Look Ahead: Gun Control Bills Likely To Make Headlines In Second Week of General Assembly Session
Virginia’s state legislative session kicked off last week, with a new Democratic majority taking control of both houses of the General Assembly. VPM’s Craig Carper and Roberto Roldan discuss what to expect going into week two.
Carper: Roberto, you were at Governor Ralph Northam’s State of the Commonwealth Address on Wednesday. That’s traditionally where the governor will lay out his or her priorities for the session. What were some of the key highlights?
Roldan: That’s right, Craig. Northam touched on a lot of legislative priorities, many of them focused on labor and the economy. He’s thrown his support behind raising the minimum wage - currently in Virginia’s is tied to the federal which is only $7.25 an hour - and he also talked about the need for job training and access to education. Northam is proposing to fund free community college for residents who are majoring in high-demand fields like tech and healthcare.
Carper: And what was the tone of Northam’s speech?
Roldan: Well obviously the context is that Democrats are in power, in the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s mansion. He started his speech talking about how Democrats were making history by electing Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax to Speaker of the House. She’s the first female and the first Jewish speaker. But his speech mostly just focused on traditional democratic issues...things like healthcare and gun control, but the difference is this year, Democrats are actually going to have the votes to get these things passed.
Carper: You mentioned gun control there and...looking forward to the week ahead...can we expect any movement on some of these gun bills?
Roldan: Yeah, so on Monday some of the big proposals by Democrats are going to get their first hearings. The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to take up a bill from Majority Leader Dick Saslaw that would require background checks for all firearm transfers, even in private sales. They’ll also debate bills that would limit handgun purchases to one a month and institute a red flag law...meaning a judge can temporarily take away the gun rights of people who pose a risk to themselves or others.
On the other side, the NRA will also host a press conference on Monday. They’ll probably outline their opposition to most if not all of the gun control proposal Democrats will be trying to get passed this year. But it’s important to note that it is a different event than the gun rally that’s expected to attract tens of thousands of gun rights advocates to the capitol. That’s not until January 20th.
Carper: And is there anything else going on this week that’ll be making headlines?
Roldan: Well the Democrats are wasting no time in their effort to get the ERA passed. Last week, it was approved by a Senate committee 10-5. That means, theoretically, the ERA could get a full vote in the Senate as early as this week.
We’re also watching some education bills related to school discipline and SRO training. One bill would make it harder for students to end up with a criminal charge for a behavioral issue. The other would require the state to keep better data on how often students are arrested by school resource officers.
There has already been more bills filed this year than last year, and they still have four more days to file, so it’s likely we’ll hear about some proposals this week that haven’t even been made public yet.