2023 General Assembly Session Update – Volume 3
We have now completed two full weeks of Session, and are barreling towards the halfway point next week.
As expected, this session Senate Democrats have had to play a lot of defense to protect the progress we’ve made on a wide variety of issues from Republican efforts to roll it back.
Last week was no different, and the Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources Committee defeated a bill to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and repeal the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act.
Sometimes, however, the most unexpected issues can garner debate. Last week after a 30 minute debate, the Senate defeated a bill to make Eastern Daylight Time permanent in Virginia upon the enactment by Congress of a law allowing states to do so. While there are a lot of people who dislike changing the clocks twice a year, there is little consensus on whether the U.S. should stick with Daylight or Standard Time permanently. I spoke against the bill, as this is a matter best left to Congress to address uniformly, rather than for Virginia to stand alone on a timezone-island for half the year. Last year, the U.S. Senate unanimously – and accidentally – passed a bill to make Daylight Savings Time permanent across the United States. The House of Representatives took no action on that bill.
Protecting Reproductive Freedom
January 22nd marked the 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which was overturned last Spring by the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the Senate Democratic Women spoke on the impact of Roe and its fall. You can watch my floor remarks here.
The fight to protect and strengthen access to reproductive care is personal, as it is for so many across the Commonwealth, and these are the stories I shared when I addressed the full Senate.
With the fall of Roe, decisions regarding regulation of abortion fall back to the state legislatures. I was proud in 2020 to work with Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) to pass the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which repealed four major medically unnecessary restrictions to abortion. This made Virginia the first state in the South to proactively expand access to abortion. In 2021, Delegate Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) and I passed legislation eliminating the Virginia ban on health insurance plans sold under the Healthcare Exchange covering abortion services. But this progress can be undone.
This session, we have seen Republican bills to ban abortion after 15 weeks and a total ban with limited exceptions by defining life to begin at conception. Fortunately, Democrats on the Senate Education & Health Committee defeated these bills, and are expected to do the same with similar House bills. You can watch the Senate Dems press conference on these bills here.
We are not just defending our progress, but are working to expand it.
This session, I am working with Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) and Delegate Herring to pass an amendment to enshrine the fundamental right to reproductive freedom in the Virginia Constitution. Last Tuesday, we held a press conference with reproductive freedom advocates in support of such an amendment, which you can watch here. Later that afternoon, a subcommittee of the Privileges & Elections Committee advanced the amendment to the full committee.
In addition, the Senate passed 26-13 The Contraceptive Equity Act (SB 1112), which I co-sponsored. Sponsored by Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield), this bill eliminates burdensome co-pays, cost-sharing, reimbursement requirements, and coverage delays for prescription contraceptive drugs, devices, or therapeutic equivalents.
The Senate passed my SB1322 allowing localities to adopt a Healthy Communities Strategy during their comprehensive plan review. This will enable localities to identify sources of pollution and hazardous waste; explore strategies to reduce health risks in impacted neighborhoods; encourage feedback from those impacted communities; and create a plan incorporating strategies and programs that could target and improve the planning process.
The Senate also passed unanimously my SJ 259 Commending the Library of Virginia on its 200th Anniversary. We presented a copy of the resolution to representatives of the Library on the Senate Floor in a presentation you can watch here.
In addition, The Rules Committee unanimously reported my SB 1498 extending eligibility for Brown v. Board of Education scholarships to the descendants of students who were shut out of school during Massive Resistance. The bill will come to the floor for a vote next week. Learn more about this bill here.
You can track all legislation and find committee meeting schedules and agendas here. Information on how to provide testimony on specific bills during committee meetings can be found here.
To contact me or my staff, please reach out to email@example.com or (804) 698-7509. To keep up with all the action at the General Assembly throughout these next few weeks follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Have a great week!