Virginia Democrats have control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades. Here are three things I think will pass in the next two years.
The November 2019 election saw a historic victory for Democrats in the House of Delegates and the State Senate, unseating longtime state politicians, including Chris Jones, a Republican representing parts of the City of Suffolk for more than 20 years. Growing up in Suffolk, I was very familiar with Jones, though he did not represent my district. This was something I did not think I would see.
Taking control of the General Assembly while also holding the seats of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, means a lot can and likely will happen during the 2020 and 2021 sessions.
1. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
During the 2019 election cycle, Democratic candidates across the state vowed to finally bring ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the floor. Virginia would be the final state needed to insert the ERA into the Constitution, which reads “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” and would finally give equal legal rights to women and men.
More on the ERA can be found by visiting equalrightsamendment.org
2. Legalization of Marijuana
About five years ago, I began to make the argument that once Virginia saw what the legalization of marijuana did for the state economies of Colorado and Washington, it would only take five years for the Commonwealth to follow suit.
I think in 2020 we’ll see a decriminalization instead of a full legalization, but that won’t be far off. Attorney General Mark Herring says the enforcement of the state’s current laws costs taxpayers around $81 million a year. That’s $81 million that could go to the state’s absolutely crippling infrastructure (anyone who has traveled on a single road in Virginia knows what I’m talking about), or its public schools.
3. Gun Control Measures
Following the horrific shootings in Virginia Beach on May 31 in which 12 people were murdered, Gov. Ralph Northam called for a special session of the General Assembly to discuss gun control legislation. That session adjourned without a single conversation, leaving Democrats with talking points for the November election about the GOP’s unwillingness to discuss meaningful measures to protect the vulnerable.
A 2018 poll found a majority of Virginians support some type of gun control, with universal background checks the most popular form at 84 percent. And 65 percent of voters backed a ban on assault-style weapons.
Expect Democrats to make a lot of moves in the next two sessions that will have major implications for the future of the Commonwealth.
I dare say Virginia has left purplish battleground territory and is now pretty solidly blue. With Democratic victories in the last decade for presidents, presidential candidates, governors, lieutenant governors, attorneys general and now the General Assembly, it’s hard to say otherwise.