Virginia Going Blue

VA lawmakers making big changes in the state legislature

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In a political climate like the one we live in today, any strides towards bettering our democracy and building the equilibrium between different races and sexes is a step in the right direction.

With the Virginia primary elections arriving soon on Super Tuesday, which way the state will lean might not be that difficult a question.

For one, in the recent Virginia statewide elections, Democrats won big; earning control of both the Senate and the House of Delegates for the first time since 1994.

“The Democrats have taken control of the majority of the population areas: Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Hampton Roads area,” History teacher Jonathan York said.

“It’s the will of the people, I might not agree with all of the bills and legislation they proposed but the majority of the people want them so give the people what they want,” York said.

In addition, in recent months, the state government has passed ground breaking legislature; all of this legislature falling along the lines of liberal beliefs.

To start, the Virginia House of Delegates approved the Equal Rights Amendment on Jan. 15, making Virginia the 38th state to pass the amendment.

The amendment was approved 59-40 in the House and 28-12 in the Senate.

The victory was a huge win for many in the state who had been pushing for a constitutional guarantee of legal rights regardless of sex.

Although the decision itself does not ratify the amendment in the Constitution, it’s approval was symbolic nonetheless; representative of the changing political climate in what was formerly the heart of the Confederacy.

The E.R.A. promised equal rights to women, and was aimed at improving pay equity for them, strengthening domestic violence and sexual harassment protections, and blocking discrimination against pregnant people and mothers.

Not only was the victory itself a symbolic moment in Virginia history, but the support behind it was a testament to the changing political climate in the state.

Led by a woman for the the first time in 401 year old history, House of Delegates leader Eileen Filler-Corn and many other women filled the courthouse where they watched history take place.

“For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed,” Filler-Corn said, in a Washington Post article.

The amendment’s approval not only marks history in Virginia, but sets the standard for Southern states across the nation, some of whom have already see a surge in Democratic support.

“What happens in Virginia impacts the entire country and will reverberate across the globe,” said Betty Folliard, the founder of ERA Minnesota, in an article from the New York Times.

The success of the E.R.A was not the only push for liberal policy in the state, a majority of Virginia state policy was effectively reshaped at the beginning of February.

Decade old bills were dismantled with a large sweep of new, progressive replacements.

Bills to raise the minimum wage, let local governments remove Confederate statues, transform the energy landscape in response to climate change and grant legal driving privileges to undocumented immigrants were all passed by the House of Delegates.

Incredibly, all of the bills passed on a single day, Feb. 10.

In addition to the new bills, old Conservative policies are being dismantled within the state.

For one, Virginia legislature is now cutting back abortion restrictions like mandatory ultrasounds and the 24-hour waiting period. This is a huge change from previous legislature that required transvaginal probes before abortion.
Virginia lawmakers have also passed a LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill, becoming the first southern state ever to do so.

The bill is groundbreaking, adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in housing, employment and public accommodations.

It also establishes a new framework for people who feel they’ve been discriminated against to take legal action against the offending party.

The discrimination is far reaching as well, adding LGBTQ discrimination to a list ranging anywhere from race to veteran status.

Despite the seemingly all positive aspects of the bill, it still faces some disagreement from those like Delegate Dave LaRock who claim that the bill infringes on religious freedom.

“There are many people in this commonwealth who would say that their religious convictions are part of who they are,” LaRock said.

Regardless of disagreement from the opposing political party, the LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill has made history, furthering a liberal resurgence in the state.

Although the bill might overshadow others that were either passed or set in motion in the second week of February, the others still follow the trend of liberal ideals.

Bills to impose new restrictions on firearm access including universal background checks and a red flag law also headlined the action earlier this month.

Another bill moving forward was the Virginia Clean Economy Act which has the goal of eliminating electric power sector carbon emissions and promoting distributed renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The massive flow of bills will also affect school communities like ours at AHS, as a bill for schools to provide menstrual products was approved in the Senate.

The parameters of the bill require free menstrual products in all public school bathrooms.

The bill applies to 5th through 12th graders which, according to the Virginia Department of Education, includes 132 school districts and almost over 630,000 female students.

“I think that if schools are going to offer these services, it would benefit girls who are a part of low income families who can’t afford the products themselves,” senior Dani Villaroel said.

In addition to their access in schools, the tax on menstrual products has been totally eliminated with another new bill.

“I think it’s a good idea because the way that we [females] have to pay for our own products is unfair because it’s just a part of our life,” senior Guinevieve Tran said. “I think the products should be completely free.”

With both the House of Delegates and the Senate controlled by the Democrats, it was clear that the political spectrum was leaning left in Virginia.

However, without action, it was unsure whether the liberal agenda would succeed in the state.

With the amount of historic bills and sheer amount of bills that have been passed or are in the works, it is clear that Virginia has turned into a solid blue state.