Enough is enough! Once again, the United States was forced to bear witness to another massacre. This time, it happened in a house of worship, traditionally known as a sanctuary for those seeking protection. These mass shootings have become an all-too-common occurrence. The bloodshed of innocent people needs to stop. As a nation – as a Commonwealth – we need to be proactive with measures intended to prevent tragic events involving firearms.
During this past session of the General Assembly over a dozen bills were introduced to curb gun violence. These commonsense proposals to keep our communities safe were defeated by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Not to anyone’s surprise, this same crowd passed legislation to put more guns on our streets.
To be clear, Republicans in the General Assembly voted against requiring background checks, reinstating the one-handgun-a-month-law, keeping guns out of the hands of children under the age of four, while supporting a measure to allow concealed weapons on school property. Incredibly, a bill that makes it easier to possess a bazooka, flamethrower, and/or machine gun passed both houses of the Legislature and made it to the Governor’s desk. Fortunately, that bill was vetoed – only because there were enough Senators to sustain the veto.
It is up to citizens to demand action on gun safety and to hold elected leaders accountable at the polls. I believe the public is hungry for a solution. The longer we wait, the higher the tally of senseless gun deaths will rise.
To prepare Virginia for the Environmental Protection Agency issued guidelines for each state to reduce carbon emissions, the General Assembly passed SB 1349; this will also bring stability to our energy rates. This bill was the result of a compromise with interested stakeholders, and it passed with strong bipartisan support – including the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters. This legislation is right for Virginia’s families and is in the best interest of our Commonwealth.
One component of the legislation that has earned little attention is its focus on expanding solar power in Virginia. The bill will increase the use of renewable energies in Virginia, particularly solar power. Dominion plans to build up to 500 megawatts of solar power by 2020. This is a proactive measure toward cleaner air, lower carbon emissions, and lower energy rates.
This legislation is good news for consumers, because there will be stability in what we pay each month. While Dominion Power works to comply with these new EPA regulations, the base rate for Virginians will remain the same. It is worth mentioning that Dominion power has one of the lowest energy costs in the U.S. To put it into perspective, our current electricity rate is 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost for the East Coast is at a higher rate of 14.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Removing the Confederate Flag from License Plates
I fully support Governor McAuliffe’s action to remove the Confederate flag from Virginia license plates. Our Commonwealth should not enable the promotion of such a divisive symbol. The Confederate battle flag belongs in a museum, not on our roadways. Our Commonwealth must be a welcoming destination for all people, and abandoning this symbol is a positive step toward achieving that goal.
Multiple cases dealing with political redistricting are making their way through the courts and they will have an impact on Virginia. Most recently, a federal court determined that Virginia packed too many African American voters into the 3rd congressional district. The result of this gerrymandered district is that the neighboring districts were made safer for the Republican incumbents. The court has required the maps to be redrawn by the General Assembly by September 1 of this year. Also, in a separate case, the maps for the Virginia House of Delegates are being challenged on the same basis. Stay tuned for more news on redistricting in Virginia. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona redistricting case has no effect on Virginia at this time.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]