July 1 marked the start of Virginia’s fiscal year and the date that non-emergency legislation became law. This week is also the commemoration of the founding of our Nation. The Fourth of July is a day of celebration marked by parades, festivities, and fireworks. We celebrate the freedoms and the democracy our forefathers cherished and enshrined in our Constitution. They created our democratic form of government based on the rule of law. Their foresight has ensured a democracy that has stood the test of time.
Many brave men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure these same freedoms which are regularly tested. Our three branches of government provide a system of checks and balances necessary to prevent one person or group from tipping matters too far in one direction. With that said, I am concerned about the future of the Supreme Court. A woman’s right to choose and same-sex marriages are two “targeted” areas for extremists to challenge. It is clear that the far right will try to be a very strong influence on the next nominee. I am hopeful the midterm elections will quell the assault on freedoms when voters speak with their ballots. Elections matter.
The self-proclaimed party of “family values” has a peculiar way of showing how it really feels about families. Children should not be separated from their parents in pursuit of a better life. And they should certainly not be housed in the reprehensible fashion we have seen in past weeks. Immigrants are the backbone of this nation — they seek the American dream. My own father came to this country as a boy from Odessa in what is now modern Ukraine. Leaving your birth land is not an easy decision. Immigration reform is long overdue and the opportunity to right these wrongs legislatively will present itself with a new Congress. Elections matter.
Turning back to Virginia, the highlights of this past legislative session are many. The biennial budget took longer than it should have to be completed. So did the passage of the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. This feat truly shows that elections matter. In addition to providing hope and healthcare to hundreds of thousands, Medicaid expansion freed up funds for other core services.
Congratulations to Falls Church City Public Schools, recently recognized by the VA Board of Education. FCCPS is the only school division to receive the Board’s Excellence Award, meeting all state and federal accountability benchmarks along with significant progress toward goals for increased student accountability and expanded educational opportunities. Make no mistake about the significant role our teachers played in this accomplishment. As a result of newly available funds, our teachers will receive a well-earned 3 percent pay raise. Elections matter.
Governor Northam signed the budget bill with two significant investments in broadband infrastructure and in workforce development. Preparing a skilled workforce to meet the demands of our global economy is imperative. Access to affordable credentials and degrees keeps Virginians competitive. Our community colleges are partnering with business and Virginia’s universities to provide the pathway for economic success. I supported and worked for the passage of this financial plan and the passage of Medicaid expansion. Elections matter.
More than 1,800 bills became law on July 1 but missing from that plethora of legislation was any meaningful gun violence prevention efforts. 2019 opens the door for change in the legislature. With slim Republican majorities in both chambers, each and every bill that addressed background checks, banning mechanical devices that accelerate the firing mechanism of a weapon, and raising the age for purchasing guns went down on along party lines. Elections matter.
With Governor Northam Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, we are well positioned to approach the matter of redistricting in 2021. It is an extremely complicated process. Recently, the courts determined that the House must redraw its districts prior to the end of October. This directive as well as redistricting fairness efforts by the next General Assembly will set the stage for a new state voting map. Elections matter and the 2019 general election will have a long reach over the next decade.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]