Virginia Chapter
National Organization for Women

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Our Priority Issues/Bills for 2021 General Assembly

Virginia NOW advocates for legislation furthering justice and equality, especially on measures impacting women and girls: this includes 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.  Amendments Filed by Delegate Kaye Kory, Delegate Jeffrey Bourne, Senator Ghazala Hashmi  AMENDMENTS WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE BUDGET

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. Senators John Edwards, Scott Surovell, Joseph Morrissey FAILED

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. Delegate Charniele Herring, Senator Scott Surovell PASSED

Drug Policy - Legalization of marijuana by 2024. Criminal penalties were removed for simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older, and several other criminal penalties related to marijuana were removed. The bill contains social equity provisions that, among other things, provide support and resources to persons and communities that have been historically and disproportionately affected by drug enforcement. Senators Adam Ebbin and Louise Lucas, Delegate Charniele Herring 

Economic Justice

Paid Family and Medical Leave – We support establishing a fund at state level, run by Employment Commission, with contributions by employers and employees. Senator Barbara Favola, Delegate Kaye Kory BILL FAILED BUT STATE BUDGET INCLUDES FUNDING FOR A STUDY ON IMPLEMENTATION OF PAID LEAVE IN VIRGINIA 

Paid Sick Leave – A bill establishing paid sick days for some home health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Delegate Elizabeth Guzman PASSED

TANF/Welfare Reform - Two bills: 
HB 1820 will increase access to Food Stamps (SNAP) to an additional 25,000 families. Delegate Dan Helmer PASSED
10% increase in TANF benefits. Senator Siobhan Dunnavant PASSED

Protect Domestic Service Employees - – Domestic workers - predominantly women of color - have suffered some of the worst economic consequences of the pandemic. Statistics have shown that 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. Delegates Wendy Gooditis and Marcia Price, Senator Jennifer McClellan PASSED

Women’s Health and Safety

Forbid possession of a firearm after a conviction of assault and battery on a family member. Delegate Kathleen Murphy PASSED

Abortion as an Essential Health Benefit - Removes the prohibition on coverage for abortions in any qualified health insurance plan in the health benefits exchange.  Delegate Sally Hudson, Senator Jennifer McClellan PASSED

Coverage for reproductive health services in state medical assistance plan – 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. Delegate Marcia Price, Senators Jennifer Boysko and Jennifer McClellan FAILED

ADDITIONAL PRIORITIES

Marriage Equality - Both the House and Senate passed a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment and replacing it with an affirmative right that all marriages be treated equally. Marshall-Newman was struck down by the US Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 but remains on the books. These amendments must pass again in the 2022 General Assembly session, then will go to the voters in November 2022. Delegate Mark Sickles, Senator Adam Ebbin PASSED

The Voting Rights Act of Virginia - legislation makes Virginia the first state in the South to pass a bill that protects voters from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. The bill also requires changes to local voting laws and regulations be advertised in advance for public comment and evaluated for their impact on communities of color. Delegate Marcia Price, Senator Jennifer McClellan PASSED

Unnecessary requirement for No-fault divorce Removed - eliminates unncessary requirement of specific affidavit, which was a roadblock. Delegate Patrick Hope PASSED 

Mandating A Report on Maternal Health - report would cover health during pregnancy, labor and delivery, termination of pregnancy, and postpartum care provided by Virginia’s local and regional jails. This is an effort to ensure all people are getting quality care. Delegate Dawn Adams PASSED

Establish Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team. Delegate Hala Ayala, Senators Ghazaha Hashmi and Jennifer McClellan PASSED

Definition of racism as "a public health crisis" - Underlying many of our urgent priorities is the continuous and negative impact of racism on us all. Delegate Lashrecse Aird PASSED

Sexual and Workplace Harassment - Amending Code to include sexual and workplace harassment. Senators Jennifer McClellan, Jennifer Boysko and Adam Ebbin and Delegates Betsy Carr and Vivian Watts FAILED