2017 SESSION PRIORITIES OF THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
JANUARY 12, 2017
Overview: As the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address illustrated Jan. 11, Virginia is stronger under Democratic leadership. When the governor began his term three years ago, our economy was reeling from sequestration cuts that cost Virginia $9 billion and 154,000 jobs. Since then, Virginia has added 167,100 new jobs to our economy.
In the last legislative session, House Democrats helped our economy continue to grow by supporting:
- State incentive programs to attract good jobs to Virginia that pay a decent wage.
- GO Virginia regional grants and incentives.
- Increased funding for career and technical education.
- Strong, relevant certification programs that lead to good-paying jobs.
- Increased funding for universities and commercialization of ideas in bioscience and cybersecurity.
- Strategic investment in the Port of Virginia and Dulles Airport.
However, much work remains to be done. In the 2017 legislative session, we will fight for the following priorities that will create jobs and better the lives of all Virginians.
I. VIRGINIANS NEED MORE JOBS, GREATER ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY – AND A RAISE
House Democrats support building a New Virginia Economy in which ALL Virginians gain greater opportunities to work and provide for their families.
In the upcoming session, we will support:
- Raising the minimum wage for Virginia’s workers.
- Giving raises and bonuses to state employees and teachers, revenue-permitting
- Relieving the crushing burden of student debt by increasing financial aid, stabilizing tuition, and allowing borrowers to refinance their loans
- Training a 21st century workforce for jobs of the future
- Increasing accountability to ensure that economic development incentives create the jobs and economic activity promised.
- Streamlining the application process for small businesses
- Expanding broadband access across the state
- Ensuring women get equal pay for equal work.
- Instituting paid family leave
- Preventing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
- Stopping child labor on tobacco farms.
II. IT IS TIME TO CHANGE A SYSTEM THAT IS RIGGED IN FAVOR OF INCUMBENTS AND SPECIAL INTERESTS
House Democrats believe policy decisions should be made in the open and not pre-determined by gerrymandered districts, powerful interests or campaign contributions. Citizens want to know where we stand on critical issues. They do not want us to hide behind subcommittees that are stacked to block the will of the majority.
We support the creation of a Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission. We need an open, transparent election process that is not rigged for incumbents. We support sending this bill to the Rules Committee so the Committee can report to the floor “without recommendation” and ALL CAN VOTE. VOTERS SHOULD KNOW WHERE DELEGATES STAND ON THIS CRITICAL ISSUE.
III. THE KEY TO ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IS EDUCATION
House Democrats will defend quality education, which is essential for success in life, as the foundation of our state’s economy and democracy.
- Protecting K-12 from budget cuts.
- Ensuring that teachers are given raises equivalent to that of other state employees
- Increasing teaching time by reducing testing time.
- Ensuring every local school division offers full-day kindergarten.
- Developing options to help fund ESL and anti-poverty initiatives in school divisions.
- Expanded funding options for special needs students.
- Combating summer learning loss by supporting evidence-based summer programs.
- Realizing human potential through the Dream Act.
- Reducing college debt burdens by reauthorizing the Virginia Educational Loan Authority.
- Establishing a student loan ombudsman and requiring licensure of for-profit student loan services
- Making colleges more affordable by increasing funding to reduce tuition, enhancing student aid, and committing to a plan to meet the goal of the state providing 67% of funding for in-state students.
- Increasing access to virtual learning
- Providing incentives to financial aid students who complete college within four years
IV. HOUSE DEMOCRATS SUPPORT QUALITY PRE-K EDUCATION THAT HELPS CHILDREN SUCCEED IN SCHOOL AND IN LIFE.
- Changing accreditation criteria to ensure high-quality Pre-K programs.
- Enhancing eligibility rules to ensure access for at-risk children.
- Helping localities provide Pre-K by modifying state funding requirements.
- Improving training to help teachers improve classroom quality.
- Using all available state funds for Pre-K by transferring unused funds between jurisdictions
V. HOUSE DEMOCRATS WILL WORK TO MAKE VIRGINIA THE BEST STATE FOR VETERANS.
Last year, we:
- Waived domicile requirements to give greater access to higher education for retiring service persons, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves
- Created Veteran support centers on community college campuses.
- Financed Veteran Care Centers in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.
- Ensured any service person and their children can get in-state tuition.
- Developed a state version of the Stolen Valor Program.
- Provided transition assistance for veterans who seek to maintain a home in Virginia.
- Eased licensing procedures for trailing military spouses.
- Restricted title lenders within 20 miles of a military base.
- Expanded the “Virginia Values Veterans (V3)” program.
We will build on those accomplishments by:
- Supporting the Governor’s budget amendment to create a Veterans Entrepreneurship Pilot Program.
- Making Virginia the first in the nation to meet The DOD’s list of 10 actions necessary to be a military-friendly state by requiring local social services departments to denote military affiliation in reports of child abuse.
VI. HOUSE DEMOCRATS BELIEVE VOTING IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT THAT SHOULD BE MADE EASIER, NOT MORE DIFFICULT.
- Promoting non-partisan redistricting by statute and by constitutional amendment.
- Making voter registration automatic with all DMV registrations.
- Providing adequate funding for Electoral Boards to run elections.
- Increasing opportunities for early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
- Conducting a JLARC study to identify further improvements in our election system.
- Repealing the photo ID requirement for voting
VII. HOUSE DEMOCRATS SUPPORT A FAIR AND COST-EFFECTIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT KEEPS US SAFE.
- Sentencing reform and diversion programs to reduce prison costs and recidivism.
- Programs for youth offenders that give them a real chance, such as the “Youth Promise Act.”
- Drug courts and mental health and veteran dockets.
- State incentives for local governments to buy body cams and adopt regulations to standardize their use.
- Eliminating the use of for-profit prisons.
- Reforming felony larceny to end the labeling of youth for life based on a single offense.
- Ending “life without parole” for juveniles.
- Ending abuse of civil forfeiture.
- Protecting victims of elder and sexual abuse.
- Tightening cyber stalking laws.
- Enacting common-sense gun safety measures, such as universal background checks.
VIII. HOUSE DEMOCRATS VALUE SCIENCE AND WILL FIGHT TO PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES FROM SEA-LEVEL RISE AND OTHER NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. WE FURTHER SUPPORT OUR VIRGINIA CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT TO PROVIDE FOR CLEAN AIR AND WATER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
1. Energy efficiency initiatives in the public and private sectors.
2. The expansion of renewables, including solar, wind, and conservation.
IX. HOUSE DEMOCRATS EMBRACE DIVERSITY IN THE WORKFORCE AND SOCIETY. WE BELIEVE THAT VIRGINIA HAS A ROLE IN ASSISTING THOSE WHO ARE FLEEING TERROR AND OPPRESSIVE REGIMES.
- Changing the state code to reflect the Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality.
- Nondiscrimination in employment.
- Rational immigration reform.
- Reasonable resettlement efforts of refugee children and families after full vetting.
X. HOUSE DEMOCRATS BELIEVE THAT IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF VIRGINIANS AND GRANTING GREATER ACCESS TO INSURANCE SUPPORTS THE ECONOMY, BOLSTERS OUR STATE BUDGET, PROTECTS OUR HOSPITALS, AND ENHANCES THE FINANCIAL SECURITY OF FAMILIES.
- Maintaining options for Medicaid expansion.
- Funding of women’s health initiatives and Planned Parenthood.
- Repeal of TRAP regulations that restrict a woman’s right to reproductive choice without enhancing her safety.
- Targeted responses to the opioid addiction problem.