See below for the latest update from outgoing Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, who is retiring after serving in the State Senate since 1980 (and yes, those 43 years saw enormous change in Virginia, including massive progressive during the two years when Democrats held a governing “trifecta,” in 2020-2021). Now, it’s definitely time for a “Changing of the Guard,” as Sen. Saslaw calls it…and hopefully with good things to come, including important constitutional amendments protecting reproductive healthcare, voting rights, etc.
Voters across the Commonwealth delivered a decisive message on Election Day with Democrats maintaining their “Blue Brick Wall” majority in the Senate and winning back the House of Delegates. As we look to the 2024 session, this shift in power means a great deal for our Democratic agenda moving forward.
First, Democrats are no longer just playing defense. After two years of attacks, we have prevented extreme Republicans from taking away our rights and turning back the clock in Virginia by 50 years. Now it’s time for us to go on offense. Although the majorities in both chambers are slim, Democrats are united in our efforts to pass meaningful legislation this coming year. Since Governor Youngkin has two years remaining until the end of his term, Democrats will have to seek some compromises to win the Governor’s approval. It also means Governor Youngkin will need Democratic approval on any legislative or budgetary goals he has for the remainder of his administration. This creates a strong climate for both sides to learn to work together to find agreeable solutions.
Democrats also have an opportunity to pass constitutional amendments, which do not require any approval from the Governor. In order to pass an amendment in Virginia, it must be successfully passed in two separate sessions with a General Assembly election in between. With control of both chambers for the next two years, we have set our sights on a few amendments. First is enshrining the right to reproductive healthcare in the Virginia constitution. We know Republicans across the country are taking steps to restrict women’s healthcare choices. Passing a constitutional amendment would further protect those rights and make it incredibly difficult for Republicans to take them away. Also on our radar is an amendment for the restoration of the voting rights process. As it currently stands, Virginia is an outlier among states, as our governor has the sole power to restore the voting rights of felons who have served their time. As governors come and go, people are not given an equal or fair opportunity to have their rights restored. We can do better and I hope to see action taken on this issue soon.
With the new members set to take office in just a few months, Senate Democrats have elected their next class of leaders. I would like to congratulate my fellow Senator from Fairfax County, Scott Surovell, for being elected as the next Majority Leader. Serving as the party’s leader for the past two decades has been an honor and a privilege. I have full confidence in the next generation of leadership with Senator Surovell at the helm. I’d also like to congratulate Senator Mamie Locke for being re-elected as Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Her leadership has kept our caucus on a steady course, and I know she will continue to serve Virginia and her district well.
As the new session approaches in January, Democrats are focused on making forward progress on gun violence prevention, supporting public education, and tackling the kitchen table issues facing Virginia today. Even though I will not be returning to Richmond, I’m excited to see the progress we can make with this new class of legislators. As I continue to serve my term until January 2024, please reach out to my office if we can assist you.