Women front and center in Richmond

Women front and center in Richmond
Women front and center in Richmond as GA session begins!
Women leading the way in Richmond!
Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Newsletter

The 2020 General Assembly session gaveled in this Wednesday! Lots of changes with Democrats taking the majorities in both chambers. A new Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader, while the Senate Minority Leader became Majority Leader. New Democratic committee chairs announced who would have seats on their committees. It’s going to be a whirlwind session, I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Legislative Update

Democratic women leading the GA
  • On January 8, 2020, 400 years after Virginia’s legislature met for the first time, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn from Springfield, was sworn in as the first woman Speaker of the House. The vote was a unanimous 99-0, following a nomination by Democrat Charniele Herring, which was seconded by Republican Delegate Lee Ware.
  • Additionally, Charniele Herring was voted as the first woman and first African-American to serve as House Majority Leader. 
  • Finally, rounding out an entirely female dais, the House appointed its first ever female Clerk, Suzette Denslow.
  • And it doesn’t end there. In the House, 7 of the 14 Committees are chaired by women, including 4 women of color. In the Senate, 4 of the 11 Committees are chaired by women, including 2 women of color. Both the House and Senate Finance Committees are chaired by women.
  • House Republicans even added two women to their ranks, Amanda Batten and Carrie Coyner; and Senate Republicans added Jennifer Kiggans.
  • In a humorous exchange in the Senate on Wednesday, some Republican senators were complaining about the committee assignments having too many Northern Virginia senators on them, and Janet Howell explained that she picked members for her Finance committee mostly by seniority with one exception: she wanted the Republicans to have one woman on the committee, so Jill Vogel jumped ahead of her fellow Republican Benton Chafin in line.
ERA moves towards ratification on first day
  • The first order of business as soon as the Senate was organized and committee assignments were made, was to hold a meeting of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, chaired by Senator Creigh Deeds, to vote on passing the resolution for Virginia to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • There were two identical resolutions filed, SJ1 and SJ5 with chief co-patrons Jennifer McClellan, Mamie Locke, Emmett Hanger, Janet Howell, Richard Saslaw, and Scott Surovell. SJ5 was “rolled into” SJ1.
  • A Deputy in the Attorney General’s office testified that although the ratification deadline has passed, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents Congress from extending the deadline or removing it altogether.
  • There were a handful of people allowed to testify. Notable was a fierce twelve year old girl, who said that she was tired of legislators “patting her on the head, and then voting against her interests.”
  • A woman from the Family Foundation testified against it, arguing that it would cost Virginia taxpayers “millions of dollars” in litigation as the ERA moved through the courts following ratification. Senator Surovell then asked the Deputy AG whether it would cost millions, and she stated that it absolutely would not cost the taxpayers anything, that their current staff is sufficient.
  • Adam Ebbin made the motion to report SJ1 out of committee and to a floor vote. 
  • On a 10-5 vote, the Committee voted to advance the resolution to the floor, with Republican Senator Jill Vogel joining the Democrats to vote in support.

…and upcoming issues to watch
  • Climate Change action: So far there are multiple competing bills to address climate change in a broad way (as well as many bills to address particular aspects of a clean energy policy). 
    • One is HB77, the Virginia Green New Deal, carried by Sam Rasoul. It puts a moratorium on any new fossil fuel projects, requires Virginia to obtain 80% of its retail electricity from renewable sources by 2028, and 100% by 2036, and develop and adopt a Climate Action Plan addressing how Virginia will transition to 100% clean energy, while ensuring environmental justice for disadvantaged communities.
    • The second is the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which is sponsored by Delegates Rip Sullivan, Alfonso Lopez, and Jennifer Carroll Foy, and Senator Jennifer McClellan, in conjunction with Advanced Energy Works. HB1526 would prescribe a slower path to clean energy, with 60% of electricity coming from carbon-free sources by 2035, and 100% by 2050. Virginia would also joining RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with 50% of the proceeds going towards energy efficiency programs.
  • Marijuana bills: There are nearly a dozen marijuana bills, some to decriminalize (make it a civil fine, not criminal) and some to legalize it outright. The most progressive decriminalization bill is HB265 from Delegate Heretick. It has the lowest fine, $25 per incident, and decreases penalty for selling marijuana. SB2 from Senator Adam Ebbin is also more progressive, because it allows for expungements of past marijuana convictions, but the fine is a bit higher $50. The most progressive legalization bills are HB269 from Delegate Heretick and HB87 from Delegate Lee Carter. These make marijuana legal for those 21 and over, and decriminalize it for everyone under 21, with state regulation and taxation.
  • Minimum Wage bills: There are a host of minimum wage bills that all reach an eventual $15 minimum, by different increments over time. The patrons are Delegates Jeion Ward, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Ken Plum; and Senators Richard Saslaw, Mamie Locke, and Dave Marsden. The quickest to reach $15 is Senator Locke’s SB73, which reaches $15 in 2022. Additionally, some of the bills mandate an inflation adjustment using the Consumer Price Index once $15 has been reached, while others do not. Lastly, Delegate Levine patrons HB325, which would allow localities, by ordinance, to set minimum wages higher than the state minimum.

If any of the above bills are important to you, now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them how this bill affects you and your family. Contact information for Delegates and Senators can be found HERE; if you aren’t sure who represents you, put your address in HERE to find out.

Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network

PO Box 2612, Merrifield
Virginia 22116-2612 United States

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