RICHMOND, Va. – Today, 10 bills chief-patroned by Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) in the 2021 Session and Special Session I will become law. The 10 McClellan bills will protect Virginans’ rights, invest in education, and strengthen families’ economic situation as the Commonwealth emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to these bills, McClellan also championed an amendment to remove the prohibition on the simple possession of marijuana on July 1, 2021, which was adopted in the final marijuana legalization bills. She also co-patroned bills to provide paid leave to 30,000 home health care workers, abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth, implement a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program, ban the gay or transgender “panic defense,” enable Virginians covered under Medicaid to receive a 12-month birth control supply, and address issues in Virginia’s Unemployment Compensation system.
“These ten bills build on progress we made in the 2020 General Assembly Session, help begin Virginia’s recovery from the pandemic, and provide support to families from every corner of the Commonwealth,” Sen. McClellan said. “Beginning today, Virginia will provide worker protections for domestic workers, enact one of the strongest state voting rights acts in the country, stabilize the child care industry, promote youth civic engagement, and expand reproductive access on the state health exchange. The legislative package will also invest $50 million in school support personnel, help protect homeowners and our waterways, and reform laws that criminalize HIV, mental illness, autism, and developmental/intellectual disabilities.’
The following McClellan bills become law today:
McClellan’s Child Care Stabilization and Quality Care bill (SB 1316) helps stabilize the child care industry, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis. McClellan’s bill provides greater financial stability for child care providers by launching a new two-year pilot program creating flexibility in how federal subsidy dollars are used. The bill also addresses child care staffing shortages by allowing portable background checks.
SB 1257 begins to address the long-standing shortage of social workers, nurses and mental health professionals in Virginia public schools by ensuring that each school has at least three of these specialized support positions per 1,000 students. The bill and a companion budget amendment invests $50 million in these positions, which are even more necessary to address the lingering effects of the past year on Virginia students.
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (SB 1310) expands workplace protections to domestic workers by ensuring they are covered by the Virginia Human Rights Act, wage theft protections, and workplace health and safety requirements. This builds on McClellan’s 2020law making domestic workers eligible for the minimum wage, which took effect July 1, 2020. Delegate Marcia Price (D-Newport News) and Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) carried thecompanionbills in the House. Virginia is the first state in the South to extend worker protections to domestic workers.
The Preserving the American Dream Act (SB 1327) creates additional protections from foreclosure to help Virginians stay in their homes, including changing the foreclosure notice period from 14 to 60 days and requiring the mortgage company to provide information about legal assistance and housing counselors. Additionally, it requires localities to provide plans to maintain and improve manufactured housing and ensure residents of manufactured home communities are provided information about their opportunities to have a greater say in the future of their communities. The law also prohibits foreclosure based on non-housing related debt (i.e. medical debt). Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) carried thecompanion bill in the House. The provisions of the bill related to the specifics of the notice that is required before a trustee can sell a property in a foreclosure sale have a delayed effective date of October 1, 2021.
The Voting Rights Act of Virginia (SB 1395), modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, makes Virginia the first Southern state to pass a Voting Rights Act. The bill will protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. The Voting Rights Act will also require changes to local voting laws and regulations be advertised in advance for public comment and evaluated for their impact on Black, Indigenous and communities of color. The bill also allows the Attorney General or affected individual to initiate a civil action in court if the protections are violated. It will help fill the hole left by the Shelby Co. v. Holder decision in 2013 that gutted Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Del. Marcia Price (D-Newport News) carried thecompanion bill in the House. The bill’s section about prescribing voting and election materials in languages other than English is not effective until September 1st, 2021.
The bill to repeal the ban on abortion coverage on the health exchange (SB 1276) makes Virginia the first state in the South to remove the ban on abortion coverage for health insurance plans offered through the health benefits exchange. This will make it possible for more Virginians to afford a full range of reproductive health care. Delegate Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) carried thecompanion bill in the House.
Climate Change and Clean Water
The Pipeline Accountability, Oversight, and Protection of Virginia’s Water Act (SB 1311) protects clean water in Virginia by enabling the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to make a fully informed decision about interstate gas pipeline projects and protecting Virginia’s authority over the Commonwealth’s water quality.
The HIV Law Modernization bill (SB 1138) reforms outdated and ineffective 1980s-era laws that criminalize HIV. These laws have proved ineffective from a public health perspective and stigmatize HIV positive status. Sen. McClellan and Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) co-chief patroned this bill.
The Diminished Capacity Considerations in the Criminal Justice System bill (SB 1315) reforms the criminal justice system for individuals with mental illness, autism, or developmental/intellectual disabilities by requiring judges to consider such conditions in bail and sentencing determinations, allowing related evidence during trials, and requiring more training about these conditions for judges and court appointed attorneys. Delegate Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) carried thecompanion bill in the House.
The Civic Youth Engagement bill (SB 1439) requires school divisions to allow middle and high school students at least one excused absence per year to participate in a civic event. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) carried thecompanion bill in the House. This bill was a collaboration between the Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus and the Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia.
In addition to McClellan’s bills going into law her budget amendments will also go into effect. A full list of those amendments can be found here. Of those amendments the following were included:
Prenatal Care & Infant Mortality:
Funding to cover prenatal care for all under children under the Virginia Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) State Plan regardless of the expectant mother’s immigration status
Funding for a workgroup to develop a plan for establishing a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review at the Virginia Department of Health. Such a team would function in a similar manner to the child fatality review team but focus on tracking and investigating selected fetal and infant deaths in the Commonwealth and make recommendations to reduce preventable deaths.
Language establishing the Virginia CDFI Fund within the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide capital through grants to community development financial institutions, community development enterprises, or similar entities whose primary purpose is to provide financing in the form of loans, grants or forgivable loans to small business or community revitalization real estate projects in Virginia. The budget also includes $10.0 million to capitalize the Fund.
Funding for Southside Virginia Community College to implement the Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE) initiative to provide training for those seeking employment opportunities in the solar industry.