|RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam issued the following statement today upon the adjournment of the 2021 reconvened session of the General Assembly.
“Today, we concluded a legislative session that will be regarded as one of the most consequential policy-reforming periods in modern Virginia history.
“We approved a state budget that will help Virginians get through the pandemic while laying a foundation for a strong economic recovery. We have directed resources to provide grants for small businesses and built up a robust process to protect renters from eviction. And we have come together to support our schools and safely return students and teachers to the classroom.
“We made history as the first state in the South to legalize the simple possession of marijuana. I am pleased that the General Assembly accepted my proposal to make this change on July 1, 2021 nearly three years earlier than planned. Marijuana laws were explicitly designed to target communities of color, and Black Virginians are disproportionately likely to be stopped, charged, and convicted. Today, Virginia took a critical step to right these wrongs and restore justice to those harmed by decades of over-criminalization.
“I am grateful to Lieutenant Governor Fairfax for his tie-breaking vote, and to the legislators, all of the advocates, and the members of my team who have worked to ensure that our framework for legalization focuses on public health, public safety, and equity. This includes a plan to seal certain crimes from an individual’s record automatically, so those with past convictions can get a clean slate and move on with their lives.
“We joined 22 other states and put an end to the inhumane practice of capital punishment. Virginia has executed more people than any other state—and now we are charting a more equitable way forward for our Commonwealth. And we took action to establish a constitutional amendment that would make the process of restoring political rights to individuals upon completion of their sentence one that is automatic.
“We passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, which restores and builds on key provisions of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the United States Supreme Court. Voting is fundamental to our democracy, and this legislation is a model for how states can ensure the integrity of elections and protect the sacred right to vote.
“As this historic session comes to an end, I am heartened by all that we have done together to advance our priorities and make Virginia stronger, fairer, and more equitable. But we must also remember that there is still important work ahead of us to implement these new laws, continue expanding vaccination efforts, and strengthen our economy.
“When I took office, I shared a vision of a Commonwealth that is open and welcoming, one that takes care of people in need, and where every person has the opportunity to build the life they want. I am proud of how far we have come—there is every reason to have hope and optimism for our future and I look forward to building on our progress in the weeks and months to come.”