The Virginia legislative session comes to a close Saturday, as state lawmakers will adjourn their 60-day session.
Since taking full control of the state’s government for the first time in more than two decades after the November elections, Democrats have pursued a more progressive agenda, passing legislation that tightens gun control, expands reproductive rights and offers protections for LGBTQ individuals.
Virginia lawmakers also ratified the Equal Rights Amendment this session after years of trying and rolled back a number of laws Democrats described as “archaic.”
“Our policies are now beginning to match what’s happening around us,” Democratic Del. Hala Ayala told CNN in an interview Thursday, adding, “We were able to make progress with the policies that have been waiting to be passed for 10 to 15 years, and also the ideals that the newly elected have brought to the table. We’re catching up.”
A number of the bills passed don’t become effective until July 1. Some bills approved by the Virginia General Assembly still await enrollment and final action from the governor, while a number of key measures, including legislation raising the minimum wage, are still being tweaked in conference committee.
With such a short session, Virginia lawmakers have been slogging away this week to get through the overwhelming amount of legislation – some of which has already been put off until the 2021 session, after which all state lawmakers are up for election that November.
On Saturday, the legislature approved a background checks bill and one-handgun-a-month policy, key parts of a gun control package backed by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat. The two bills will be enrolled and passed to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Northam in a statement Saturday called it a “historic day,” also saying that the gun measures “will save lives.”
Here’s a list of some of the bills Democrats passed in 2020, pushing the commonwealth in a more progressive direction:
Northam has prioritized a bundle of eight gun measures, known as the “Governor’s Package” – legislation he had wanted lawmakers to act urgently on in a July 2019 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach. Seven of the eight bills he backed have been approved, with a measure banning assault weapons failing to move forward earlier in the year. The seven measures await the governor’s signature.
- House Bill 2: Requires background checks for private firearm sales and transfers, with some exceptions
- House Bill 9: Requires a person to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 24 hours
- House Bill 421 / Senate Bill 35: Grants localities the authority to adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution or motion governing the possession, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms
- House Bill 674 / Senate Bill 240: Allows for removal of firearms from a person posing substantial risk to themselves or others, also known as an “extreme risk protective order”
- House Bill 812: Limits the purchase of handguns to one a month
- House Bill 1004: Extends firearms prohibitions for those under permanent protective orders
- House Bill 1083: Raises punishment for allowing access to a loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony; raises the age of the child from 14 to 18
- House Bill 980 / Senate Bill 733: Removes regulations requiring a pregnant person to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to receiving an abortion and to get counseling on alternatives to abortion; strikes the requirement that facilities providing more than five abortions per year be designated as hospitals
- Senate Bill 851: The “Virginia Clean Energy Act”
- House Bill 1: Removes excuse requirement to vote by absentee ballot
- House Bill 108: Makes Election Day a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day, which honors Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, as a state holiday
- House Bill 201: Allows for same-day registration for voting
- House Bill 386: Bans the practice of “conversion therapy” for minors
- House Bill 1490: Repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions
- House Bill 145 / Senate Bill 161: Requires Virginia’s Department of Education to create “model policies” for school boards for treatment of transgender students
- Senate Bill 868: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations and employment
Race/rollbacks of outdated laws
- House Bill 245: Repeals the crime of fornication, or consensual sex with an unmarried person
- House Bill 973: Repeals provisions of racial segregation of students in schools
- House Bill 1071: A bipartisan bill that removes the crime of profane swearing in public
- House Bill 1514 / Senate Bill 50: The Virginia Human Rights Act bans hair discrimination, making Virginia the fourth state to do so
- Senate Bill 62: Eliminates