Local Commentary

Editorial: Awaiting the New State Legislature

There is a lot of planning going on behind the scenes now to put together a sea change in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s legislative priorities once the new year arrives, swearings-in occur and Democrats take over both houses to complement their control of the governor’s mansion with the onset of the annual legislative session kicking off early next year.

A lot of changes are in store, beginning with a decisive vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming after all these years the vote to put the U.S. constitutional amendment over the top at last. It will be an occasion for great celebrations nationwide, and it will be especially satisfying in Virginia, where only a few years ago, some of the most egregious anti-woman legislation passed and made the state into a national laughing stock. Luckily, Gov. Terry McAuliffe was there to veto all the excessive bills the Republican majority legislature passed, having used his veto pen over 120 times, all of which were upheld when requiring a two-thirds legislative vote to override the vetoes.

McAuliffe, in fact, deserves credit for a lot of which has brought Virginia to the point of a Democratic majority here. He eschewed a presidential run to focus his considerable energy on campaigning for scores of key Democratic races around the state. It paid off big time.

So, in addition to passing the ERA and other important pro-woman bills, the Virginia legislature will tackle gun control in a meaningful way, ending the long and painful era when the GOP majority refused to entertain almost any bills restricting unfettered use of automatic weapons on streets and in public places in the commonwealth. Sane gun control measures will be passed and signed by the governor this spring, something that will bring a sigh of relief to a clear majority of Virginians.

Equal rights will be another area for big gains in the law here, extending, for example, the Virginia slogan of “Virginia is for lovers” to “Virginia is for all lovers,” as LGBTQ rights will be extended to employment and housing, and jurisdictions like the City of Falls Church that have been frustrated by the state’s Dillon Rule from writing anti-discrimination measures, including for LGBTQ citizens, into its ordinances will now be fully enfranchised to do so.

Employment law will also be reformed, perhaps to raise the minimum wage here to $15 an hour, and immigration reforms will also be enacted. It will be fascinating to see how far these measures can go this coming session, especially in the context of nay-sayers who will argue that pushing the envelope too far will generate a backlash.

But we are convinced there will be no going back, that the state, and the American population as a whole, has changed forever to be more inclusive, more peaceful and more optimistic about a liveable future for all our citizens. We can’t wait to see what happens now!

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