Richmond Free Press Op-Ed 1/20/2022

The 2022 General Assembly Session Has Begun

Last week, the 2022 Virginia General Assembly Session convened to begin a 60-day session to address a number of bills and adopt a 2-year budget. This session sees a divided government return to Virginia, with a new Republican majority in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate. 

That isn’t the only change this year. Saturday saw the inauguration of Glenn Youngkin as the 74th Governor of Virginia, Winsome Sears as Lieutenant Governor, and Jason Miyares as Attorney General. 

Governor Youngkin and House Republicans have wasted no time seeking to roll back the progress we’ve made on a number of issues. In his first act, Governor Youngkin signed 11 executive actions that attempt to roll back progress on educational equity, keeping state employees, school children, and staff safe from COVID, and addressing climate change. 

Many of his actions are beyond his authority as Governor, such as his unilateral attempt to undermine local school division mask mandates and to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Moreover, his order banning critical race theory from public schools is meaningless, since critical race theory is not part of any public school curriculum in Virginia. In short, the Governor cannot undo by executive order laws passed by the General Assembly or local school supervision adopted by local school boards.   

House and Senate Republicans have already introduced bills to repeal or undermine the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Reproductive Health Protection Act, parts of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, laws making it easier to vote and address gun violence, future increases in the minimum wage, and laws allowing individuals to present evidence of mental health conditions in criminal trials. I am confident Senate Democrats, who have a 21-19 majority in the chamber, will hold the line against these efforts to roll back progress Virginia has made over the past two years.  

This session, we must defend our progress and continue to work for a fairer Virginia with opportunity for all. I have filed 28 bills for the 2022 General Assembly session and these bills focus on investing in Virginia families and communities who are facing new challenges as we rebuild from and face the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

My bills include fully funding the Standards of Quality (SB 490) which would set minimum staffing levels for every school and address mental health and loss of learning with increased support staff. I introduced four bills (SBs 471, 473, 472, 481) to address long-overlooked school construction, renovation, and maintenance needs. 

I am working to establish the Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention (SB 487) to collect/report data on gun violence, provide resources for localities and community-based organizations addressing it, and coordinate responses to it. 

Another bill (SB 477), would change eligibility requirements for maintenance and preservation support of African-American cemeteries through the Virginia Historical African American Cemeteries and Graves Fund. This would make Woodland Cemetery in Henrico County, which was founded in 1916, eligible for the fund. You can find my full legislative agenda on my webpage at www.jennifermcclellan.com.

As a reminder, in this government by, of, and for the people, your participation matters to the legislative process. Please feel free to share your views on legislation with me at district09@senate.virginia.gov or (804) 698-7509. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @JennMcClellanVA or on Facebook at @Senjennifermcclellan.

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