Our Priority Issues/Bills for 2021 General Assembly
Track Our Priority Bills on Richmond Sunlight: https://www.richmondsunlight.com/photosynthesis/91zbn/
Virginia NOW advocates for justice and equality - criminal justice reforms, economic justice advances, and women’s health and safety, including abortion rights.
Criminal Justice Reforms
Divest School Resource Officer (SRO) Funding, Invest in Student Success – Virginia incentivizes unnecessary school policing and criminalization of ordinary student behavior with grants to hire School Resource Officers (SRO) and School Security Officers. We support budget amendments (introduced by Del. Kaye Kory, Del. Jeff Bourne) to shift some federal SRO grant funds to at-risk schools and/or school counselors. One purpose of this divestment would be to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Our special concern is the harm that the pipeline causes to girls and young women.
Remove Mandatory Minimums– Originally touted as a tool to deter serious crime and eliminate sentencing disparities, mandatory minimum sentences have had no measurable impact on deterrence and have coincided with the mass incarceration of African American citizens. Bill # pending
Expunge Criminal Records in Certain Cases - Virginia has some of the most restrictive expungement laws in the country. The refusal to allow those who were involved in Virginia’s justice system to move on with their lives is needlessly cruel, and one of the most invidious sources of racial disparities. HB2113, HB 2133
Drug Policy - Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by marijuana convictions that remove a parent and wage earner from the home and community and penalize women who are accessories. We support studying potential regulatory models for legal sales. HB1815 Legalization and Taxation of Marijuana, SB 1406
Paid Family and Medical Leave – We support establishing a fund at state level, run by Employment Commission, with contributions by employers and employees. HB2016, SB 1330
Paid Sick Leave – We support emergency paid sick leave for COVID-19 related illness. This would require two weeks of sick time for COVID-19 purposes. HB2137
TANF Reform - TANF reserves should be used immediately to increase monthly cash assistance to families in the program and pass legislation to increase cash assistance yearly. Also, we support: expanding the number of people eligible, suspending work requirements, freezing lifetime use limits, automatically recertifying all recipients, basing eligibility on expected income rather than previous income, and allowing childless adults to sign up, at least during the crisis. HB 1820 Increase Eligibility for Food Stamps and Substitute Education for TANF Work Requirement
Protect Domestic Service Employees - – Domestic workers - predominantly women of color - have suffered some of the worst economic consequences of the pandemic. More than 90% of Spanish-speaking domestic workers lost their jobs, and 75% of all domestic workers did not receive compensation when their jobs were canceled. This bill provides that individuals engaged in domestic service will not be excluded from employee protection laws and removes all exemptions from the Virginia Minimum Wage Act. HB 1730, HB 2032, SB 1310
Women’s Health and Safety
Essential Health Benefits, Abortion - Removes the prohibition on coverage for abortions in any qualified health insurance plan in the health benefits exchange. HB1896, SB 1276
Medical assistance; coverage for reproductive health services – This would include in the state plan for medical assistance services a provision for the payment of medical assistance for medically necessary reproductive health care service for eligible individuals. HB 1922