The Virginia Democratic party’s stunning success in November’s General Assembly elections has, as promised, lead to some big changes, after, forward-moving legislation was stymied for years by GOP politicians, often in committee,
Let’s run through a short list of where the Dems have succeeded and what else can happen. I’ll keep this short given the detailed coverage other columnists have provided.
Guns: Big wins so far on one-purchase-a-month and universal background checks. Some movement on “red flag” laws to allow law enforcement to temporarily take away firearms from people deemed dangerous. Exactly how to define that remains to be seen. The Big Enchilada, however, is assault style rifle. Proposals would restrict new sales of them and limit their magazines to 10 or so rounds plus banning “bump stocks” that allow semi-automatic weapons fire just about automatically. Whatever happens, this is progress, since for years anything related to firearms got killed in committee with no real discussion.
Marijuana: It’s not time yet to run out and stock up on little bags or buy gummies with THC in them, but it is likely that possession will be decriminalized.
Gay rights: A bill looks likely that will protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in renting, buying real estate or employment. It’s about time Virginia moved into the 21st century. There are quibbles about capping penalties if a suit succeeds and that it might hurt business, but there’s plenty of evidence (look to North Carolina and Georgia) that keeping or adding to discriminatory laws forces big, worthy and modern-minded companies away.
Gas taxes: Might go up 12 cents a gallon to help with Virginia’s sticking and gnarled transportation problems just as the congestion that makes driving from Richmond to Washington a nightmare. Would this have happened before? Zippo. Nada.
Menhaden. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission will be given authority to regulate agreements keeping schools of the oily little devils in balance.
Allowing state employees to organize. Here’s another blast from the past that needs to go and the proposal seems to be making progress. Current law denies collective bargaining rights to state workers without exception. That could change. State workers would be treated as adults.
Fornication. Consensual sex between two people who are not married is still a misdemeanor worthy of a $250 fine. Do you have to wear a Scarlet A? Anyway this antiquity is on its way out.
Too Bad for Right to Work: Apparently dead in committee , this one is a real bug-a-boo and you can’t read any op-ed page or blog without a rightly unified propaganda effort to beat back any repeal. Of course, you’d expect the business lobby sector to raise hell about possible repeal or changes. Their big idea? Repeal would devastate Virginia’s economy, they argue. How very provincial. Getting out of the Old Dominion, let’s look at what four states have the largest economies. They are Washington, California, Utah and Massachusetts. Only one, Utah, has a right to work law. So much for that argument! Maybe next year.
That’s it for now. But I’d say, it’s a pretty good halftime score.