The 2020 Virginia legislative session is under way and LAJC has put forth an ambitious set of priorities to advocate for this year. With the legislature looking to take on some long-standing issues that affect our communities, we are optimistic that meaningful policy change is possible and are working with our elected representatives to help make it happen.
This year our focus is on:
A Better Education
From pushing to fully and equitably fund our state’s K-12 public education system (see our Fund Our Schools campaign) to ending the criminalization of students for “disorderly conduct,” to stopping school pushout through unnecessary suspensions and expulsions, we are working with policy makers to ensure all students in Virginia have a chance to succeed.
Pretrial Detention and Decriminalizing Poverty
This year we hope to see the permanent end of both driver’s license suspensions due to unpaid court fines and the unconstitutional “habitual drunkard” statute that preyed on the homeless and those struggling with the illness of alcoholism. We are also working to shed light on our pretrial system in Virginia courts where too many innocent people are being held in jail prior to ever seeing a trial resulting in housing instabillty, employment issues, and strained family relationships.
Protecting Immigrant Virginians
We are working in tandem with other immigrants’ rights groups to advocate for more rights and better protections for our immigrant community members. This includes fighting to end the mandate that local law enforcement report to Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE), advocating for in-state tuition for immigrant who arrived too late for DACA eligibility, pushing to get drivers licenses for all residents of the state regardless of immigration status, and ensuring that farmworkers are included in minimum wage increases and have stronger health and safety protections.
We are also actively supporting other legal and advocacy organizations in their fights for better housing, healthcare, and other issues affecting low-income Virginians.
It is a long list, but we are committed to seeing it through this session and have already had a number of issues move forward in the General Assembly:
The bill that would provide “Driver’s Licenses for All” passed through the Senate Transportation Committee
The Legislation that will decriminalize disorderly conduct in schools passed through the House Courts Committee
The bill that ends the mandated reporting to ICE from local law enforcement has made it through both the House Courts Committee and the Senate Judicary Committee
One of a series of bills addressing pretrial detention—this would mandate an attorney be present when a person first appears in a court—was heard in a sub-committee and moved through and referred to the appropriations committee
And that is just a small sample of the news that is coming out of the Pocahontas building at the State Capital on a daily basi