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Virginia 2020: ERA, reproductive rights, affordable housing among highlights

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The Virginia 2020 plan rolled out by Gov. Ralph Northam and Democratic leaders on Tuesday sets out an ambitious agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session.

House Speaker-designee Eileen Filler-Corn and incoming Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw joined the governor, along with incoming House Majority Leader Charniele Herring and incoming Senate Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, to announce the plan.

The Virginia 2020 Plan includes:

  • Pass the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s long overdue.
  • Restore women’s reproductive rights. Overturn laws that have injected politics into women’s healthcare.
  • Expand affordable housing. More funding for the Virginia House Trust Fund. Establish an Eviction Prevention and Diversion Pilot Program.
  • Ban discrimination in housing and employment. Codify prohibitions on housing and employment discrimination against LGBTQ people.
  • Raise the minimum wage. Virginians have waited too long. Legislative process will determine specifics and timeframe for implementation.
  • Make voting easier. End the requirement to tell the state why you need to vote early. Make Election Day a state holiday.
  • Reform criminal justice. Make permanent the current temporary ban on suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines. Raise the threshold for felony larceny. Hire more public defenders.
  • Advance common-sense gun safety measures. Keep prohibited persons away from firearms. Universal background checks. “Red flag” law. Restore longstanding “1 handgun a month” law.
  • Fight climate change, protect natural resources. Advance clean energy. Join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Increase water funding to clean the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Increase education funding. Early childhood education. K-12 funding, including teacher raises and “at-risk add-on” special funding for high-poverty schools. Fund HBCUs. College affordability and free community college for low- and middle-income people going into high-demand fields. In-state tuition for DREAMers.
  • Expand transit and broadband. Move commuters and passengers faster, more efficiently. Bring broadband to more parts of Virginia.

“We are presenting an agenda that is different from every previous General Assembly session,” Northam said. “It’s more forward looking than ever before, and it reflects what Virginians sent us here to do.”

“This leadership team is united, and we’re going to do great things for Virginia this session,” Filler-Corn said. “We intend to protect Virginia’s greatest assets and lean in where it’s needed.”

“We have a lot to do,” Saslaw said. “We’re going to make sure that Virginia becomes an even better place to work and do business, and we’re going to invest in our future.”

“This legislature is more diverse than ever,” Herring said. “We are eager to ensure a diversity of voices makes our lawmaking reflect a modern Virginia.”

“Virginia is stronger when leaders unite,” Locke said. “This upcoming session marks a new era for Virginia, and we will deliver the results people expect.”

The General Assembly convenes at noon tomorrow. Northam will deliver his State of the Commonwealth address at 7 p.m.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press