by Kimberly Nario
Last year kind of sucked. It may as well have been 2020, The Sequel. But in terms of legislative wins in Virginia, 2021 was actually kind of amazing. We passed incredible voting rights, some of the best ones in the country. We abolished the death penalty. We made abortion more accessible. We started legalizing marijuana. We made higher education more accessible and affordable. We made more steps towards fixing our broken criminal justice system. Y’all, that’s not even everything.
Yet here we are at the start of a new session, with a republican majority. All I really want to say is —
I hope y’all are hungry because Virginia’s GOP is serving up a buffet of ridiculousness. We knew this session would be different – and difficult – without a trusted Democratic trifecta to lead the Commonwealth. So when it comes to the nonsense some GOP legislators are trying to push through the General Assembly, you can color us shocked, but NOT surprised.
Let’s dive right into the trash pile of voting restrictions! What is the GOP trying to do with voting rights this session? If you guessed only bad things, ding ding ding! You’re correct! The party of voter suppression – seriously, I’m not kidding – is attempting to make it incredibly difficult for us to make our voices heard. Surprise surprise. After record voting turnout, Virginia Republicans want to take away the things that make our democracy more accessible by:
- Repealing the no-photo ID requirement to vote
- Repealing no-excuse absentee voting and absentee drop boxes
- Cut down number of days of early in-person voting
- Eliminating the permanent absentee voter list
- More and even more bad things
It’s almost like the people who hold more power are trying to make it easier for them to… hold more power. Actually, it’s exactly like that.
What else are they trying to make easier? Getting guns into hands, of course! (Note: read the following with a heavy layer of sarcasm and spite.)
- Want to purchase more than one handgun a month? Great!
- Want to bring dangerous weapons to places of religious worship? Fantastic!
- How about bringing firearms into local public buildings and facilities? Let’s do this!
- Guns at the Capitol? Of course!
- But why stop there when we can have guns at preschools and daycares!?
- Quick q: do you think people with concealed carry permits need to demonstrate competence? We didn’t think so!
- And about those permits, let’s just not bother with them for some people!
The message is clear. Less votes, more guns. We get it, they don’t care about our vote or our lives. Here’s more proof:
- Our (least) favorite “rally”-attending, gun-toting, no mask wearing, Tr*mp in heels, Amanda Chase, wants to help you fight COVID – with a prescription for something that does not treat or prevent COVID.
- We already know what works to prevent COVID and help us from getting severe cases: vaccines. So naturally, there’s a bill to ban vaccine mandates.
- Then there’s this mess, which begs the questions: What? And why?
- When we’re talking about our well-being, we can’t leave out the environment. Unfortunately, neither did one House republican. He’d like to see important elements of the Virginia Clean Economy Act disappear, just like the ice caps.
By now you might be thinking, “What else can a Republican majority try to take away from us?” I won’t keep you in suspense, it’s time for criminal justice reform! Unless you’re one of the three Republican legislators who proposed this garbage:
- Repealing the school disorderly conduct bill that disrupts the school-to-prison pipeline
- Lowering the felony larceny threshold from $1000 to $500
- Repealing the ban on no-knock warrants (Breonna’s Law)
- Removes authority of localities to establish civilian police oversight boards – because who needs accountability?
- Stripping equity from marijauna legalization by removing the provision to use 30% of the state marijauna tax to go to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund
By the looks of these bills, it’s clear that some members of the GOP don’t value equity, or science, and definitely not democracy. But what else? Abortion rights! This born alive bill really has nothing to do with protecting anyone – it’s aimed at attacking abortion care. As such, it is completely pointless and creates a false problem. Abortion care is health care. End statement.
Let me remind you, this is not a full list of bills to watch. It’s merely a sampling of the buffet. There are more, and we can expect to see some amendments that will make bad bills worse. But here’s another reminder: every member of the General Assembly works for us. We elect the people we think will best represent our needs. Listen to what they say during session, and watch how they vote. Hold them accountable. And while you’re at it, tell your senators to protect our progress! They’re our last line of defense against the undoing of years worth of progress.
Before we go, one last little crumb. Honorable mention for bills that make us go ?: a bill for allowing school buses to display decals with the motto, “In God We Trust” or the phrase “One Nation Under God.” Let’s see an amendment to add the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” and we’re on board.