Commentary, Local Commentary, National Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

Our Commonwealth lost a valiant Virginian with the passing of Congressman Donald McEachin. During his time in the State Senate, Don served as Caucus Chair, and we worked closely together. He was a true compassionate public servant as well as a beloved husband, father, and friend. May he rest in peace, having fought the good fight and making our world better with his leadership.

The most prevalent November headlines covered all too familiar tragedies – mass shootings. Virginia took center stage with two senseless massacres in less than two weeks. The first act of violence rocked the serenity of the University of Virginia. Three unsuspecting young men full of promise lost their lives when returning to campus after a class field trip. Two others are recovering from gunshot wounds, but will no doubt bear lifelong scars.

Several days later, gunshots rang out in a work break room meeting at Walmart in Chesapeake. Again, the victims knew their assailant and the tragedy’s impact will be felt exponentially as friends and families of the deceased are left wondering why their loved ones fell victim to a madman that easily accessed guns on the morning of their murders.

Sandwiched between these two senseless events, another assailant opened fire in a Colorado Springs nightclub. Hate, likely mental illness, and easy access to weapons are the universal threads woven into these stories of human carnage. When we return to Richmond in January, we will focus on gun violence, the biggest domestic issue facing our country today. 

As the death toll mounts from gun violence and pervasive mental illness intensifies, root causes for gun violence remain divergent depending on what side of the aisle one sits on. Let me be clear there not a unilateral solution to stemming senseless bloodshed in this nation or the Commonwealth. I will continue to lead the fight for a safer Commonwealth and make the investments we need to address the underlying causes.  

The midterm elections occurred without any noticeable voter fraud, thus sending a clear message to election deniers that our nation’s democracy supersedes “the great lie.” Despite the Republican rhetoric of a red wave, the narrow majorities in both the Senate and House reflect similarities in Virginia’s General Assembly. Congresswoman Elaine Luria has a long record of service to this country including her work on the January 6 Commission. Her loss comes at the expense of our Commonwealth and the nation.  

Under Democratic leadership, we passed legislation to provide easier access to voting. Data indicates that increased voter participation in 2022 in what is usually a lower voter turnout cycle. Absentee voting without an excuse, early in-person voting, and same day registration helped produce what is now seen as record turnout in this off-year election. Removing hurdles and due diligence keep our democracy healthy and working. This is worth fighting for, and the Senate Democrats will continue to ensure this hard fought right prevails.  

The Governor and his Administration have gone to great lengths to put their imprimatur on public education. Their latest misstep attempts to rewrite history through a very white lens. Absent in SOL recommendations were major gaps in the hard-fought Civil Rights movement along with recognized leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For the record, Native Americans were NOT the first immigrants. Learning loss should not be mistaken for learning less.    

This is not acceptable leadership and it’s time to halt the rewind. I remain committed to the public education system serving most students in our localities. The Senate Democrats will continue to make sure all children have a fighting chance at success especially as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. 

Traditionally, fall sees time reserved for analysis of the current budget year. Thus far, Virginia has proven to be flush with its revenue stream while keeping its expenses in check. In a few short weeks, the governor (now approaching a year on the job), will propose amendments for the current fiscal year. Economic indicators are suggesting Virginia is not yet out of the woods and mirrors much of the national economic recovery. This will be the guiding compass we use when making amendments to our recently adopted biennial budget.  

It doesn’t require a degree in economics to know reducing a revenue stream will limit future investments in academia, healthcare, state employee compensation, and community wellbeing. The stage is set for a most contentious 2023 legislative session as Republicans try to regroup and prepare for the next round of elections in November 2023.   

Best wishes to you and yours for a joyous holiday season and a happy New Year.