RICHMOND – This afternoon, Senate Democrats rolled out their 2017 legislative agenda, highlighting key initiatives in the areas of economic development, voting rights, criminal justice reform, and strengthening and expanding opportunities for working families throughout the Commonwealth. The agenda itself is made up of the following issue areas:
1. Economic Development & Workforce Readiness -- Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William)
2. Initiatives to Support Working Families -- Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)
3. Voting Rights & Electoral Fairness -- Senator Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg) & Senator Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg)
4. Criminal Justice Reform -- Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun)
Video from the press conference is available online: Part 1 / Part 2
Said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), "Over the next 43 days, Senate Democrats will stand up for working families and act as a firewall against policies that serve no purpose except to turn businesses and jobs away. We want to keep growing the Commonwealth, to keep moving the Commonwealth forward. Whether we’re talking about efforts to raise the minimum wage or ban the box, paid sick leave or expanding voting rights, criminal justice reform or economic development, Senate Democrats will champion these issues and more in this 2017 legislative session... We call press conferences to talk about improving lives. They call press conferences to talk about bathrooms and abortion."
Said Senate Democratic Leader, Senator Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax)"The Governor just closed a deal with a company: CoStar. North Carolina offered them an incentive package three and a half times bigger than ours. North Carolina should have gotten CoStar, but they have a problem down there with HB2 and no sensible company is going into a business environment like that. They have lost a lot and not just the NCAA Tournament. All they're doing is creating unnecessary headaches. We will not go along with these types of proposals. Not only because they are flat-out wrong, but because they kill jobs. That is the simple fact."
Said Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William), "I am particularly proud, this year, to carry a bill that would establish a two-year pilot program for Entrepreneurship Grants for veterans. We often talk about education and employment for our veterans, but its also time to talk about entrepreneurship...We have over 800,000 veterans in Virginia, and this grant program provides resources for training veterans to create and sustain small business -- particularly in high-growth industry sectors, such as IT, cybersecurity, and agriculture - which is vital to diversifying our economy.
Said Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), "This Caucus is committed to supporting Virginia's families and welcoming all Virginians to the Commonwealth. A quality education system, workforce development programs, a welcoming environment and support for working families not only empowers individuals to succeed -- it empowers all of us. This is a recipe for a robust economy and the energy and creativity a robust economy provides."
Said Senator Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), "Our focus is always on getting more people to the polls, expanding the opportunity to vote, and making it as easy as possible."
Said Senator Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), "The Governor has made great strides in restoring the rights of over 127,000 Virginians. But it is time that the General Assembly takes action to make this policy law. My colleagues and I believe that those re-entering society should have no more barriers to gaining this fundamental right."
Said Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun), "We have ended up with a situation where Virginia is the number one state in the nation for referring our kids to the justice system out of our schools. That, my friend, is the beginning of the school to prison pipeline. That is not a statistic where we want to be number one in the nation. Minorities and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by this situation… Two of my bills seek to remedy this problem."
BACKGROUND: Specific bills (not a comprehensive list)
SB1032: Comprehensive Community Colleges; Tuition Grants -- FAVOLA
SB1036: Virginia Student Loan Refinancing Authority; Refinancing Loan Guaranty Program -- HOWELL
SB1171: Public Employment; Inquiries by State Agencies and Localities Regarding Criminal Convictions -- DANCE
SB1114: Virginia Veteran Entrepreneurship Grant Program and Fund -- McPIKE
SB1113: Board for Contractors; optional bonding for Class A and B contractors -- McPIKE
SB847: Paid family leave; Commissioner of Labor and Industry to develop an implementation plan for program -- FAVOLA
SB978: Minimum wage -- DANCE
SB1080: Equal pay irrespective of sex -- WEXTON
SB810: Food stamp program: categorical eligibility -- FAVOLA
SB785: Minimum wage; increases wage from its current level to $8.00 per hour effective July 1, 2017 -- MARSDEN
SB1059: Election day voter registration; pilot program -- DEEDS
SB1131: Absentee voting; eligibility of certain persons -- MASON
SB1200: Voter identification requirements; repeal of photo identification requirements -- LEWIS
SJ253: Constitutional amendment (first resolution); qualifications of voters and executive clemency -- DANCE
SJ260: Constitutional amendment (first resolution); Virginia Redistricting Commission -- BARKER
SB816: Grand larceny & certain property crimes; increases threshold amount of money taken, etc., to $1,000 -- SUROVELL
SB829: Alternatives to suspension; board of education shall establish guidelines for local school boards -- WEXTON
SB923: Grand larceny; threshold -- PETERSEN
SB957: Recordings; destruction or seizure by a law-enforcement officer -- LOCKE
SB1091: Driver's license; marijuana possession -- EBBIN
SB1188: Driver's license; suspension of license for nonpayment of fines and court costs -- EDWARDS

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