From the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, following what was by any standard an historic session.
SENATE DEM LEADERSHIP SINE DIE STATEMENT
Richmond — This afternoon, the Virginia General Assembly wrapped up the business of the 2020 regular legislative session. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) issued the following joint statement:
“In November, the people of Virginia sent the message that it was time for change in our Commonwealth. We made a promise to Virginians that in the 2020 legislative session we would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, enact common-sense gun safety legislation, expand voting rights, remove barriers between women and their constitutional right to choose, and prohibit discriminatory practices in employment and housing for members of our LGBTQ community. We are proud of the work that we have done this session and know this is just the beginning. Most importantly, we have delivered on the promises that we made in November. Senate Democrats remain committed to serving all Virginians and to governing responsibly on their behalf.”
Throughout the 2020 legislative session, Senate Democrats championed bills covering a wide range of policy areas:
- Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) took on the practice of “surprise medical billing” through her SB 172, which ensures that insured Virginians are not penalized for receiving out-of-network emergency care or for receiving care from out-of-network practitioners at an in-network facility — a leading cause of out-of-control medical bills that put huge financial strain on Virginia families.
- Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) championed SB 733 which tears down barriers between a woman and her constitutional right to choose by expanding the list of medical professionals who can perform a first-trimester abortion to include nurse practitioners, and by removing the requirement that a woman get an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:
- Senator Adam Ebbin’s (D-Alexandria) SB 2 decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana. The measure creates a civil penalty of no more than $25, or 5 hours of community service as an alternative punishment.
- Senator Dave Marsden’s (D-Fairfax) SB 103 allows for any person sentenced to a life-term in prison for crimes committed as a juvenile and who has served at least 20 years of their sentence to be eligible for parole.
- Senator John Edwards’s (D-Roanoke City) SB 513 removes the provisions whereby a person’s driver’s license ends up being suspended for certain non-driving related offenses.
- Senator McClellan’s SB 788 raises the felony grand larceny threshold from $500 to $1000, bringing Virginia in line with 21 other states.
- Senator Joe Morrissey’s (D-Richmond) SB 814, which was rolled into SB 1, abolishes the suspension of drivers’ licenses for non-payment of court fines.
- Non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastic bags used in convenience and grocery stores are clogging up our waste stream and causing damage to our waterways. Senator Chap Petersen‘s (D-Fairfax City) SB 26, which was incorporated into Senator Ebbin‘s SB 11, places a 5-cent tax on these plastic bags and dedicates the funding to Chesapeake Bay clean-up.
- Senator Ghazala Hashmi’s (D-Chesterfield) SB 406 establishes a framework for state government to address environmental justice including through the creation and implementation of environmental justice strategies and the incorporation of environmental justice into agency regulations and policies going forward.
- Senator Lynwood Lewis’s (D-Accomack) SB 795 prohibits offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf Planning Area off Virginia’s coast.
- Senator McClellan also championed SB 851, also known as the Clean Virginia Energy Act. This measure puts Virginia on a path to a 100% carbon-free electric grid by 2045, significantly expands investments in solar and offshore wind, strengthens SCC oversight and ratepayer protections, and includes requirements that utility companies retain local workers for grid modernization projects to maximize the economic benefit and encourage workforce development right here in Virginia.
- Senator Saslaw carried a package of bills that will empower and give dignity to working Virginians. SB 7 puts Virginia on the path to a $15 minimum wage. SB 8 establishes prevailing wage requirements for contractors and subcontractors seeking any public contract with a state agency. SB 939 paves the way for collective bargaining for municipal employees in our counties, cities, and towns.
- Senator Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) put forward SB 48, an important worker protection that saves employees from discrimination as a result of filing a complaint about nonpayment of wages. This bill passed the Senate unanimously.
- Senator Jeremy McPike’s (D-Prince William) SB 744 prohibits wage theft by banning employers from misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Senator Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax) SB 662 prohibits retaliatory action against employees who report their employer for misclassification.
EQUALITY & CIVIL RIGHTS:
- Senators Locke and McClellan co-chief patroned SJ 1, a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendments to the Constitution of the United States once and for all. Every single member of the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus signed onto this initiative as a co-patron.
- Senator Spruill‘s SB 50 bans hair discrimination based on racial identifiers that include hair texture and hair type. Virginia is the fourth state, and the first southern state, to ban this type of discrimination.
- Senator Scott Surovell’s (D-Fairfax) SB 245 prohibits any health care professional from performing conversion therapy as a form of counseling to anyone under the age of 18.
- As we continue to grapple with Virginia’s past, Senator Surovell’s SB 636 strikes racist and discriminatory language and provisions from Virginia’s Acts of Assembly.
- Senator Ebbin championed SB 868, the Virginia Values Act, an omnibus package that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, credit, and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION:
- Senator Locke’s SB 69 reinstates the one handgun a month law, which prohibits any person who is not a licensed firearms dealer from purchasing more than one handgun in a month. This measure would reduce the individuals from amassing large numbers of handguns in a short period of time.
- Senator L. Louise Lucas’s (D-Portsmouth) SB 70 establishes universal background checks for firearm sales from licensed firearms dealers across Virginia.
- Senator George Barker’s (D-Fairfax) SB 240 creates a procedure for an emergency substantial risk order to temporarily prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to themselves or others from possessing a firearm.
- Senator John Bell’s (D-Loudoun) SB 263 requires that concealed handgun permit applicants participate in an in-person course to demonstrate competence with a handgun.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE:
- Senator Lucas has been a longtime champion for casinos in Virginia with a view to revitalizing Portsmouth’s waterfront. SB 36 authorizes casino gaming in the Commonwealth to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board and grants permission to the cities of Portsmouth, Richmond, Norfolk, Danville, and Bristol to hold a local referendum on the question of whether to allow casino gaming within the city. According to the JLARC gaming study, the casinos are projected to generate about $970 million in net gaming revenue annually. In addition to the added revenue, the study also estimates that each location will employ at least 1,000 people.
- Senator Saslaw’s SB 890 modernizes our transportation system by better aligning how we pay for roads, transit, and other transportation infrastructure. The package works to make our funding streams more sustainable so we can continue to invest in roads and rail that allow people and goods to move around our state.
- Senator Locke’s SB 65 repeals Virginia’s photo ID requirement. This is an unnecessary barrier to the ballot box that disproportionately affects senior citizens and communities of color and aims to prevent participation in our democratic process. Repealing it has been a priority for Senate Democrats for several years.
- Senator Howell introduced SB 111, which allows any qualified voter to vote by absentee ballot without having to give an excuse. This bill incorporates Senator Spruill’s SB 45, Senator Monty Mason’s (D-Williamsburg) SB 696, and Senator Locke’s SB 879.
- Senator Creigh Deeds’s (D-Bath) SB 617 authorizes the establishment of satellite in-person absentee voting sites, making in-person absentee more accessible.
- Senator Howell’s SB 77, the Student Bill of Rights, prohibits loan providers from misapplying loan payments or misrepresenting or omitting material information about the terms or conditions of the loan.
- Senator Bell’s SB 271 allows public institutions of higher learning to enter into public-private partnerships with wind and solar power companies with a view to establishing training programs for students.
- Senator Boysko‘s SB 935 provides that any student who attended high school for at least two years in the Commonwealth is eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.