McClellan: ‘Virginians aren’t looking backward; they’re looking forward’
RICHMOND, Va. – With signings last week, a total of eight of Senator Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bills will become law. Governor Northam’s amendments to two bills will be addressed during the veto session on April 7. McClellan passed 10 bills during the 2021 session as one of the most productive legislators in the General Assembly.
Sen. McClellan’s SB 1257 investing in and increasing school nurses, social workers, and mental health professionals and SB 1131 to protect clean water in Virginia from pipeline projects were signed by Governor Ralph Northam on March 30 and 31st. Gov. Northam signed McClellan’s bills to extend worker protections to domestic workers, SB 1310, and reform outdated and ineffective laws that criminalize HIV in Virginia, SB 1138, last week.
Governor Northam also approved with technical amendments Sen. McClellan and Del. Cia Price’s (D-Newport News) Voting Rights Act of Virginia to proactively protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, disrimination, and intimidation, and amended Sen. McClellan and Del. Jeff Bourne’s (D-Richmond) bill that reforms the criminal justice system for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. Amendments to both bills will be addressed by the General Assembly during the veto session.
Sen. McClellan’s full legislative package will deliver critical relief to Virginia families and will help the Commonwealth rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis equitably leaving no community or Virginian behind.
“I am very proud of my legislative package this session that will drive generational change and provide relief to communities and families across Virginia,” Sen. McClellan said. “I’m grateful to Governor Northam, the advocates who spoke out in support of these bills, and my colleagues in the General Assembly who helped deliver protections, investments, and reforms will uplift our Commonwealth as we rebuild from this crisis.
“This new law invests an additional $50 million to expand student access to the social workers, nurses and mental health professionals they need, especially as we recover from this pandemic,” said Sen. McClellan on SB 1257. “This is an important first step to addressing long-standing school support personnel staffing needs and underfunding in our Commonwealth.”
“In the fight against climate change, we must continue to ensure that there is appropriate oversight and review of projects that could impact the environment and disproportionately affect marginalized communities,” said Sen. McClellan on SB 1311. “The Pipeline Accountability, Oversight, and Protection of Virginia’s Water Act will allow state government officials to review pipeline project plans and make fully informed decisions regarding the protection of water quality in the Commonwealth. This law is a major step forward to protect clean water in Virginia.”
The following McClellan bills will become law:
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.
SB 1257, signed March 30, 2021, 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 1,0000 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.
McClellan’s Child Care Stabilization and Quality Care bill (SB 1316), signed March 18, 2021, 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.
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (SB 1310), signed March 31, 2021, 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 2020 law 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 the companion bills in the House.
The HIV Law Modernization bill (SB 1138), signed March 31, 2021, 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) are co-chief patrons of this bill.
The Preserving the American Dream Act (SB 1327), signed March 12, 2021, 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. And reduces the chances of foreclosure based on non-housing related debt ( i.e. medical debt). Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) carried the companion bill in the House.
A bill to repeal the ban on abortion coverage on the health exchange (SB 1276), signed March 12, 2021, 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 the companion bill in the House.
The Civic Youth Engagement bill (SB 1439), signed March 12, 2021, allows middle and high school students one excused absence per year to participate in a civic event. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) carried the companion bill in the House. This bill was a collaboration between the Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus and the Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia.
The following McClellan bills are awaiting amendment approval:
The Voting Rights Act of Virginia (SB 1395), modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, will protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, disrimination, and intimidation. It will 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 individuals to initiate civil action in court if the protections are violated. Del. Marcia Price (D-Newport News) carried the companion bill in the House. When the new law is signed by the governor, Virginia will be the first Southern state to pass a Voting Rights Act.
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 the companion bill in the House.