The Bulletin

First bills of the 2020 session: early voting, universal background checks, LGBTQ non-discrimination and casinos

By: - November 18, 2019 3:03 pm
The Virginia House of Delegates met Thursday to discuss redistricting, but didn't get far. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Aug. 30, 2018)

The Virginia House of Delegates. Delegates voted Monday to pass legislation that will provide protections for residents evicted from assisted living facilities in Virginia. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – Aug. 30, 2018)

Monday was the first day members of the General Assembly could file legislation for the 2020 session, and while getting a bill in early doesn’t make it any more likely to pass, it does offer some early insight into what’s been on lawmakers’ minds during the off season.

That’s particularly true in the case of Democrats, who will hold majorities in both the House and the Senate for the first time in 26 years. Party leaders said three bills and one resolution members filed Monday will “set the tone for their first session as a majority in two decades”:

HB1, filed by Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, would allow no excuse, in-person absentee voting.

HB2, filed by Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, would mandate universal background checks.

HB3, filed by Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, would prohibit housing discrimination against LGBTQ people. (Which, yes, is currently legal.)

• And Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, filed a resolution, HJ1, to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

“Similar bills have been introduced by House Democrats in the past and were unfortunately blocked, despite receiving widespread support from the majority of Virginians,” Herring, the party’s incoming majority leader, said in a statement. “Finally, these bills will get the consideration they deserve in the House of Delegates, and we can take our first steps toward improving voting rights, preventing gun violence and recognizing all Virginians as equal regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Republican lawmakers had filed two bills as of mid afternoon.

  HB4, filed by Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, would open up the state to full-scale casino gambling — a debate lawmakers began last year.

•  And HB5, filed by Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, would designate a 30-mile segment of the Clinch River in his home county as part of the state’s scenic river system.

From lifting abortion restrictions and imposing plastic bag taxes to anti-discrimination bills and restrictions on open-ended credit plans, more legislation continued to pour in Monday. Check it out here.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.