Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Lays Out Priorities and Agenda
RICHMOND, Va.: Today, the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus presented some of the priorities and an overview of the legislative agenda they plan to pursue during the 2021 regular session of the Virginia General Assembly. Video of the press conference is available to watch on YouTube or available for download on Google Drive.
Some highlights of the conference include:
Caucus Chair Sen. Mamie Locke said: “Senate Democrats are looking forward to another session of moving our Commonwealth forward and helping all Virginians’ progress, no matter your zip code, socioeconomic status, skin color, or sexual orientation. There are three words I’d use to describe our caucus and our mission for this session and beyond:
- We are DYNAMIC. In 2020 regular and special sessions, we were able to pass significant gun safety legislation, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, remove barriers to the ballot box, remove unnecessary medical restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, as well as sweeping justice reform legislation – to name a few.
- We are DIVERSE. Senate Democrats represent every corner of the Commonwealth and every shade of the political spectrum. We believe our differences make us stronger, and know more ideas mean more progress.
- We are DETERMINED. There is much unfinished business from 2020 we must wrap up, but also new challenges 2021 will bring we must address. Senate Democrats will take it all head-on without hesitation and do what is best for everyone in the Commonwealth.”
Majority Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw said: “The budget will be a big part as we focus on the future. We need to rebuild this economy, creating an environment and jobs that will attract business and industry to get people back to work. We will also be focused on a strong and fast vaccination program to get children back to school and people back to work. We’ve got a lot to do, and we are determined to get the job done for the future of Virginia.”
Sen. Monty Mason said: “We know the economy has been hard-hit by the pandemic, and the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus is going to focus on how we can help our localities, economic development opportunities in hard-hit areas, and getting help on the way as soon as possible. We will continue working on mitigating evictions while also making sure landlords can make ends meet, as well as increasing funding on the Housing Trust Fund. In addition, we will be working to improve the Virginia Employment Commission – with 1 in 5 Virginians having filed for unemployment, we need to work on getting people that money as soon as we can. Finally, we will also be working to expand broadband access and affordability so students and workers can get through remote learning and employment and come out even more connected on the other side.”
Sen. Ghazala Hashmi said: “Education is a top priority for all of us in the Senate. First and foremost, we need to ensure our children can return to school safely and our teachers and faculty have the tools they need and the preparation to make that happen. Our focus is really on the full spectrum of the education process, from pre-K access, K-12 excellence, and post-secondary education that prepares our children for today’s economy. I am also looking forward to working on technical and higher education opportunities for displaced workers to help get people back to work and ready for the jobs of the future, such as healthcare services, early childhood education, and technology and manufacturing.”
Sen. George Barker said: “Virginia has some good health outcomes overall, but there are significant disparities in income, race, and ethnicity that have only been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic. We need to make sure we work on a uniform health status across the Commonwealth to get and keep everyone healthy. We’ve made great progress throughout the last few years with major items like Medicaid expansion, and we are focused on continuing that work heading into 2021.”
Sens. Scott Surovell and Joe Morrissey said: “Last special session we made historic progress in Virginia, and we are going to continue that trend. We are considering measures such as abolishing the death penalty, removing mandatory minimums, expanding the Court of Appeals, modernizing our expungement system, and banning solitary confinement.”
Sens. Louise Lucas and Adam Ebbin said: “Marijuana prohibition has historically been disproportionately impacting and discriminating against people of color. In 2021, we will be presenting an equitable, forward-thinking bill to develop a regulated, adult-use market for cannabis which will reform our criminal justice system and begin the long process of undoing the harms of prohibition. This bill will expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession, promote diverse participation in the new industry, and dedicate a portion of revenues to providing pre-K education to at-risk children.”
Sens. Jennifer McClellan and Dave Marsden said: “Over time, we’ve seen voting rights gutted and the foundation of our democracy under threat. Last year, we passed many measures to expand voting rights like no-excuse absentee voting and removing voter ID requirements. But we have more work to do. We will continue to make voting easy, accessible, and fair through the Virginia Voting Rights Act, encouraging civic involvement of young people and non-English speakers, and exploring ways to expand our electorate further to ensure everyone can participate in the democratic process.”