Virginia NOW - Achieving Justice & Equality Through Targeted Legislative and Political Action
Virginia NOW advocates for legislation furthering justice and equality, especially on measures impacting women and girls: this includes criminal justice reforms, economic justice advances, and women’s health and safety, including abortion rights.
Our 2021 legislative priorities
Criminal Justice Reforms
Divest School Resource Officer (SRO) Funding, Invest in Student Success – Virginia incentivizes unnecessary school policing and criminalization of ordinary student behavior with grants to hire School Resource Officers (SRO) and School Security Officers. We support budget amendments (introduced by Del. Kaye Kory, Del. Jeff Bourne) to shift some federal SRO grant funds to at-risk schools and/or school counselors. One purpose of this divestment would be to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Our special concern is the harm that the pipeline causes to girls and young women. AMENDMENTS WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE BUDGET
Remove Mandatory Minimums– Originally touted as a tool to deter serious crime and eliminate sentencing disparities, mandatory minimum sentences have had no measurable impact on deterrence and have coincided with the mass incarceration of African American citizens. FAILED
Expunge Criminal Records in Certain Cases - Virginia has some of the most restrictive expungement laws in the country. The refusal to allow those who were involved in Virginia’s justice system to move on with their lives is needlessly cruel, and one of the most invidious sources of racial disparities. PASSED
Drug Policy - Legalization of marijuana by 2024. Criminal penalties were removed for simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older, and several other criminal penalties related to marijuana were removed. The bill contains social equity provisions that, among other things, provide support and resources to persons and communities that have been historically and disproportionately affected by drug enforcement. PASSED
Economic Justice for Women and Families
The spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 and the attendant family disruption and economic losses have made it clear there is a great need for paid medical and family leave (long-term) and paid sick leave (short-term). The most vulnerable families are at risk. In one estimate, about 1.2 million Virginia private sector workers have no paid sick leave, most of whom are low-wage workers such as restaurant employees and housekeepers.
Paid Family and Medical Leave – We support establishing a fund at state level, run by Employment Commission, with contributions by employers and employees. BILL FAILED BUT STATE BUDGET INCLUDES FUNDING FOR A STUDY ON IMPLEMENTATION OF PAID LEAVE IN VIRGINIA
Paid Sick Leave – A bill establishing paid sick days for some home health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic. PASSED
TANF/Welfare Reform - Two bills: HB 1820 will increase access to Food Stamps (SNAP) to an additional 25,000 families. PASSED 10% increase in TANF benefits. PASSED
Protect Domestic Service Employees - – Domestic workers - predominantly women of color - have suffered some of the worst economic consequences of the pandemic. Statistics have shown that more than 90% of Spanish-speaking domestic workers lost their jobs, and 75% of all domestic workers did not receive compensation when their jobs were canceled. This bill provides that individuals engaged in domestic service will not be excluded from employee protection laws and removes all exemptions from the Virginia Minimum Wage Act. PASSED
Women's Health and Safety
Forbid possession of a firearm after a conviction of assault and battery on a family member. PASSED
Abortion as an Essential Health Benefit - Removes the prohibition on coverage for abortions in any qualified health insurance plan in the health benefits exchange. PASSED
Coverage for reproductive health services in state medical assistance plan – This would include in the state plan for medical assistance services a provision for the payment of medical assistance for medically necessary reproductive health care service for eligible individuals. FAILED
Unnecessary requirement for No-fault divorce Removed - eliminates unncessary requirement of specific affidavit, which was a roadblock. PASSED
Mandating A Report on Maternal Health - report would cover health during pregnancy, labor and delivery, termination of pregnancy, and postpartum care provided by Virginia’s local and regional jails. This is an effort to ensure all people are getting quality care.
Establish Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team. PASSED
Definition of racism as "a public health crisis" - Underlying many of our urgent priorities is the continuous and negative impact of racism on us all. PASSED