RICHMOND—The Virginia House of Delegates passed 828 bills in time for crossover, marking the middle of Virginia’s 2020 legislative session. Passed legislation encompasses major Democratic priorities such as enacting gun violence prevention reforms, restoring women’s reproductive healthcare rights, adding protections for the LGBTQ+ community, expanding voter rights, decriminalizing marijuana use, and repealing racially discriminatory language from the Commonwealth’s Acts of Assembly.
The House also passed the House and Senate resolutions to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment last month, completing the necessary ratification requirements as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
Under Democratic leadership in 2020, the House has passed 37 percent more bills for consideration by the other chamber than it did in 2019. In comparison to this year’s 828 bills, the House passed 603 bills in 2019, 591 bills in 2018, 586 bills in 2017, and 583 bills in 2016 — all under Republican party control.
“We listened to Virginia and are moving together, forward ,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said. “Voters called for major change in the Commonwealth and we are delivering by passing practical, necessary legislation aimed at substantially improving the lives of Virginia residents.”
These legislative victories come after a historic election last November, which ushered in the first Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in over 20 years. Acting on a mandate from more than 2.9 million Virginian voters who voted blue, the House Democratic Caucus prioritized legislation that aided the majority of Virginians.
“Our legislation responds to the desire for change that has been sweeping through the Commonwealth,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan said. “I am proud of the work that our caucus is doing to represent the will of the voters and move Virginia forward.”
Session milestones thus far include the following priorities:
- Passing common-sense gun safety legislation to address universal background checks, requirements to report lost and stolen firearms, granting localities authority to determine how firearms may be regulated, preventing child access to loaded firearms, establishing substantial risk protective orders, restoring a limit on the number of gun purchases a person may make per month, ensuring persons under a protective order do not possess a firearm, ending the sale of assault weapons and banning extended magazines.
- Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, making Virginia the 38th and final state needed to complete the ratification process.
- Increasing women’s reproductive healthcare access in the Commonwealth, by removing current requirements such as forcing women to undergo medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, waiting periods on abortion services, and biased counseling. It also repeals unnecessary restrictions on medical personnel and facilities, so that qualified advanced practice clinicians may perform abortions during early pregnancy, provided that it falls within the scope of practice. Abortion care providers may offer services to patients without the interference of targeted regulations imposed to limit such services.
- Expanding voting rights in Virginia, allowing Virginia voters to vote absentee, by mail or in person, for any reason by eliminating the need to provide an approved excuse. One measure would allow voters to essentially permanently enroll in a “vote by mail” program without having to fill out an absentee ballot request to vote by mail for each primary or general election. Another bill passed in the House would ensure that mail-in ballots postmarked on election day can be counted.
- Making significant gains in the fight against climate change, including HB 981, authorizing the Commonwealth to join RGGI, HB 1132, the Fair Energy Bills Act, HB 1664, to advance offshore wind development and HB 1526, the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
- Tackling predatory short-term loan practices, by capping the interest and fees that may be charged for a short-term loan. These practices disproportionately affect minorities. If enacted, the bill would limit the interest rate lenders can charge on a payday or other consumer loan to 36% plus a capped monthly fee. It also increases the maximum amount of such loans from $500 to $2,500, sets the duration of such loans at a minimum of four months, and prohibits the collection of fees and charges that exceed half of the original loan amount.
- Establishing access to collective bargaining for public employees by repealing a 2013 law that prevented state and local employees from unionizing.
- Widening discrimination protections to reduce systemic injustice by increasing legal protections against discrimination for Virginians. These bills create new safeguards for the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, pregnant mothers and women experiencing pregnancy-related medical issues, as well as more strongly enforce current protections on the basis of race, gender, religion, and age, among other groups that have historically experienced discrimination.
- Repealing racially discriminatory Acts of Assembly. The injustices in these old laws included de jure school segregation and housing discrimination, as well as restrictions on African Americans relating to public transportation, medical care, public documents, and public facilities.
- Removes the criminal penalty for simple marijuana possession, establishing a civil fine of $25. If enacted, Virginia would join 26 other states and the District of Columbia in decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana.