With six days to go in this year’s Virginia General Assembly session, how is Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Virginia 2020 Plan,” which he laid out back on January 7, doing? See below for the main items in the “Virginia 2020 Plan,” followed by a rundown (definitely not comprehensive, although I tried to hit the main items…please comment about stuff I missed) of how things are looking at this point, with the legislature wrapping up business this coming Saturday…
On a related note, also check out Governor Northam Unveils Bold Criminal Justice Reform Agenda (“Legislative initiatives include decriminalization of marijuana, parole reform, raising the felony larceny threshold, raising the age of juvenile transfer to adult court, and the permanent elimination of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and court costs”); Governor Northam Outlines Historic Justice and Equity Agenda (includes ” lifting the Commonwealth’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate war memorials…add[ing] protections and funding for historic African American cemeteries, and creat[ing] a commission to recommend a replacement for the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol”); and Governor Northam Announces Legislative Proposals to Increase Access to Voting (“early voting during the 45 days before an election…mak[ing] Election Day a state holiday”).
- Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment: Done (passed the House and Senate on mostly party-line votes, with Democrats of course supporting it).
- Restoring women’s reproductive rights: Done (the Reproductive Health Protection Act, HB980 and SB733, passed both the House and the Senate, again along party lines, with Democrats of course supporting it).
- Expanding affordable housing: I’m not totally clear on this one, but legislators advanced some tenant-friendly laws to cap late fees, force repairs; added money in the budget for a bunch of legal aid housing lawyers; and added money to the Housing Trust Fund (amount to be determined, depending on budget negotiations beteween the House and the Senate). So that’s progress, at least…
- Banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing and employment: Done (the Virginia Values Act has advanced to Gov. Northam’s desk, after passing the House and Senate on largely party-line votes…again, with Democrats supporting and Republican opposing)
- Raising the minimum wage: Getting close (HB 395 and SB7 both passed, mostly on party lines again, but now have conferees will have to reconcile their differences, particularly over whether there should be regional adjustments to the minimum wage or one, statewide standard)
- Making voting easier: A lot has gotten done (no-excuse absentee voting passed, mostly along party lines; same-day voter registration passed, again along party liens; making Election Day a state holiday passed, yet again mostly along party lines; mandatory photo ID for voters was repealed, again overwhelmingly along party lines; allowed localities to use ranked choice voting for local governing bodies; etc.). We still have to see what happens with redistricting reform…a key vote coming tomorrow, possibly.
- Reforming criminal justice: A good amount has gotten done (e.g., increasing the felony larceny threshold from $500 to $1,000 passed, largely along party lines; marijuana decriminalization passed both chambers and is in conference committee; parole for juvenile offenders has been signed into law) while several other criminal justice bills (e.g., see here) did not pass.
- Advancing gun violence prevention: A lot has gotten done (as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pointed out last week, these measures include universal background checks, required reporting for lost & stolen firearms, in-person competency training required for concealed carry permit, locality control to restrict where/when firearms can be carried, also “ERPO”/”red flag” law and “one-handgun-a-month”). Restrictions on assault weapons, however, did not pass, but were “continued” to 2021.
- Fighting climate change and protecting natural resources: A lot has gotten done on this front (e.g., agreeing to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; the Virginia Clean Economy Act apparently heading for conference committee after different versions passed the two chambers; addressing the issue of menhaden overfishing; prohibiting offshore drilling; different versions of a disposable plastic bag fee will be hashed out in committee; “solar freedom” was passed by both chambers; restrictions on polystyrene moved ahead; wildlife corridors legislation passed; etc), while other stuff – including the “Green New Deal” – did not move forward.
- Increasing education funding: A lot got done on this front (see here, here and here for more details; also in-state tuition for DREAMers passed), although obviously, after years of underfunding when Republicans controlled the General Assembly, there’s a lot more to be done in coming years.
- Expanding transit and broadband: Making progress (a major, even historic transportation package is heading for conference committee; legislation promoting transit-oriented development was signed by Gov. Northam; legislation regarding easements for expanding broadband passed both chambers; etc.).
Overall, there’s clearly been a great deal of good legislation passed. With less than a week left to go, we’ll see how much more the House and Senate can churn out…