Virginia’s 2024 legislative session kicks off in just over a month, and the Democrats who will be in charge of both the House of Delegates and state Senate have made clear their priorities for the coming year.
In addition to kicking off the multi-year process to establish a fundamental right to reproductive freedom in the state constitution, Virginia Democrats are also starting work on an amendment that will automatically restore the voting rights of Virginians convicted of felonies upon completion of their sentences. Currently, only governors have the authority to restore the rights of these Virginians, and the Youngkin administration has drastically undercut the efforts of his predecessors to streamline and accelerate the process.
Of more immediate consequence are proposed measures to improve Virginians’ fiscal security and physical safety.
Del. Jeion Ward and Sen. Louise Lucas have introduced companion bills in the House and Senate to raise Virginia’s minimum wage from the current rate of $12.00 per hour to $13.50 in 2025 and to $15 in 2026. This continues the efforts Democrats began when they won full majority control of the legislature in 2019, when they began gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to the current $12 rate.
Del. Dan Helmer and Sen. Creigh Deeds are introducing companion legislation in their respective chambers to ban the purchase, possession, and sale of assault weapons in the commonwealth. These lawmakers introduced this legislation earlier this year, but both bills died in a Republican-controlled House subcommittee.
Democratic legislative leaders proudly touted the introduction of their legislative agenda, which faces a likely obstacle in the form of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“Virginia voters sent a message on November 7 that they want Virginia to remain an open and welcoming state that honors individual freedom, privacy, and economic opportunity for all of its residents,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell.
“I am especially glad to see the resolution to start the process of codifying the automatic restoration of rights,” added House Speaker-designee Don Scott. “With this, we are sending a message that there is no room for the spirit of Jim Crow that has plagued our Commonwealth for far too long.”
The Republican Party of Virginia responded to Democrats’ announcement by decrying the proposals as “radical bills” that would “turn our Commonwealth into a failed left-wing state” and pledged “to use every tool at [their] disposal to push back against” them.
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