By Benjamin West
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — LGBT rights legislation, environmental protection and a push for a $15 minimum wage are among the goals House Democrats have for the 2019 legislative session.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference Tuesday to outline their priorities for the session, which runs until Feb. 23.
House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, a delegate from Fairfax, celebrated the party’s recent victories at the polls, including the election of 15 new Democratic delegates in 2017 and two consecutive Democratic governors. Filler-Corn said she hoped her colleagues would keep pushing forward.
“There is so much more that we can do, and that’s why we are here today,” she said. “If we are to successfully pass this legislation, we’ll continue to move Virginia forward.”
The list of policy priorities is not “comprehensive or exhaustive,” Filler-Corn said, noting, for example, that it did not include gun safety legislation.
But she said the goals would help workers, children, teachers, the middle class and other groups. Filler-Corn said she hoped her Republican colleagues would join her “to successfully pass some of these bills.”
Speakers at the news conference included:
- Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring, a delegate from Alexandria, who said the party would push for no-excuse absentee voting and other changes in voting laws. “No right is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote, yet that right is under attack across the country,” Herring said.
- Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy of Woodbridge, who discussed legislation to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. “Virginia has been on the wrong side of history too many times,” Foy said. “We have fought against interracial marriage, women’s right to vote, women being able to receive a higher education. We fought against desegregation. And now it’s time for us to be on the right side of history.”
- Del. Jeion Ward of Hampton, who touted bills to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour and to help firefighters suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “We cannot strengthen our economy without strengthening our neighbors,” Ward said.
- Del. Wendy Gooditis of Clarke County, who called for environmental legislation that she said would benefit both urban and rural Virginians. “Constituents on both ends of my district need clean drinking water,” she said. “We all need fresh air. We all want a healthy future for our children.”
Gooditis said Democrats want laws to make sure the state’s electric utilities are investing in clean energy and to ensure that all residual coal ash from power plants is recycled.
“Farmers need green space and thriving waterways,” Gooditis said. “Parents want clean air and water so their children can flourish. Communities want prosperous local economies. The people of Virginia want us to move energetically toward a new, greener way of life.”
In her closing words at the news conference, Del. Vivian Watts of Fairfax said the House Democratic Caucus would work for the “the dignity of the individual.”
“We are determined to make this House the house for all Virginians,” she said.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.