RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly want to pass measures during the upcoming legislative session to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution, close “gun loopholes” and increase pay for law enforcement.
Democratic state lawmakers also aim to provide more funding for public schools, ensure the state’s minimum wage continues to increase and stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration from pulling Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
These priorities, and others, are laid out in the policy framework for the 2023 General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 11, released by Senate and House Democrats Thursday.
House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) said in a statement that the chamber’s Democratic caucus plans to focus on “what really matters” to Virginians, not “partisan noise and MAGA culture wars.”
“Our vision for the Commonwealth is to see to it that we deliver on real issues: common sense gun reforms, a world class education, and building an economy that works more for hardworking Virginians,” Del. Scott said.
The framework, dubbed by Democrats as their “Vision for Virginia,” has four goals: create an economy for hardworking Virginians, protect “our freedoms from Republican extremism,” deliver a world-class education and keep Virginia communities safe and healthy.
The Democratic platform calls for blocking Republicans from rolling back gun laws, such as Virginia’s “red-flag” law, and closing loopholes that allow people barred from owning a gun from buying them.
Democrats have also vowed to keep abortion ban proposals from passing, including Youngkin’s plan to prohibit procedures after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A Democratic lawmaker who opposes abortion, state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), told 8News didn’t rule out supporting Youngkin’s proposal, saying he would keep an “open mind” during the session.
Virginia allows abortions during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy — typically around 26 weeks. Procedures after that period are allowed but only if three doctors conclude “the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
Virginia Democrats also want to invest more in behavioral health, including funding for community and education-based services and salaries for health care workers that allow the commonwealth to compete with other states and limit staff shortages. They also want to address low reimbursement rates for Medicaid.
“Democrats are coming to the table clear eyed and laser focused on results for everyday Virginians,” Caucus Chairwoman Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria) said in a statement. “That means an economy that works for hardworking Virginians, a Commonwealth that safeguards our hard-fought freedoms, and a future where every child can receive a world class education. A Virginia where every community is safe.”
The specific proposals Democrats plan to bring forward to address economic concerns were not shared in the platform, but it states Democrats want to keep housing costs low and reduce health care and prescription costs.
Virginia Democrats do want to make the state’s earned income tax credit for low-income households fully refundable, according to the platform. Currently, 15% of the federal credit available for eligible Virginians is refundable on state tax returns.
The 2023 platform also calls for defending the minimum wage increase plan that was passed under Democratic leadership in 2020. The plan calls for it to rise to $15 per hour by 2026, but it requires approval in the state legislature.
Funding for in-person tutoring to help address COVID-19 learning loss, removing the defunct same-sex marriage ban in Virginia’s Constitution, ending “culture wars” in education and preventing Republicans from rolling back LGBTQ+ protections are also among the priorities for General Assembly Democrats.