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Virginia Democrats Leave Their Mark As Bills Take Effect

Filler-Corn behind a podium smiling as Democratic lawmakers clap
Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, center, flanked by Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam at a press conference in January.

Almost 1,300 bills passed by the new Democratic majorities in the General Assembly go into effect on Wednesday. The bills overhaul rules on abortion, guns, LGTBQ rights, the environment, and voting.

Starting on Wednesday, cities can control the fate of their Confederate monuments. Women don’t have to wait 24 hours before an abortion procedure. Drivers can be ticketed if they text while they’re behind the wheel, and voters can cast absentee ballots without an excuse. 

Most workers will see a raise of $12 an hour by 2023, with the option for the legislature to approve subsequent raises to $15.

Gun control advocates are cheering the passage of a new red flag law, universal background checks, and a purchasing restriction of one handgun-per-month.

Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn credited voters for electing Democrats last November for the changes.

“They elected members that they knew were going to share their values and move forward on legislation that improves the lives of Virginians,” Filler-Corn said in an interview. “And that’s exactly what we did.”

While some bills passed with bipartisan support, Republicans have warned the Democratic legislative package is a liberal overreach that will cause higher costs for businesses.

The legislature is set to meet again in a special session later this summer to deal with criminal justice reform and the pandemic.

The state budget is facing an estimated $2 billion shortfall caused by the pandemic, although Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne said earlier this month the damage may be less severe than he initially feared.

VPM will spotlight changes to state law around guns, marijuana and LGBTQ rights in upcoming stories.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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