Senator Led Landmark Bills on Clean Energy Economy, Reproductive Health, State-Based Health Exchange, Criminal Justice Reform, Education, and Domestic Workers’ Rights
RICHMOND, Va. – Today, 24 bills that were chief-patroned by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) will become law. The bills, passed this session, were part of the most effective progressive legislative session in Virginia in a generation.
Key McClellan-led bills becoming law on July 1 include: The Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Reproductive Health Protection Act, creation of a state-based health exchange, raising the felony larceny threshold, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and ending Jim Crow-era policy that exempted domestic workers from minimum wage laws.
Sen. McClellan was chief patron of 36 bills and resolutions that passed into law this session. Eight of those – including the Equal Rights Amendment and Fishback parole reform – are already enacted into law. Three additional McClellan bills will be enacted in 2021.
“I’m proud to have passed these 24 new laws, as part of the most productive and progressive legislative session in modern Virginia history,” Sen. McClellan said. “Today’s new laws are the result of many years of hard work by advocates for equal rights, affordable health care, criminal justice reform and a clean energy economy. As we revitalize our economy after the coronavirus crisis, we must build on these new laws to ensure that no Virginia community gets left behind.”
The following 24 McClellan bills and resolutions became law today:
- The Virginia Clean Economy Act (SB 851) – Comprehensive energy bill that transitions Virginia to a 100% clean energy grid by 2045, while saving customers money, creating thousands of jobs in the clean energy economy, and addressing the impacts of climate change.
- The Solar Freedom Act (SB 710) – Democratizes solar energy, removing barriers on local governments, residents and businesses to install solar for their own use. The bill will open up a major marketplace for distributed solar energy in Virginia, and support clean energy job creation.
- Public Notice on Plants (SB 1075) – Provides for more notice and opportunity for public comment in an affected community prior to the Department of Environmental Quality promulgating regulations or issuing permits regarding fossil fuel plants and compressor stations.
Criminal Justice Reform
- Raising Felony Larceny Threshold (SB 788) – Increases the grand larceny threshold from $500 to $1000. Virginia had one of the lowest felony grand larceny thresholds in the country, leading to more prison sentences for small thefts.
- Ending Mandatory Minimums for License Suspensions (SB 711) Eliminates the mandatory minimum 10-day jail term for a third or subsequent conviction of driving on a suspended license, returning discretion to judges on such cases. Nearly half of suspended license cases in Virginia are due to nonpayment of court fees, according to the Legal Aid Justice Center.
- Statute of Limitations for Sexual Offenses (SB 724) Increases the statute of limitations for prosecuting child misdemeanor sexual offenses from when the survivor turns 19 to when he or she turns 23.
- Domestic Workers Rights (SB 804) – Makes Virginia the first state in the South to extend workplace protections to domestic service workers, removing Jim Crow-era exceptions that prevented domestic workers from receiving the same minimum wage as other Virginia workers. The bill also begins the process of expanding other worker protections to domestic service workers.
- The Pregnant Worker Fairness Act (SB 712) – Makes Virginia the 28th state to pass stronger protections for pregnant workers by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and mothers of infants.
- The Reproductive Health Protection Act (SB 733) – Removes medically unnecessary restrictions for a patient seeking access to safe and legal abortion, including mandatory ultrasounds, 24-hour waiting periods, and targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws that require abortion providers to be regulated like hospitals. McClellan was a leading opponent of these restrictions when they passed the House, giving a speech on the House floor in 2012 using her personal copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
- State-Based Health Exchange (SB 732) – Creates The Virginia Health Benefit Exchange under the Affordable Care Act to improve access, lower premiums and improve efficiency of health care for Virginians. McClellan first introduced a state-based exchange as a delegate in 2012. Provisions of the bill go into effect today. The exchange opens in 2023.
- Food Deserts (SB 1073) – Creates the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund to address food deserts, which affect 1 million Virginians. The fund will incentivize building and maintaining grocery and food retail stores in underserved communities.
- William’s Law (SB 718) – Requires health insurers to provide coverage without preauthorization for the birth mother of a newborn who is transferred to another hospital. This bill is known as “William’s Law” after the son of a constituent who was born premature by emergency C-section and transferred to the NICU of another hospital. The mother’s insurance carrier required pre-authorization for her to be transferred as well, and she was unable to receive such authorization before William died.
- Limited License Pharmacy (SB 1074) – Authorizes the Board of Pharmacy to issue a limited license at a reduced fee to a prescriber in a nonprofit facility to dispense Schedule VI controlled substances and devices, such as contraception and antibiotics.
- Art Therapist Licensure (SB 713) Establishes licensure procedures for professional art therapists and a professional art therapist associates.
- Tenants Bill of Rights (SB 707) – Requires all landlords to provide new tenants with a written explanation of their right to request repairs. The bill empowers tenants to take action when their landlord allows property to fall into disrepair or become unsafe – and it lays out clear responsibilities of tenants to report such conditions.
- Affordable Dwelling Units (SB 834) – Provides local governments with another tool to encourage affordable housing through “inclusionary zoning” or “affordable dwelling unit” ordinances. Prior to this bill passing, only a few jurisdictions – mostly in Northern Virginia – had the full legal ability to easily create affordable dwelling ordinances that incentivize developers to create a certain number of affordable units. McClellan proposed similar legislation in 2018.
- Richmond Housing Improvements (SB 725) – Authorizes the City of Richmond to impose a tax rate on improvements to real property that is different than the City’s tax rate on the land upon which the improvements are located. This is part of the City’s package to incentivize affordable housing and address gentrification.
- Real Estate Tax (SB 727) – Increases the maximum duration of a local real estate tax exemption for structures in conservation areas or rehabilitation districts from 15 years to 30 years. This is also part of the City of Richmond’s package to incentivize affordable housing and address gentrification.
- School Construction (SB 888) – Creates a School Construction and Modernization Commission to provide guidance and resources to local school divisions and to make funding recommendations on school construction needs to the General Assembly.
- Disorderly Conduct (SB 3) – Eliminates the vague Class 1 misdemeanor “disorderly conduct” charge for student behavior deemed disruptive at a school or school-sponsored event. The frequent use of “disorderly conduct” charges for school incidents led to an increase in the number of students in the school-to-prison pipeline, and increased racial disparities in Virginia’s education system. McClellan first introduced disorderly conduct legislation as a Delegate in 2016.
- Disciplinary Discretion (SB 729) Returns discretion to school administrators over whether to report behavior that constitutes a misdemeanor to law enforcement or handle through the disciplinary process. McClellan has worked on this legislation for more than 7 years, since she was in the House of Delegates.
- Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Board (SB 726) – Changes one member of the City Richmond’s representation on the board of the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Board from a mayoral appointee to a member of City Council.
- Removing Segregation Laws (SB 722) – Repeals several laws passed from 1901 to 1960 that implemented and enforced racial segregation and discrimination.
- Redistricting Criteria (SB 717) – Establishes redistricting criteria to prevent racial and political gerrymandering and produce fair legislative districts. The bill also ends prison gerrymandering.
Several other measures that Sen. McClellan originally introduced became law today. McClellan’s bills were incorporated into other Senate bills or passed in their final House form:
- Stopping LGBTQ Housing Discrimination (SB 66) – Prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. McClellan’s bill was incorporated into Sen. Adam Ebbin’s Virginia Values Act (SB 868), which passed the legislature.
- Lost or Stolen Firearms (SB 67) Requires the reporting of lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement. Sen. McClellan’s bill did not pass, but she helped the companion House bill by Del. Jeff Bourne (HB 9) passed the Senate. McClellan has patroned bills on lost or stolen firearms since 2017.
- Recording Interrogations (SB 730) – Requires law enforcement to record custodial interrogations where practicable. McClellan introduced similar legislation in 2015, 2016, and 2018 to address the growing concern over false confessions leading to the wrongful conviction of innocent defendants by codifying what is quickly becoming a best practice for law enforcement. Although McClellan’s bill did not pass. The parallel House version of this bill passed into law.
- Casino Gaming (SB 1083) – Authorizes casino gaming in the Commonwealth to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board. The bill creates the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund, from which a portion of the Commonwealth’s share of certain casino gaming tax revenues shall be disbursed to six Virginia Indian tribes. McClellan’s bill was incorporated into Sen. Louise Lucas’s gaming legislation (SB 36), which passed.
- Virginia Revolutionary 250 Commission (SB 714) – Establishes the Virginia Revolutionary 250 Commission to plan, develop, and perform programs and activities to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. McClellan’s bill was incorporated into Sen. Ghazala Hashmi’s similar legislation (SB 407), which passed.