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House Dems Demand Re-Districting Vote

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia House Democratic Caucus today called for a full floor vote on a bill that would amend the state’s constitution to create a nonpartisan re-districting commission.

According to House Rules, the Rules Committee can send a bill directly to the floor for a full vote “without specific recommendation.” The procedure has been used several times in the past on matters deemed by the Speaker to be of great public importance.

In a letter sent to Speaker of the House William J. Howell on Friday, House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano noted that after the last election cycle, Americans increasingly “believe our system is ‘rigged’ in favor of the powerful.” He requested that Howell send two proposed Constitutional Amendments, one sponsored by Del. Ken Plum of Reston and one sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan of McLean, to the Rules Committee so that they could come directly to the floor for a full vote.

“Constituents want to know where we stand on re-districting reform and the only way they can find out is if we have a floor vote,” said Toscano. “A system that gives incumbent politicians the power to pick their own voters and draw political opponents out of districts is undemocratic and unacceptable. Voters should choose their elected leaders – but in Virginia, the opposite is true. Since both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering, both parties must fix it. I call upon Republican leadership to send these two amendments directly to the floor.”

“The system for electing our leaders forms the very core of government,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “Seventy-four percent of Virginians support giving control of re-districting to an independent board, and they deserve to know where their leaders stand on this fundamental issue of the franchise. We look forward to the Speaker’s response.”

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House Dems Condemn Abortion-Shaming Resolution

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia House Democratic Caucus today condemned the advancement of a resolution that would shame women who have had abortions.

The resolution, which was introduced by Del. Ben Cline of Rockbridge, would recognize Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as a “Day of Tears.” The resolution passed the House Rules Committee by voice vote, over the opposition of Democrats.

“Shaming women is the end result of this resolution, regardless of intention” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “While the Democratic Caucus is focused on creating jobs and raising wages for all Virginians, the Republicans are focused on divisive social issues that stigmatize women and members of the LGBT community. Legislation that discriminates and stigmatizes sends the message that Virginia is not business-friendly. I call upon all members of the House of Delegates to condemn this insult to women.

“Within the last week, House Republicans have introduced a bathroom bill even more extreme than North Carolina’s HB2, refused to stand in support of civil rights hero John Lewis, and pushed a resolution out of committee that would shame women who have had abortions. Meanwhile, House Democrats have held rolled out major legislation that would raise the minimum wage, allow borrowers to re-finance student loans, and help ensure equal pay for equal work. The socially divisive sideshow that the Republican Caucus has led this session will do nothing to improve the lives of working Virginians.” 

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House Dems Welcome Ward, Price to Leadership Team

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia House Democratic Caucus today elected two new members to fill vacancies on their leadership team.

Delegate Jeion Joyner Ward will serve as Vice Chair of Operations and Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price will serve as Secretary.

Both women hail from the Hampton Roads area. Ward represents the 92nd District, which encompasses a portion of Hampton. Price represents the 95th House District, which includes parts of Newport News and Hampton.

“We are honored to welcome Delegate Ward and Delegate Price to our leadership team,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Jeion and Cia have both been fierce advocates for the working people of their districts, and we appreciate the fresh perspective that they bring to the table. I look forward to working with both of them in this upcoming legislative session.”

“Delegate Ward and Delegate Price are known for their relentless work ethic and dedication to their constituents,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “Jeion and Cia bring even more diversity to our leadership team, which is an excellent reflection of the Commonwealth we represent. I welcome their perspective and experience as together we work to create jobs and build an economy that works for everyone, not just those as the top.”

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House Dems Stand in Support of John Lewis on MLK Day as GOP Remain in Seats

RICHMOND, Va. – After a rousing Martin Luther King Day speech delivered by Del. Roslyn Tyler of Sussex, Virginia House Democrats rose to their feet and stood in support of civil rights hero U.S. Rep. John Lewis as Republicans remained in their seats.

In a Tweet on Saturday, President-Elect Donald Trump alleged that Lewis, who was beaten so badly by Alabama state troopers in 1965 that he fractured his skull, was “All talk, talk, talk - no action or results.”

At the end of her speech, Tyler called upon her colleagues to “stand up against this bullying and intimidation as it is inconsistent with the life of Dr. King and the values of this country” and to “stand with me in support of Congressman John Lewis, to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the countless other civil rights leaders who fought to make America the great country that it is.”

“Doctor King and Congressman Lewis fought boldly and nobly for civil rights for all Americans,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “The president-elect has denigrated a man who risked his life so that all Americans could realize the ideals of this country. I call upon every member of the House Republican caucus to immediately condemn this shameful attack.”

“Grace, eloquence and dignity define the lives of both Doctor King and Congressman Lewis,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “Yet the president-elect’s remarks were defined once again by divisiveness. This is not a matter of political ideology. It’s a matter of basic human decency. I respectfully request that my colleagues across the aisle, Virginia House Republicans join us in speaking out for civility and let all Virginians know that this kind of politics cannot stand.”

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House Dems Plans Focus on Jobs, Economic Opportunity

Bills will support jobs, raise wages and relieve student debt

RICHMOND, Va. – As several Republicans held a press conference about bathrooms, House Democratic leaders today rolled out a robust package of new initiatives that will strengthen the New Virginia Economy and ensure no working person is left behind.

Three key proposals form the cornerstone of the plan: raising wages, relieving student loan debt and training a 21st century workforce. By raising the minimum wage and allowing borrowers to refinance their debt, Democrats will put more money directly into the pockets of working families, which in turn strengthens their local economies. Furthermore, training Virginia’s workforce for jobs of the future will help fill the thousands of high-paying tech jobs that remain vacant in the state every year.

“Republicans are next door talking about bathrooms, but we’re talking about jobs,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Virginians need more jobs, they need more opportunity and they need a raise. Our aggressive package is designed so that no working family is left behind. By putting more money into the pockets of these hardworking families, we are strengthening local economies across the state.”

“More than one million Virginians carry some student debt, and collectively they owe over $30 billion dollars in loans,” said Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria. “High-interest loans are keeping young people from pumping money back into our economy. Every dollar paid in interest is a dollar that could have been spent on anything from the down payment of a home to a meal at a local restaurant. Allowing borrowers to re-finance these loans will enable them to spend more money in the communities where they live and work.”

“No one who works 40 hours per week should live in poverty, which is why it’s time to raise the minimum wage,” said Del. Ken Plum of Reston. “I challenge anyone to argue that it’s possible to support a family on $15,000 a year, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 and to index it for future increases. I hope my colleagues across the aisle will join us in standing up for working families and supporting this bill. Legislatures in 29 other states have raised the minimum wage; there is no reason we cannot.”

“There were thousands of open tech jobs last year, including in fields such as cyber-security,” said Del. Matthew James of Portsmouth. “If we want businesses to stay in Virginia, we need a trained workforce who can fill those jobs. The bill I’ve introduced will require community colleges to grant credits for real-life apprenticeship experience. This will reduce student loan debt while also making these students more marketable to employers.”

“As we work to raise wages and train workers for higher-paying jobs, we must also ensure that all Virginians are given a fair shot to actively participate in our economy,” said Del. Jennifer Boysko of Herndon. “In the year 2017, women still make 79 cents on the dollar to men. I’ve introduced legislation that will require the Commonwealth of Virginia to institute a system to ensure that state employees are receiving equal pay for equal work, and I’ve also introduced a bill that will prohibit employers from inquiring about salary history. That bill will help level the playing field for folks like me who have worked hard for years as both a stay-at-home mom and a public servant.”

“In order to attract more companies to Virginia, we need to send a message loud and clear that Virginia is open for business and we do not discriminate,” said Del. Mark Sickles of Fairfax County. “We’ve come a long way since amending our Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2006, and it’s time we take those laws off the books.”

Other key economic legislation introduced by House Democrats includes:

A more detailed overview of the House Democratic Caucus’s legislative priorities in their entirety will be released tomorrow.

Photos from the press conference are available on the Virginia House Democrats' Twitter feed. Video from the press conference will be posted to the Virginia House Democratic Caucus’s Facebook later today.

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House Dems Congratulate Jennifer McClellan on Election to Senate

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia House Democratic Caucus leadership tonight congratulated Delegate Jennifer McClellan on her election to the Senate:

“Jenn has been a tireless advocate for the working families of Virginia’s 71st House District, and she will be sorely missed by our caucus,” said Virginia House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “She has been a strong voice for both women and people of color, and she has given countless hours to community organizations. Both Richmond and Virginia are better for her service. We wish Jenn and her family the best as she transitions to her new role as Senator for Virginia’s 9th District.”

“Jenn embodies everything a public servant should aspire to, and it has been a great honor to count her among my colleagues,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, House Democratic Caucus Chair. “She has a strong command of complex policies and makes every decision with the interests of working people in mind. Her constituents and the Senate will both be well-served by her expertise and relentless energy. I look forward to our continued work together as she advances to the Senate.”

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House Dems Unveil Plan for Refinancing Student Loan Debt

RICHMOND, Va. – At a press conference held at the State Capitol, Virginia House Democrats today announced new legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance student loan debt.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), would revive the Virginia Education Loan Authority (VELA) and empower the entity to re-finance high-interest student loans.

An estimated 629,000 Virginians could benefit from re-financing their loans.

“Virginians collectively owe more than $30 billion dollars in student loan debt,” said Delegate Simon. “This is creating a crisis that is hampering our Virginia economy. Interest payments are preventing our young people from buying homes, forming households and making significant purchases. We’ve studied the issue thoroughly. Now is the time for action. I look forward to the support of my colleagues across the aisle for these proposals, which will boost our economy and build our local communities.”

“Graduates of community college, technical school and universities have worked hard to gain the education they need to participate in the New Virginia economy, but too often their debt burden prevents them from ever finding financial success,” said Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), House Democratic Caucus Chair. “I call upon members from both sides of the aisle to stand together with our students -- they are the future of our economy.”

Simon’s proposal to create a Student Loan Debt Refinancing Authority was referred to the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), Virginia 529 and the Virginia Treasury for further study during the 2016 session.  

After nearly a year of study with input from stakeholders across the commonwealth, SCHEV issued a 25-page report summarizing options available to the General Assembly. The report suggested that lawmakers should mitigate risk to the Commonwealth by serving a large pool of borrowers or by working in partnership with private sector lenders to serve a smaller pool of borrowers.

“As a young person still in my first year of college, I fear that the additional debt I take on to complete my degree will affect my ability to be a full participant in the economy,” said Carl Warf, who a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I thank the House Democratic Caucus for its support of this important bill, and I look forward to its passage.”

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) will introduce the Senate version of Simon’s bill.

Delegate Marcia Price (D-Newport News) will introduce an alternative bill that would create a Student Loan Debt Refinance Authority modeled on the existing Small Business Finance Authority. This entity would provide guarantees and gap financing to private sector lenders who might otherwise be unwilling to take on the risk of refinancing student loan debt.

“As one of the few members of the General Assembly who is still in the process of repaying student loans, I’m keenly aware of the impact these loans can have,” said Delegate Price. “The cost of education should not be negatively life-altering. The student loan reforms being proposed are huge for Millennials and the benefits extend to Virginians of all ages. We cannot move forward with a New Virginia Economy when our next generation of leaders comes out of school crippled with debt.”

At an event in Blacksburg on January 4, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a series of Education and Workforce proposals to further his efforts to create a New Virginia Economy. Among his proposals were the creation of an office of Student Loan Ombudsman and the adoption of Student Borrower Bill of Rights.

A video recording of the press conference is available for view on the Facebook page of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.

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House Dems Congratulate Cheryl Turpin on Well-Fought Race

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia House Democratic Caucus leadership tonight congratulated educator Cheryl Turpin on a well-fought race in the 85th District.

“Cheryl brought unparalleled energy to this race, and we could not be more proud of how well she ran her campaign,” said Virginia House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Cheryl’s proven record as an educator and an environmental advocate attracted widespread support across the country. Cheryl raised more than $135,000 in online grassroots contributions from more than 12,000 donors, and her staff and volunteers knocked on thousands of doors. Cheryl is a strong asset to her community, and I know she will continue to improve lives for working families in Virginia Beach.”

“Cheryl ran a positive campaign about how to make life better for the working families of Virginia Beach,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, House Democratic Caucus Chair. “As a public school teacher, Cheryl cares especially about issues pertaining to education. She believes that a child’s zip code should not determine the quality of his or her education, and she supports expanding full-day kindergarten for all Virginia families. Virginia Beach is better thanks to Cheryl’s community service, and I extend my sincerest thanks for her efforts on this race.”

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House Dems Thank McAuliffe for Commitment to Jobs, Economy

RICHMOND, Va. – In response to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth Address, Virginia House Democratic Caucus leadership tonight thanked the governor for his commitment to creating jobs and strengthening the state’s economy.

“Governor McAuliffe has fought relentlessly to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our state, and his efforts have delivered real results,” said Virginia House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Since the governor took office, we’ve seen the steepest drop in the unemployment rate under any administration in more than three decades. He also helped close more than $14 billion in economic development deals for our state. We thank the governor for his commitment to expanding opportunity for all Virginians, and we look forward to our continued partnership with him and his team during the upcoming legislative session.”

“The governor showed tonight that Virginia is stronger under Democratic leadership” said Delegate Charniele Herring, House Democratic Caucus Chair. “Yet much work remains to be done to ensure that all Virginians can find good-paying jobs. As the governor noted, we saw 149,000 open positions in the tech field in the last year alone. We commend Governor McAuliffe for his commitment to training a 21st-century workforce that can help fill those jobs.”

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12 at which they will highlight key legislation on jobs and the economy.   

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House Dems Unveil Plan for Refinancing Student Loan Debt

More than 600,000 Virginians Would Save Money from Refinancing

RICHMOND, Va. – At a press conference held at the State Capitol, Virginia House Democrats today announced new legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance student loan debt.

 

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), would revive the Virginia Education Loan Authority (VELA) and empower the entity to re-finance high-interest student loans.

 

An estimated 629,000 Virginians could benefit from re-financing their loans.

 

“Virginians collectively owe more than $30 billion dollars in student loan debt,” said Delegate Simon. “This is creating a crisis that is hampering our Virginia economy. Interest payments are preventing our young people from buying homes, forming households and making significant purchases. We’ve studied the issue thoroughly. Now is the time for action. I look forward to the support of my colleagues across the aisle for these proposals, which will boost our economy and build our local communities.”

 

“Graduates of community college, technical school and universities have worked hard to gain the education they need to participate in the New Virginia economy, but too often their debt burden prevents them from ever finding financial success,” said Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), House Democratic Caucus Chair. “I call upon members from both sides of the aisle to stand together with our students -- they are the future of our economy.”

 

Simon’s proposal to create a Student Loan Debt Refinancing Authority was referred to the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), Virginia 529 and the Virginia Treasury for further study during the 2016 session. 

 

After nearly a year of study with input from stakeholders across the commonwealth, SCHEV issued a 25-page report summarizing options available to the General Assembly. The report suggested that lawmakers should mitigate risk to the Commonwealth by serving a large pool of borrowers or by working in partnership with private sector lenders to serve a smaller pool of borrowers.

 

“As a young person still in my first year of college, I fear that the additional debt I take on to complete my degree will affect my ability to be a full participant in the economy,” said Carl Warf, who a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I thank the House Democratic Caucus for its support of this important bill, and I look forward to its passage.”

 

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) will introduce the Senate version of Simon’s bill.

 

Delegate Marcia Price (D-Newport News) will introduce an alternative bill that would create a Student Loan Debt Refinance Authority modeled on the existing Small Business Finance Authority. This entity would provide guarantees and gap financing to private sector lenders who might otherwise be unwilling to take on the risk of refinancing student loan debt.

 

“As one of the few members of the General Assembly who is still in the process of repaying student loans, I’m keenly aware of the impact these loans can have,” said Delegate Price. “The cost of education should not be negatively life-altering. The student loan reforms being proposed are huge for Millennials and the benefits extend to Virginians of all ages. We cannot move forward with a New Virginia Economy when our next generation of leaders comes out of school crippled with debt.”

 

At an event in Blacksburg on January 4, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a series of Education and Workforce proposals to further his efforts to create a New Virginia Economy. Among his proposals were the creation of an office of Student Loan Ombudsman and the adoption of Student Borrower Bill of Rights.

 

A video recording of the press conference is available for view on the Facebook page of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.

 

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You can follow the Virginia House Democratic Caucus on Facebook and Twitter.