At a town hall forum at the Falls Church Community Center today, Virginia State Del. Marcus Simon said he would like Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to exercise his power to introduce a new gun control bill into the State Legislature in the wake of the Florida high school murders last week. Simon told the audience of 50 that the governor has the prerogative to do such a thing, and it would force the legislators to take a public stand. He said that something even very mild, like denying assault rifles to 19-year-olds, would help make it clear to citizens just how locked in Republicans in the legislature are to their pro-gun positions.
Simon said that even as the sudden pickup of 15 seats in the House of Delegates in last November’s election closed the gap between Republicans and Democrats to a two-vote margin, the Republicans’ narrow majority was sufficient to kill all initiatives by Democrats to introduce some form of gun control.
“They won’t change their minds on this,” Simon, who introduced a number of gun control bills himself, said. “Democrats just have to vote them out next time in order for things to change.”
He added that Republicans have adopted the posture that last November’s surge in Democratic wins was a one-time aberration, and that the “wave” of that election will recede by November 2019. “Democrats will have to show that it was not a ‘wave’ but climate change,” Simon said.
The GOP argument that “laws won’t work” to stop atrocities like the most recent Parkland, Florida incident has to be met with a resolve that they will still help, even if there’s no scenario in which such tragedies could be eliminated 100 percent, per Simon.
Simon’s town hall was one of many held around the state by state lawmakers with the legislature at the “crossover point” in its annual session, when all bills that have passed one body (the Senate or the House) move over to the other body for consideration.
He said movement on the issue of extending Medicaid made the last week “really interesting.” He said a handful of Republicans representing far southwestern Virginia have moved to modify their opposition to Medicaid expansion because it was proposed under Obamacare. But now the extreme poverty in that region is compelling lawmakers to soften their ideological stands, which could result in some real change after the “crossover” next week.
Since Gov. Northam’s budget included the Medicaid expansion, the $300 million in federal money that would come in with it would have to be cut out of all the areas of the budget where the money is included for the Republicans to reject the expansion once again. But only five or six Republicans from places like Wise County or Patrick County switching their votes could change everything.