Key reforms to prioritize investing in our communities and democracy will be first up in the 2020 General Assembly. Democratic legislators filed HB1 and SB45, no-excuse absentee voting and HB10, the Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights, signaling both are a top priority for the new Democratic legislature in January. Voters gave control of the House of Delegates and state Senate to Democrats after they successfully campaigned on bold progressive issues. These Day 1 bills are the first step to delivering on that promise.
“On November 5th, voters turned out to elect representatives who will pursue a bold agenda to build a Virginia for all of us, no exceptions. Prioritizing legislation to tackle the looming student debt crisis and ensure every eligible voter is able to participate in our democracy is an important first step,” said Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia. “Building a Virginia for all of us means investing in strong and healthy families and a strong and healthy democracy. We’re thrilled to see this new majority working to unrig the system and ensure that all of us have the opportunity to succeed.”
“Everyone should have the opportunity to thrive in a community where growth comes from the middle out, not the top down, and affordable higher education is a critical part of that. But companies like Navient who profit off of keeping borrowers in debt are working to make sure that families have no financial security, no matter how hard they work. We need to come together across our differences to pass the Borrower’s Bill of Rights so that people who work hard and play by the rules have the basic consumer protections that they deserve.”
Background on the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights:
- Student loan borrowers often find themselves and their financial futures at the mercy of unscrupulous loan servicing companies like Navient who are more interested in their bottom line than in helping borrowers navigate repayment.
- The Borrowers’ Bill of Rights would extend basic consumer protections to borrowers and require loan servicers to be licensed by the Bureau of Financial Institutions, like similar financial providers including banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, and payday lenders. Servicers would also be required to give borrowers accurate information about their loans, apply payments properly, and report accurate payment information to credit bureaus.
- 57% of graduates of Virginia colleges and universities graduate with student loan debt.
- The average graduate in Virginia has $30,636 in student loan debt upon graduation.
- A household’s purchasing power is reduced by $44,000 for every $250 a month in student loan payments.
“Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible to everyone. But corporate special interest groups and the wealthy few benefit from a government that works just for them. They have been working to create an unfair system that prevents hardworking members of our community from making their voices heard in our democracy. We need to come together to pass No-Excuse Absentee voting so that everyone can be a voter, not just those who have the ability to show up on Election Day.”
Background on no-excuse absentee voting:
- Currently, Virginia law restricts voters from applying for an absentee ballot to vote. Voters must have a statutorily permitted reason to vote by absentee ballot, either in-person or by mail. If No-Excuse Absentee voting passed, any eligible voter could cast their ballot before election day without having to have one of the permitted excuses, allowing voters more time to plan to vote.
- Virginians should be able to choose to vote early because of job conflicts, travel, childcare, or transportation challenges.
- Research indicates that expanded access to voting before Election Day shortens Election Day lines, reduces stress on the system, improves poll worker performance, lowers the risk of error, and improves voter satisfaction.