action Network (VAPLAN) is hot off the presses. Here are a few highlights from Week #4, with the crucial “crossover” day –  “the last day for each house to act on its own legislation, excluding budget” – coming in just 1 1/2 weeks!

  • Despite complaints, in some cases well justified, that things aren’t moving quickly enough or in the way many of us would like, Cindy’s correct to point out that “we’re making so much progress on lots of issues that a majority of Virginians wanted to see reformed.” Just felt like starting out on a positive note, for a change. 🙂
  • “This week both the House and Senate voted to pass similar bills to repeal Virginia’s TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws, that restrict access to safe and legal abortions. The bills remove the 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirement, expand who may perform abortions, and reduce some of the anti-abortion informational materials that a provider must give to the patient.”
  • On the minimum wage, it was “more complicated than it seemed,” with Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw ultimately “reject[ing] the idea of stopping the minimum at $11.75 with benefits [as Sen. Dave Marsden had proposed, for whatever reason], saying workers deserved to earn decent pay AND benefits.” In the end, unfortunately, “the committee voted to incorporate Marsden’s bill into Saslaw’s, substituting in Marsden’s language, making this a substantially weaker bill.” Hopefully, the House’s minimum wage legislation will be stronger, and the likely conference committee will, in the end, tilt much more closely to the House version than the weakened Senate one.
  • This is unequivocally excellent news: “No-excuse absentee voting: HB1 (Herring-HD46, with Lindsey-HD90 and Murphy-HD34 rolled in) passed the House on a partisan vote, 65-35. The Senate was less partisan on this issue, with SB111 (Howell-SD32, with Spruill-SD5, Stuart-SD28, Mason-SD1, Locke-SD2 rolled in) passing the Senate 31-9.”
  • This is more equivocal: “the House passed all 7 [of the Governor’s gun violence prevention bills] in their original strong language, while the Senate has not yet passed all 7, and has watered down more than one, including the background checks. This will be important to watch as the bills cross over to the other body!” Keep in mind, of course, that Democrats have only a VERY narrow, 21-19 majority in the Senate, which means that if even one Senator objects to something, they have a great deal of leverage. In this case, we’re talking about folks like Sen. Chap Petersen and Sen. Joe Morrissey, among others…
  • On predatory lending reform,HB789 (Bagby-HD74, with elements of Carroll-Foy-HD2, Helmer-HD40, Levine-HD45, and Murphy-HD34 rolled in) passed the House on a wholly partisan vote of 65-33.” As for the more-problematic Senate, there’s “a big sprawling bill to close a number of loopholes in the consumer financing industry that make the system unfair to consumers–opponents claimed that lenders would pack up and leave Virginia and leave borrowers without access to available credit.” So stay tuned on this one…
  • The Student Bill of Rights appears to be moving ahead in both the House and Senate –  HB10 (Simon-HD53) and  SB77 (Howell-SD32).
  • From my perspective, it’s been frustrating to watch energy legislation move so slowly, with Dominion still a *very* powerful player, and with some of these bills leaving a great deal to be desired (e.g., this offshore wind bill is a mess!). Also, as VAPLAN writes about the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) – which, I’d add, is almost certain to be the “legislative vehicle” on comprehensive clean energy legislation this session – “the bill is still being negotiated and…a fairly substantial substitute was expected before the full [Senate] Committee meets,” and with “matching bill HB1526 (Sullivan-HD48) [to] be heard in a Labor and Commerce subcommittee possibly on Tuesday.” I’m very interested to know how the negotiations have been going, and whether they met Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s unofficial deadline of Friday (yesterday) or not.
  • Other bills to keep an eye on include: “several disposable bag tax bills that are making their way through committees, with discussion over whether to enact the tax statewide or as a locality opt-in program”; “driver’s license and driver’s privilege card bill” legislation; expungement and parole bills (not great results in the House of Delegates so far); marijuana legislation “still struggling through both chambers”; and, of course, the very important redistricting amendment – or legislation to accomplish similar goals – hasn’t really seen any action so far, but will presumably have to come up soon!

Finally, just a shout-out to the amazing work my friend Cindy at VAPLAN does…it’s simply astounding, not to mention *extremely* impressive, how much she knows and how hard she works at this stuff! I encourage *everyone* to sign up for her updates and to follow her on Twitter. By the way, it’s really hard to remember how we ever kept up with this stuff before Cindy and VAPLAN (and also committee and subcommittee video) came along, but I’m just really glad they did!