When the 2021 General Assembly legislative session starts in January, it will be a session like no other. COVID has changed everything. The House of Delegates will meet virtually and the state Senate will meet at the Science Museum of Virginia. With virtual floor meetings, no in-person lobbying, and zooming in to give public testimony, it’ll definitely be different this year. But while a lot of things will be changed from years past, we’re still working on a variety of bills and hoping to pass legislation that will help people in our community thrive. ?
Picking my favorite bills is like asking me which of my children is my favorite, but here are three bills that I’ll definitely be paying close attention to come January 13.
- Ban Qualified Immunity in Virginia A bill to ban qualified immunity for police officers failed during this summer’s special session. It’s back again, and I’m hoping that legislators will see what a bad policy it is to let police officers basically have legal immunity for violating people’s civil rights.
Yes, you read that correctly. The policy of qualified immunity shields police officers from accountability and allows them to avoid prosecution in cases of excessive use of force on community members. So when police officers were tear gassing peaceful protesters in Richmond over the summer, they did so knowing that they almost certainly wouldn’t face any consequences.
We need to end qualified immunity because when police officers can use excessive force on anyone at any time with impunity, no one can feel safe. This is especially true for Black and Brown members of our community, who are more likely to be targeted by police officers.
2. Reproductive Health Equity Act We had a huge victory on the abortion access front last year when we passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act. That bill removed many barriers to abortion access like mandatory ultrasounds and 24-hour waiting periods. But unfortunately, many people in our community don’t have full access to the abortion care they need when they need it. The Reproductive Health Equity Act would establish comprehensive insurance coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including family planning, abortion, and postpartum care, for all Virginians, regardless of income, immigration status, gender identity, or type of insurance.
The average cost of an abortion is a little more than $500 in Virginia, so money can be a big factor in whether or not someone can access abortion. By requiring both public and private insurance plans to cover abortion access, we will be taking a major step forward in ensuring everyone can choose whether and when to have a child.
3. Virginia Voting Rights Act Our democracy works best when everyone who wants to cast a vote is able to do so. But conservative politicians have decided that it is easier for them to win elections if not everyone, especially people of color, participates in the democratic process. So they have spent years trying to make it harder to vote. Everyone, regardless of race, income, disability or felony status should be able to cast their vote quickly and easily, and if we pass a Virginia Voting Rights Act, we will make that a reality.
These are just three of the many (many many) bills we will be working on when the legislative session starts come January. We have a lot of work to do, and you can join us in helping get them across the finish line by calling your legislators today and asking them to support these bills. Stay tuned for more ways you can get involved!