Alexandria, VA

Passing the Equal Rights Amendment, decriminalizing marijuana and giving localities the power to move Confederate monuments — those are just a few of the pieces of legislation that local Democrats will unveil over the next two months in the Virginia General Assembly.

As Democrats prepare to arrive in Richmond with complete control of all branches of Virginia’s government, there are a slew of bills that will result in serious changes to the way the Commonwealth does business.

Del. Charniele Herring (D-46th) is the incoming House Majority Leader — the first African American woman to hold the post. Herring will also chair the Courts of Justice Committee, and said she is confident that ERA will pass, in addition to pot decriminalization and gun reform.

The latter, however, has some local Democratic members questioning what gun legislation will, in fact, pass. Herring suggested that it can, but as long as Democrats don’t overreach.

“I think our challenge is to be disciplined with ourselves, and it’s our time to govern and we’re up to the challenge,” Herring said on Sunday at her annual fundraiser at Tempo Restaurant.

Herring’s story is unique. A U.S. Army brat, she and her mother moved into a homeless shelter in Alexandria. Mayor Justin Wilson congratulated Herring said that “great things” are expected in this year’s session.

“There is no better person to be going down to Richmond and leading our new majority caucus,” Wilson said. “This is an exciting time for Virginia, with Democratic control of the House of Delegates and the state senate.”

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) chairs the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, and said he will support Gov. Ralph Northam’s package of gun-related bills that would reduce magazine sizes, keep firearms from public property, register firearms and ban assault weapons. He also supports universal background checks, red flag laws and child access prevention.

“One of the bills that will be challenging at least is banning assault weapons,” Ebbin said at a fundraiser in Alexandria on Friday, Jan. 3. “What we’re going to do is rather than say we’re going to take away the guns you already own, my proposal is going to be that if you already own a weapon that you can keep it but you have to register it.”

Del. Mark Levine (D-45th) will introduce at least 45 bills, many of which failed in previous sessions. Among the legislation he’s proposing are bills to reverse an antiquated law prohibiting sex outside of marriage, a bill that would expunge a single non-violent drug offense from criminal records, and, should marijuana be decriminalized, Levine is proposing a bill that would expunge any marijuana-related offenses from someone’s record.

Levine is also proposing a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 and a bill that would require landlords evicting tenants to notify tenants in English and Spanish. He also supports a bill that would allow localities to determine the replacement of Confederate statues throughout the state.

“We’re making history for the first time in 26 years,” Levine said at his own fundraiser on Sunday, adding that his bills range in complexity. “Some are really big progressive ideas, you’ve been waiting a long time for some small fixes in the wall, and everything in between, and I think you’ll see it’s quite a range.”

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