House passes assault weapons ban, casino legalization, minimum wage increase

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lawmakers voted on some of the year’s most closely watched issues, including gun control, casino gambling and minimum wage growth.

Tuesday was the midpoint in Virginia’s legislative session known as “crossover,” the last day for the House and the Senate to act on bills introduced on their side of the General Assembly. Bills lawmakers didn’t get to yet are dead until next year.

What is ‘Crossover?’: Breaking down the 2020 General Assembly’s midpoint

Bills that passed in the House up to this point still have to clear the Senate before Gov. Ralph Northam can sign anything into law. It’s likely a conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers will have to convene to work out the differences between similar bills.

Minimum Wage

The House’s Democratic majority pushed the ball on a minimum wage bill that has stalled for years. The bill, which passed on a 55-45 vote, would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 2023.

In a party-line vote on Tuesday, the Senate passed a different version of the bill.

In response to concerns about the impact on poorer areas of the state, Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) proposed an amendment that would allow the Department of Labor to create a regional index. That means wages in low-income areas would increase at a lower rate based on metrics like average household income, according to Sen. Surovell.

Sen. Surovell also said home healthcare workers are included in the bill but farm workers are not.

Assault Weapons Ban

The House voted 51-48 to pass a bill that would ban so-called assault weapons, including the popular AR-15. Unlike past versions of the proposals, current owners of these guns would not have to turn them in and would not be required to go through a registration process.

The bill bans the possession of firearm accessories like trigger activators and high-capacity magazines with more than 12 rounds. It also prohibits the sale of suppressors.

The Senate spiked a similar bill after several Democrats said they wouldn’t support it. Senators did pass a ban on trigger activators on Monday.

PAST COVERAGE: Assault weapons ban clears committee; crowd ordered out by police

Casino Gaming

The House voted 61-33 on a bill that would legalize casino gambling in the Commonwealth. The legislation only applies to five economically distressed localities, including Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol and Danville. Voters would have to approve projects in local referendums before developers are allowed to move forward.

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-72) voted yes on Tuesday but warned he would vote against the bill in the future if it remains in its current form after lawmakers from the House and the Senate convene to work out differences. In part, he’s concerned casinos will be a “sugar rush” and not a sustainable economic development solution for these communities. He said the bill includes provisions that require continued investment commitments from developers but there’s still more that can be done.

The Senate passed their version of the bill with a 29-11 vote.

Senators rejected a floor amendment that threatened to remove provisions intended to protect the horse racing industry from projected revenue hits. Currently, both House and Senate bills allow for an increase in historic horse racing machines following each successful referendum.

PAST COVERAGE: Bill to legalize casinos is back with some changes

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) released a statement Tuesday on what the House accomplished at the midpoint of this year’s session.

Voters demanded action in November. They called for decisive action to make their communities safer, more equal and more prosperous. Today, at the crossover of the 2020 General Assembly session, I am proud to say the House of Delegates has delivered on the voters’ mandate.

We have kept our promise to truly be the ‘People’s House’ by passing long overdue legislation to protect Virginians from exploitation, discrimination and senseless violence. We have stood up for working families, strengthened our democracy, moved to preserve Virginia’s natural assets, and, at last, enshrined women in the United States Constitution.

We look forward to finishing this session just as strong as we have started it as we work with our colleagues in the Senate to continue this historic progress in Virginia.”

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn

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