Oof! I don’t know about you, but I’m still recovering from the whiplash of the last 60 days! We passed so many fantastic bills during this historic General Assembly session, I can hardly keep track of them all! It would be almost impossible to list every single good bill that passed in one blog post, so you’ll have to make do with a top five list. Here is a quick recap of some of the bills we passed that mean the most to me (in no particular order because I love all my children equally).
- Raising the Minimum Wage
We really did it, y’all. Thanks to the years of hard work by union members, activists, and our legislative champion, Delegate Jeion Ward, Virginians are finally getting a raise. The bill starts by increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 starting on January 1, 2021. Then, it will go up to $12 by 2023, ensuring that 800,000 people get a raise. After that, members of the General Assembly will vote again to put us on a path to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. This was a hard-fought victory, and I’m so proud of all of the people who showed up, shared their stories, and took action to make this a reality for all of us.
- Reproductive Health Protection Act
After years of fighting, we finally repealed the burdensome, unconstitutional restrictions on abortion access in Virginia. The Reproductive Health Protection Act eliminates the requirement that people seeking an abortion go through a mandatory ultrasound and 24 hour waiting period. It also gets rid of sham restrictions that required abortion clinics to have a certain number of water fountains and hallways of a specific width. It also allows nurse practitioners with the appropriate training to provide abortions. All of this will make it easier for people who have decided to have an abortion to access the care that they need when they need it.
- Voting Rights
We passed so many good voting bills! One of my favorites is the no-excuse absentee voting bill. Now everyone, including working parents, seniors, and students, will have the option to vote any time in the 45 days leading up to an election, without needing to have an excuse. This eliminates a huge barrier to making our voices heard in our democracy. I could not be more excited to see how many more people are able to vote thanks to this flexibility.
We also passed a bill to eliminate the requirement that all voters show a photo ID when they go to vote. Now people who don’t have a driver’s license (like many seniors) will be able to vote more easily.
Our democracy functions best when everyone is able to make their voice heard. These two voting bills (along with many others) will ensure that all eligible voters will be able to participate in our democracy.
- Driver Privilege Cards for Undocumented Immigrants
Did you know that undocumented members of our community aren’t able to access driver’s licenses? I didn’t until we started working on this bill a few years ago. But now, thanks to the hard work of immigrants and community members, undocumented people will be able to access driver privilege cards so that they can take their kids to school, get to work, and attend worship services like everyone else. Our roads and communities will be safer because everyone who is driving will know the rules of the road and have passed a driving test. This is a huge step forward for immigrants in our community!
- Virginia Values Act
No one should be afraid that they’ll get fired or evicted because of their gender identity or who they love. But if you can believe it, there were no protections for members of the LGTBQ community who faced discrimination in Virginia at the start of 2020. All that will change because changed we passed the Virginia Values Act, which ensures that no one can be fired, evicted, or denied credit because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These protections will ensure that members of the LGBTQ community feel more secure and won’t have to keep huge parts of themselves a secret from their co-workers and landlords.
- And a bonus because I can’t choose: Gun Violence Prevention
This summer, Republicans refused to take any action to prevent gun violence during the special session. But after the election, we finally had the votes during this session to actually do something to stop the senseless violence that has been plaguing our communities. We passed a bill to require universal background checks before anyone can purchase a firearm. In addition to that, we also took action to ensure that people who are deemed to be an extreme risk to themselves or others aren’t able to access their guns. These are commonsense measures that will go a long way towards ensuring that our communities stay safe.
That was a lot of amazing bills! And honestly, those bills don’t even scratch the surface of all the incredible work that happened and legislation that passed during session. We should certainly take some time to reflect on the great work we have done and celebrate. But we aren’t done yet.
There is still a lot of work to be done before we can say that Virginia is a place where everyone, regardless of income, race, immigration status, or zip code, can thrive in our communities. So, we’ll be back next year to pass the Reproductive Health Equity Act, a ban on assault weapons, repeal right to work, and much more.
Make sure you’re part of next year’s fight for progressive values in the General Assembly by signing up for our email list today. Join us and help build a Commonwealth that works for everyone!