Home Democratic Party House Democrats Use 2021 General Assembly Session to Build a Better Virginia

House Democrats Use 2021 General Assembly Session to Build a Better Virginia

"Becoming the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty and legalize marijuana is just the beginning of this next chapter.”

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From the Virginia House Democratic Caucus:

House Democrats Use Session to Build a Better Virginia

RICHMOND, VA—Today, the Virginia General Assembly concluded business for the 2021 Regular and Special Legislative Session. Many House Democratic Caucus priorities passed both chambers, from protecting families during the COVID-19 pandemic to expanding voting rights and increasing education funding.

“Over the course of this historic Session, the House of Delegates has delivered for Virginia families across the Commonwealth. Our House Democratic Majority has kept its promise to protect families, keep Virginia healthy and rebuild our economy stronger,” said Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “As we turn the corner on this public health and economic crisis, the House will continue our work to build a better Virginia.”

House Democrats also made historic changes during this session by passing legislation to abolish the death penalty, legalize recreational marijuana, restore the political rights of felons, and create the Voting Rights Act of Virginia — which when enacted will make Virginia the first state in the South to take such progressive steps forward. 

“The House Democratic Caucus has worked hard to make sure our legal code better reflects the diversity in our Commonwealth, while also acknowledging the hard realities Virginians deal with in daily life,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “I am proud to lead the new majority in building a new legacy for Virginia, one that is more equitable and benefits everyone across the Commonwealth. Becoming the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty and legalize marijuana is just the beginning of this next chapter.”

The General Assembly also passed the Budget bill’s (HB 1800) conference report today, which outlines and allocates the funding for many of the priorities in the House Democrats’ agenda. The final report continues to uphold our “AAA” bond rating and promote fiscal responsibility by saving an additional $250 million, for a total of $900 million deposited into our Revenue Reserve Fund. At the end of the biennium, the Commonwealth will have over $2 billion in reserves. 

The budget conference report contains five percent pay raises for teachers, state employees, and state-supported local employees. It also maintains $47 million in federal funds and $31 million general funds for Virginia’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, including the purchase of PPE, coordinated relief operations, and support for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s health equity workgroup.  

This budget also invests in criminal justice reform measures by allocating $14.6 million to implement automatic record-sealing for some offenses. It also reinvests savings from abolishing the death penalty into indigent and public defense programs. Finally, the budget supports fuller implementation of the right to appeal in Virginia, with funding to ensure that the Court of Appeals has enough judges.

“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s the power of elections. The sweeping, historic changes made over the past year are a direct result of 2.9 million Virginia voters speaking out against the status quo at the ballot box in November 2019 and asking for progress,” said Virginia House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “The new House Majority responded immediately, passing transformative legislation last year, and continued this year by addressing the most pressing issues facing the Commonwealth.”

Issues addressed in legislation or the budget passed during the 2021 Regular and Special Session:

Protecting Families

  • Providing paid sick leave for home health care workers – HB 2137 (Guzman)
  • Common-sense gun safety legislation:
    • Prohibiting guns on school board property – HB 1909 (Subramanyam)
    • Restricting domestic abusers from purchasing guns – HB 1992 (Murphy)
    • Extending background check time (Charleston loophole) – HB 2128 (Lopez)
    • Barring guns in Capitol Square and state government buildings – HB 2295 (Levine)
  • Creating Virginia Overtime Wage Act – HB 2063 (Mullin) 
  • Protecting paychecks of minimum wage workers – HB 1814 (Krizek)
  • Including domestic workers in workplace safety and nondiscrimination laws – HB 1864 (Price) and HB 2032 (Gooditis)
  • Expanding the Childcare Voucher Program – HB 2206 (Filler-Corn)
  • Implementing the Virginia Agriculture and Food Assistance Program – HB 2203  (Filler-Corn)
  • Establishing the VirginiaSaves IRA retirement savings program within Virginia529 – HB 2174 (Torian) 

Keeping Virginia Healthy

  • Expanding Virginia’s vaccination capacityHB 2333 (Bagby)
  • Expanding access to telehealth – HB 1987 (Adams)
  • Authorizing ACA Marketplace health insurance plans to cover abortion services – HB 1896 (Hudson)
  • Establishing pharmaceutical drug pricing transparency – HB 2007 (Sickles)
  • Recognizing access to clean water as a human right – HJ 538 (Aird)
  • Establishing the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program – HB 2332 (Sickles)
  • Establishing certified midwife licensure in the Commonwealth – HB 1953 (Gooditis)
  • Establishing the Maternal Health Data Taskforce – HB 2111 (Herring)

Rebuilding our Economy Stronger

  • Implementing the G3 jobs training program – HB 2204 (Filler-Corn)
  • Expanding broadband access – HB 2304 (Tyler)
  • Providing $25 million for Rebuild VA grant program – HB 1800 (Torian)
  • Assessing Virginia’s public transit system needs with a focus on equitable delivery of transportation services and modernization – HJ 542 (McQuinn)
  • Including post-secondary educational program enrollment as an activity fulfilling employment and training requirements for TANF and SNAP recipients – HB 1820 (Helmer) 
  • Initiating a New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority – HB 1893 (Hurst)
  • Funding for improvements to I-64 between Hampton Roads and Richmond – HB 1800 (Torian)

Creating a More Inclusive Virginia

  • Requiring all state agencies to create and maintain comprehensive strategic plans for diversity, equity and inclusion – HB 1993 (Askew)
  • Creating the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board – HB 2130 (Lopez)
  • Prohibiting “LGBTQ+ panic” defense – HB 2132 (Roem)
  • Protecting military families from discrimination in housing or employment – HB 2161 (Tran)
  • Expanding the Virginia Human Rights Act to include those with disabilities – HB 1848 (Sickles)
  • Authorizing statue of Barbara Rose Johns to represent Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol – HJ 525 (Ward)

Reforming the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System

Improving Education

  • Five percent pay raise for teachers and SOQ-recognized support staff – HB 1800 (Torian)
  • Full funding for 2020 Session budget Early Childhood Education initiatives restored – HB 1800 (Torian)
  • Ensuring cultural competency through evaluations and regular training for teachers and principals – HB 1904 (Jenkins)
  • Funding for 1:325 student-counselor ratio in FY 2022 – HB 1800 (Torian)
  • Addressing learning loss due to COVID19 through supplemental funding for local programming – HB 1800 (Torian)
  • Establish parameters  for schools to reopen for 2021-2022 academic year during the COVID-19 pandemic – SB 1303 House Substitute (Van Valkenburg) 

Making our Democracy Stronger by Expanding Voting Rights

  • The Voting Rights Act of Virginia – HB 1890 (Price)
  • Improving availability and accessibility for absentee voting – HB 1888 (Van Valkenburg) 
  • Restoration of rights Constitutional amendment – HJ 555 (Herring)
  • Expanding curbside voting – HB 1921 (Price)
  • Allowing Sunday early voting – HB 1968 (Bagby)
  • Banning guns at polling places – HB 2081 (Levine)
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