Commentary, Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court enshrined a woman’s constitutional right to choose in its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Nearly 50 years later, a dramatically different Court returned us to a darker time with a decision that is disturbing and just plain wrong.

The Court’s stark conservative shift was cemented by its June 24, 2022, decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which rolled back women’s reproductive rights a half century and made clear that same-sex marriage, access to contraception and other common-sense rights enjoyed by millions of Americans may soon be on the chopping block.

Here in the Commonwealth, Governor Glen Youngkin was quick to capitalize on the decision and announce his intention to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This is what happens when you put Republicans in office. They may tell you they support women, but every time they get a chance to meddle with a woman and her reproductive health, they will. Just two weeks ago, 100 percent of the Republicans in the General Assembly supported the governor’s amendment attempting to ban abortion for those who are financially unable to obtain one even in cases of rape, incest and gross fetal abnormalities. I guarantee you that if this Commonwealth elects a Republican General Assembly next year, within one week of the 2024 legislative session, Governor Youngkin will make sure we follow the misguided path of Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and other states that have radically curtailed a woman’s right to decide what she does with her body.

In a good news story from work done under previous administrations, the Virginia economy continues to make a steady comeback. This is evidenced by the low unemployment numbers as well as the continued investments businesses are making in the Commonwealth. It is gratifying to note that the Virginia Economic Development Partnership has successfully transitioned leadership and continues on a positive trajectory for attracting new business development. The support and vision of the past administrations have guided this success.

Another headline worth reading is that infants and toddlers can now receive the Covid-19 vaccine. In a continuing effort to put the pandemic behind us, the FDA has approved Covid-19 vaccinations for children under the age of 5. With science as the compass, we have learned a lot about the virus over the past two years, including that the virus did not discriminate by age, gender, or race.

It claimed both the most vulnerable and those who thought they were in the prime of their lives. Vaccinating our youngest is another tool we have to combat this beastly illness. The facts speak for themselves. Hospitalizations and mortalities are lowest where vaccine rates have been the highest in local communities.

The General Assembly sent more than 800 bills covering a myriad of subjects to the governor’s desk for signature, veto, or amendment. The majority of these bills were signed into law and went into effect on July 1. I call your attention to some of the more notable new laws:
HB 1350/SB 87 — Adds important guardrails for dogs and cats bred for experimentation and prevents dealers or breeders from operating in the Commonwealth if they have received a certain number of Animal Welfare Act violations; HB 497/SB 124 — This law makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for an agent under a power of attorney to knowingly engage in financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult; HB 740/SB 729 — This law makes it a Class 6 felony for a person to willfully break, steal, tamper with etc., any part of a vehicle’s catalytic converter; HB 4/SB 36 — This law requires that school principals report to law enforcement certain acts that may constitute a misdemeanor offense and report to the parents of any minor student who is the specific object of such an act that the incident has been reported to law enforcement; HB 525/SB 439 — This bill requires each institution to maintain and publicly report actual findings of violations of the institution’s code of conduct or of federal or state laws pertaining to hazing that are reported to campus authorities or local law enforcement; HB 1191/SB 361 — This law dictates that every locality must have protocols in place for a diversion of certain 911 calls to crisis call centers and for law enforcement participation in the Marcus alert system.

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable month of July.

Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]