Local Commentary

Delegate Marcus Simon’s Richmond Report

Last month I wrote a news story for the News-Press about some of the new laws that went into effect on July 1, 2019 across the Commonwealth of Virginia, on topics ranging from public safety to transportation, health care and the environment, to education and taxation.

Writing that story got me thinking — great, new restaurants can advertise happy hour specials including discounted drink prices, and sure some new funding is available for amateur bee-keepers, which is nice. But imagine what next year’s July 1 new law story could be if progressive Democrats control both chambers in the General Assembly for the first time since…maybe ever.

We just need to pick up two more seats in each chamber. So, let’s indulge in a little bit of time travel. Come with me, to July 1, 2020, in a world where control of the General Assembly has flipped…

One of our first orders of business when we returned to Richmond for the 2020 Session was to pass common sense reforms related to gun purchases and ownership. Beginning July 1, every firearms transaction in the Commonwealth is subject to a background check available on a website operated by the Virginia State Police. Falls Church City and Fairfax County owned buildings are not only tobacco free, but local governments have voted to make them gun free zones as well. It’s no longer legal to buy bump stocks and assault weapons in Virginia.

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Voting in the upcoming 2020 election is expected to break records for voter participation, not just because it’s a presidential election year, but because Virginia residents are now automatically registered to vote when they go to re-register their cars, apply for government benefits or have any other interaction with state government. For those who aren’t automatically registered on Election Day, they will be able to register on the spot, and voting will begin early for anyone who wishes to cast a ballot, no reason need be provided.

Virginia is now part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and is committed to reducing our emissions while funding renewable energy programs and promoting green jobs. Expect to see rooftop solar panels dotting the landscape as the General Assembly removed regulatory barriers and added financial incentives for residential and community solar installation.

Many Virginians will begin to see more money in their paychecks each week as we begin the first step in a gradual increase in the minimum wage, which is on its way to $15 an hour. Those struggling with crippling student loan debt have new options to consolidate and refinance their loans, and those who suspect they’ve been overpaying can complain to the Virginia Bureau of Financial Institutions which now has oversight authority and will be enforcing a Student Borrower Bill of Rights in Virginia.

Simple possession of Marijuana is no longer a criminal offense, but it is illegal to discriminate in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Virginia passed the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming the last state needed to add it to the U.S. Constitution. We firmly established that the government has no business interfering in women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.

Political candidates can no longer use campaign funds for personal use — the highlight of several meaningful campaign finance reforms we passed earlier this year to limit the influence of money in politics that will impact the next state election cycle. Many localities will launch pilot programs to provide public financing to campaigns that pledge to forego corporate contributions and accept caps on the amount any individual can donate.

And tolling hours on I-66 are restored to the original HOV hours and a whole slate of new transportation improvements are in the works as we’ve made the decision to prioritize funding these projects with gas tax revenues.

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That’s the column I’d like to write in 2020.

Although I don’t have an opponent on the ballot in the 53rd district this year, I’ll be spending as much time as possible between now and November working to make sure we elect candidates around the state who share that vision.

What new headlines would you like to see in 2020?

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