RICHMOND, Va.—The Virginia House Democratic Caucus continues delivering on promises made to Commonwealth voters by passing sweeping progressive legislation during their second year in the majority, with much of that legislation going into effect on Thursday, July 1, 2021.
“Over the past 17 months our Democratic majority has helped responsibly lead Virginia through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and positioned our Commonwealth for an even brighter future in the years ahead,” Virginia Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said. “I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made under strong progressive leadership and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House to build a better Virginia.”
During the 2021 Regular Legislative Session and its extended Special Session, the House Democrats sought to continue building a better Virginia, by expanding voting rights and making it easier for voters in the Commonwealth to cast their ballots, creating a more equitable criminal justice system, passing more common-sense gun safety legislation, widening protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and enhancing protections for the victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking.
Specific legislation going into effect on July 1 includes new laws ending the Commonwealth’s use of the death penalty, improving both availability and accessibility of absentee voting, restricting domestic abusers from purchasing firearms, multiple bills granting domestic workers coverage under workplace safety and nondiscrimination laws, removing the prohibition of abortion coverage in health insurance plans offered through the state health benefits exchange, and banning the gay/trans panic defense at trial.
“The Democratic majority strives to build on our immense achievements from 2020 and reform our criminal justice system in a way that makes it work for everyone,” House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring said. “The status quo was not working and we are working to improve quality of life. We sought to improve the way the Commonwealth works for its residents, making sure that everyone feels safe and valued as a Virginian.”
The progress made during the 2021 Regular Session comes after House Democrats made historic changes during the 2020 Regular Legislative Session, when the Caucus prioritized gun safety reform, completed the ratification process for the Equal Rights Amendment, fought voter suppression, empowered women, expanded victims rights, and set new progressive environmental standards and priorities.
In the summer of 2020, Governor Ralph Northam called the General Assembly into a special legislative session to address racial inequities in the Commonwealth — specifically in police policies and the criminal justice system — while also responding to the unprecedented challenges Virginians faced during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. House Democrats were responsible for introducing successful legislation to limit law enforcement’s use of no-knock warrants and neck restraints, provide additional housing security for families negatively impacted by the pandemic, expand innovations in telehealth, prohibit price gouging during a state of emergency, and create a statewide mental health emergency response (“Marcus Alert”) system.
“The House Democratic majority has kept its promise and worked hard to create a better Virginia for everyone across the Commonwealth, in ways that make children safer, our democracy stronger, and our economy run smoother,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “Two years ago, 2.9 million Virginians spoke loudly at the polls, calling for a change in the direction of the Commonwealth. Democrats heard their call and used the majority in Richmond to craft strategic, effective policies that will benefit Virginians for generations.”
These changes followed the 2019 elections, when a historic blue wave ushered in the first Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in more than 20 years. House Democrats appointed more women and people of color to leadership and committee chair positions than ever before in the more than 400-year history of the House. Heeding the call of the Virginia voters who put them into the majority, Democratic legislators swiftly advanced legislation to improve the lives of residents all across the Commonwealth.
To read more about the House Democrats’ major legislation from the 2021 Regular Session, much of which goes into effect on July 1, click here.