Local Commentary

Senator Saslaw’s Richmond Report

Last week, Virginians went to the polls to vote for their representatives in the statehouse. This year’s election was all about the local offices as well as all 140 seats in the General Assembly.

I want to thank you for your continued support. Although I was unopposed in the general election, last June I prevailed in my party’s primary. This gave me the opportunity to continue my leadership efforts across the Commonwealth to help bring about change in the legislature. Going door to door, I found people have concerns that the Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Delegates have not and would not address. With the most expensive campaigns in the history of the Commonwealth behind us, the die has been cast for a future we can all embrace.

Continuing my role as Democratic leader, I will reach across both sides of the aisle to foster working relationships that set the tone for a productive legislative session. Public safety is a responsibility that elected officials will prioritize in the 2020 legislative session. Children should be safe in their academic environment. Parents and loved ones should be able to rest assured our kids will come home with skills for their future that don’t necessarily include “active shooter training.”

Gun violence prevention will be addressed with respect to what works best for our society. I am a veteran. I have fired rifles to flamethrowers. Let me tell you there is absolutely no place in Virginia where a civilian will need a bump stock or a high-capacity assault weapon to protect themselves or hunt. I also believe it is time to raise the age to purchase or possess a gun. Even members of the NRA believe background checks are appropriate.

Virginia has an infamous chapter of discrimination in its past. Today, we still discriminate against communities of people (women, gays, race, and ethnic groups) whether overtly or tacitly, in educational opportunities, housing, the workplace, etc. We will right this wrong with written law rather than a temporary executive action.

We can look across the Potomac River and without much effort see the unveiled assault on women’s rights. It’s embarrassing that the cradle of democracy in this great nation has yet to pass the ERA amendment. I applaud the diligent and dedicated people that have led this effort for far too many decades. We will work on its passage with the change of majorities.

I could not be clearer about the most personal decision a human being can make when it comes to the autonomy of a woman’s body. Over the last decade, Republicans have put up more hurdles than an Olympian could jump for ways to take away a women’s right to choose. Make no mistake about it — U.S. Senate Republicans purposely denied President Obama a Supreme Court appointment and the Religious Right didn’t join forces with Trump because of the exemplary life he has led. The states must do due diligence for the long battle ahead regarding new court appointees.

As a small business owner and someone with a perspective on the cost of government services, I am ready to continue the unfinished fight for working people to earn sustainable wages. No one should be forced to work two or three jobs so that they and their family can eke out a living in the Commonwealth. When I talk to many adult parents, they are often helping out their adult children or grandchildren who need to boost their finances or help retire the debt from a higher education degree. We will start with an incremental plan to raise the minimum wage. Lifting people up will free up more investment monies for higher education. And I might add, we must stay on top of competitive teacher pay. Professionals like educators, police and emergency responders should be able to live near where they work.

These are just a few of the issues we will tackle in the upcoming session of the newly minted General Assembly. It is my personal mission to use my institutional history, professional experiences and relationships to govern with compassion, fair mindedness, and temperance. Virginians are counting on us to serve with their best interests in the forefront. We’ve a lot to do and I promise to live up to the faith the voters have put into me and these newly elected legislators.

Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.