Virginia Democrats have control of the state legislature and governorship for the first time in decades. What happens next?
For the first time in over two decades, Democrats won the House of Delegates and the Senate in Virginia’s General Assembly. That, plus Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, means Democrats will have a “trifecta” of power in the Commonwealth in 2020, and will no longer be stymied by Republicans killing their legislation in obscure committees or by a single vote or two on the General Assembly floor.
There is plenty for Democrats to decide before they fully take over Virginia’s government next year. Questions they must answer include exactly who will lead the party in both chambers of the General Assembly, which members get to sit on which committees, and which of the many issues they can now advance–from gun safety to minimum wage to equal rights for women–they will choose to pursue first.
Here’s a quick break down of what Democrats could accomplish with their trifecta in Virginia next year:
- Minimum wage: Democrats tried four times to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, one of the lowest in the country, to $15 per hour. Republicans blocked them each time. Now, Democrats can advance that plan.
- Gender equality: Virginia came very close to becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an accomplishment that would’ve helped revive the chances of the ERA being ratified by Congress. Instead, Republicans killed the ERA amendment in committee. With control of both chambers, Democrats can now bring it to the floor.
- LGBTQ protections: Republicans also killed in committee an effort to codify anti-discrimination language to LGBTQ Virginians looking for housing in the state or serving as a public employee.
- Gun safety: After the tragic mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31 that left 12 people dead, Gov. Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to debate gun safety legislation. Instead of considering legislation, Republicans shut the session down after 90 minutes. With Democrats in control, expect to see action on increasing background check requirements and “red flag” laws.
- Education funding: Virginia teachers are among the lowest paid in the United States, and educators have threatened to strike without increases to pay. Democrats have long argued that teachers and schools should get more funding than Republicans were willing to designate. Democrats’ victory could also help advance Gov. Northam’s plan to offer free community college in Virginia.
- Climate: Republicans had worked to prevent Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a group of states that has agreed to reduce emissions action. Now Democrats could join that effort and even pursue Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal.
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