Local Commentary

Editorial: Amazing Reforms In Richmond

Amazing stuff is unfolding in Richmond in just the first two weeks of the Democratic-controlled (at last) legislative session.

First, we can’t overlook the excellent job done by Gov. Ralph Northam and his team, with the aid of U.S. intelligence agencies, in keeping the mass pro-gun demonstration peaceful and orderly on Monday. Let this be a signal to any and all lunatics who harbor the fantasy that they can rise up with their guns and impose their will on the American people that this simply will not happen the way they may envision it. If they want things their way, they’re going to have to do it at the ballot box just like the rest of us. As for their hopes of insurgency, that option was proven impotent by the excellent coordination of peace forces last weekend. Hopefully, it will become a model for preventing the kind of violence some hoped for last weekend from being realized anywhere.

But beyond that, it has been in the peaceful and orderly operations of our state government that the real revolutions are happening on an almost daily basis now. A veritable plethora of amazing legislation is getting passed out of committees and even on the floors of one or both houses already.

They include, as just a sampling, a bill to end the pro-Confederate Lee-Jackson Day holiday and replace it with one making election day a holiday. There’s one that allows birth certificates to be modified if the gender of a person changes following birth. This one, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, also allows for a name change if a court order can be shown.

Another, part of an important and growing national trend, bans the use of so-called conversion therapy as a way of abusing LGBTQ persons, especially youth.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin is the sponsor of legislation to establish “meaningful and wide-reaching non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.” His bill, SB868, represents, he has written, “the combined efforts of equality-minded legislators and a coalition that includes Equality Virginia, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.” The bill is significantly more comprehensive than previous proposals that sought more modest progress by codifying the non-discrimination protections in public employment embodied in gubernatorial Executive Orders. Ebbin said that SB868 is a “shining example of the progress that is possible under the new majority.”

Other bills will decriminalize or legalize marijuana and some other criminal justice reforms pertaining to bail, appeals of sentences if it can be shown they’re based on “junk science,” and the automatic suspension of drivers’ licenses upon failure to pay court fees.

All this comes on top of measured but impactful gun control, women’s health, environmental reforms and more to come, almost all of which Gov. Northam can be counted on to sign into law.