Senator Passes Landmark Bills to Strengthen Virginia Families During The COVID-19 Crisis
RICHMOND, Va. – Today, Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) finished up the 2021 Virginia General Assembly Special Session with 10 of her bills on the way to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.
The 10 McClellan bills that have passed the General Assembly will help protect Virginans’ rights, invest in education, and strengthen families’ economic situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Virginia families are hurting right now,” said Sen. McClellan. “These bills deliver much-needed relief to families facing challenges that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been exacerbated in the past year. This was a historic session for delivering progress for Virginians, and I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on passing these landmark bills.”
The following McClellan bills passed the General Assembly:
- 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.
- The School Equity and Staffing Act (SB 1257) addresses a 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.
- The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (SB 1310) expands workplace protections to domestic workers rights by ensuring they are covered by the Virginia Human Rights Act 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 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 rights and opportunities to have a greater say in the future of their communities. Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) carried the companion bill in the House.
- 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.
- A 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 the companion 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 new 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) are co-chief patrons of 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 the companion bill in the House.
- The Civic Youth Engagement bill (SB 1439) allows middle and high school students an excused absence per year in order to participate in a civic event. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) carried the companion bill in the House.
McClellan was also a copatron on a number of major bills that passed, including:
- Sen. McClellan co-patroned Senator Scott Surovell’s (D-Fairfax) SB 1165 abolishing the death penalty. The bill will make Virginia the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty.
- Sen. McClellan co-patroned Delegate Elizabeth Guzman’s (D-Prince William) HB 2137 to establish annual paid sick leave for home health workers. The bill provides up to 5 days of paid sick leave per year to 30,000 home health care workers, starting on July 1, and will help address worker risk and job insecurity that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Sen McClellan chief co-patroned Delegate Lamont Bagby’s (D-Henrico) HB 1965 implementing a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program to help reduce carbon pollution. The bill will help decarbonize the transportation industry, one of the largest contributors to climate change.
- Sen. McClellan co-patroned Delegate Danica Roem’s (D-Prince William) HB 2132 to ban the gay or transgender “panic defense.” The bill will ensure anti-LGBTQ bias crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
- Sen. McClellan co-patroned Senator Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax Co.) SB 1227 to enable Virginians covered under Medicaid to receive a 12-month birth control supply. The bill allows Virginians insured under Medicaid to receive the same contraceptive supply as those insured under private insurance.
- Sen. McClellan co-patroned Delegate Sally Hudson’s (D-Charlottesville) HB 2040 to address issues in the Unemployment Compensation system. The bill aligns Virginia’s unemployment compensation rules with standards common in other states to address some of the most common challenges claimants faced last year.
Jennifer McClellan was elected to the Senate of Virginia in 2017 after serving 11 years in the House of Delegates. She has been a leader on fighting climate change, strengthening public education and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, protecting voting rights, enacting criminal justice reform, combating domestic and sexual violence, and fighting discrimination of all kinds.