Senate Democrats Celebrate Success of Legislative Agenda
Two weeks after takeover, Democrats mark shift to pragmatic, problem-solving model
RICHMOND, VA — Two weeks after taking control of the Virginia state Senate, Democrats marked a sea-change in the way the chamber operates, drawing a contrast between the rigid, regressive, and ideologically-driven body of years past and the practical, pragmatic, results-oriented model of governing that Democrats follow.
Democrats also marked the successful passage of legislation designed to make Virginia a fairer, safer, and more prosperous state, including bills that would almost certainly have failed under Republican control. Among their successes, Democrats counted efforts to protect women’s access to health care, improve economic conditions for working families, and crack down on gun violence.
Specific bills included:
SB 649 was a comprehensive ethics reform bill, which was strengthened by Democratic amendments and passed on a bipartisan basis. It would create an ethics advisory council, increase the frequency of disclosure filings, cap the acceptable value of single gifts from lobbyists to legislators, and reduce the disclosure thresholds for various economic interests from $10,000 to $5,000 along with other reforms.
SB 65, introduced by Senator Henry Marsh (D – Richmond), was a celebratory gunfire bill. It would prohibit random or non-targeted gunfire in populated areas, and is designed to reduce deaths and injuries from stray bullets.
SB 510, introduced by Senator Barbara Favola (D – Arlington), would prohibit those convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member from buying or owning a firearm for five years from the date of conviction.
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SB 250, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), was a “Ban the Box” bill. It would prohibit state agencies from inquiring about criminal history on employment applications.
SB 587, introduced by Senator George Barker (D – Clifton), was a bill to protect employees from age discrimination.
SB 590, introduced by Senator Dave Marsden (D – Fairfax), was a minimum wage bill. It would gradually increase the state minimum wage to $9.25.
SB 260, introduced by Senator Creigh Deeds (D – Bath County), was a mental health reform bill that passed with bipartisan support. It would require the development of a psychiatric bed registry, establish and clarify procedures for placement of those subject to an involuntary temporary detention order, and extend the maximum duration of an emergency custody order to 24 hours — reforms that would help ensure that those who urgently need treatment for mental illness are able to receive it.
SB 617, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke (D – Hampton), would repeal the mandatory ultrasound requirement that Republicans passed in 2012. Under that law, women seeking an abortion must submit to an abdominal ultrasound — regardless of their wishes, and regardless of the wishes of their doctors.
SJ 78, introduced by Senator Henry Marsh (D – Richmond) would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that was proposed by Congress in 1972.
While still in the majority, Republicans managed to defeat several Caucus priorities, including the Virginia Dream Act (SB 249), a nondiscrimination bill designed to protect state employees (SB 248), and a bill to allow voters to cast absentee ballots without providing an excuse or reason (SB 3).
At Crossover, Democrats vowed to revisit those issues in 2015. They also pledged to continue pushing for Medicaid expansion and other Caucus priorities during the current Session.
Democratic Majority Leader Senator Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax) said, “There’s a world of difference between the Senate on January 27 and the Senate today. Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth remains the best managed state, the best place to do business and the best place to raise a child.”
Caucus Chair Senator McEachin said, “We're going to keep fighting so that all Virginians achieve equal opportunity, justice and fairness. In just two weeks, we’ve managed to pass many important bills that would probably have failed if the chamber were still under Republican control. Elections have consequences, and we're going to continue our practical, problem-solving approach to governing.”