With the 2023 Virginia General Assembly coming up in just a few weeks (it begins on 1/11/23), last night several State Senators and Delegates (Del. Rip Sullivan, Senator Janet Howell, Senator George Barker, Senator Jennifer Boysko, Delegate Ken Plum, Delegate Kathleen Murphy, and Delegate Irene Shin) provided a preview during their Pre-Session Regional Virtual Town Hall. Check out the video, as well as a few highlights, below.
- According to Del. Ken Plum, the idea of a tax cut is “attractive,” but “we also have to be responsible in terms of what the needs are of the Commonwealth,” particularly “on our education front.” On gun violence prevention, Del. Plum said it has to be “high on our list,” starting with protecting the progress we’ve made the past few years against Republican efforts to roll back that progress. On Youngkin’s draft history education standards, Del. Plum said he is very concerned, said the draft standards have been described to him by historians as “horrible…an insult to the people of Virginia; they’ll make Virginia the laughing stock of the nation…an effort to right-wing whitewash the curriculum in Virginia.”
- Del. Rip Sullivan said this “short session” means there’s an “incredible amount of work we have to do” in just six weeks (which means each chamber has to finish its work in just three weeks, so the bills can “cross over” to the other chamber). Del. Sullivan said his “top three priorities” are “defense, defense and defense” against Gov. Youngkin’s attempts to unwind progress Democrats made (“particularly in the energy space”) in 2020-2021. Other big issues include the budget, abortion, mental health funding, etc. – and we’ll see what Youngkin proposes on these things. Del. Sullivan added that three major energy/enviro areas are “in danger” – RGGI, the clean cars initiative, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (which Del. Sullivan said Youngkin is trying to kill it by “a thousand cuts”) – and that it will be up to the State Senate to stand strong. Del. Sullivan also talked about the importance of enforcing Red Flag bills and using the funds allocated by Congress to do so.
- Sen. George Barker said he’ll be running for reelection next year. Sen. Barker also mentioned funding for affordable housing and the housing trust fund, K-12 education, and mental health care.
- Del. Kathleen Murphy touted Democrats’ “amazing accomplishments” when they were in the majority, including on gun violence prevention, protecting women’s rights, supporting our schools and health care. Now, Democrats will have a “battle” to protect all that progress. On gender and reproductive justice issues, Del. Murphy said it’s “obscene for anybody to start attacking people for who they are,” and that as a “man of faith,” Gov. Youngkin should know that “God made each of us the way that we are, and it isn’t up to us to decide whether He made a mistake or not…and I really don’t like what is happening when they’re talking about…the LGBTQ community…it’s like they’re encouraging attacks…I just think it’s wrong, I really do…[these efforts] are inhumane and insulting.” She said that Youngkin’s attacks on transgender kids are “going to cause such heartache and trauma and there’s nothing good in any of that…He shouldn’t be trying to make those decisions – their parents and those children, they are the ones responsible for those decisions, not the governor.”
- Sen. Jennifer Boysko said she’s been working on legislation dealing with broadband/closing the digital divide, transportation, substance abuse prevention, domestic and sexual violence resources, civics education. Sen. Boysko said “it’s a very difficult time to be in public service right now,” although actually legislators get along “a lot better than you think we do,” with a lot of collaboration across the aisle. Like other panelists, Sen. Boysko emphasized the importance of holding the line on all the progress we’ve made and prevent any whitewashing of history education standards. Sen. Boysko said she finds it “amazing” that anyone would want to restrict access to higher education, including for in-state tuition for undocumented Virginians, and that if anything we should be working to INCREASE access. She said we need to increase funding for and access to mental health care.
- Del. Irene Shin said she’ll be working on a wide range of issues, including intellectual/developmental disabilities, consumer protections, but the “name of the game will continue to be defending the progress that we’ve made…over the past couple years.” Del. Shin anticipates numerous bills to restrict or ban reproductive access, or even limit contraception/IVF/etc., and vowed that Democrats “will remain vigilant in protecting women’s access to make decisions for their own bodies and for their own futures, and that’s central to the work that we’re going to…prioritize.”