Things have been pretty heated in the General Assembly this week, as they have taken up bills (at the behest of the Youngkin Administration) to ban teaching “divisive concepts, while Republicans show plenty of divisive concepts of their own.
Check out some of the bills we’ve seen this week:
“Divisive concepts” in these bills:
Bills to ban books and censor what books kids can choose at the school library: HB1032, LaRock-HD33; SB275, DeSteph-SD8. DeSteph said Lolita was an “international work of literary art” that he’d read many times, but that he didn’t see the point of Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.
Plenty of bills to ban teachers from teaching “divisive concepts”, such as that the United States is fundamentally racist or that anyone bears responsibility for the acts of their ancestors (HB787, LaRock-HD33; HB1068, Cordoza-HD91; SB570, KIggans-SD7); or that anyone is inherently privileged by virtue of their race (HB977, McGuire-HD56; HB1126, Avoli-HD20).
Using religion to discriminate:
Senator Peake (SD22) said the whole point of his bill, SB177 (and HB753, Adams-HD16) is “they would be allowed to discriminate against people that they do not feel follow their religious beliefs–this is the whole point of it, it gives them the ability to discriminate against people that conflict with their religious beliefs.”
HB988 (Wyatt, HD97) and SB20 (Hackworth, SD38) would repeal the requirement schools follow the VDOE model policy for the treatment of transgender students.
(Kiggans, SD-7) called her SB766 a “Protect Women’s Sports” bill, but it actually prevents transgender girls from playing sports on girls teams at school, and carries the transphobic title “Schools; male students shall not participate in female sports”
Calling it discrimination when it’s based on COVID choices:
SB582 (Chase-SD11) takes the Virginia Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of protected statuses–race, religion, age, sexual orientation etc. and then…adds on discrimination on the basis of choosing not to wear a mask during COVID.
And if you like that, here’s SB548 (Chase-SD11), which does the same thing but for choosing not to be vaccinated for COVID. See also HB512 (March-HD7).
Bloodbath in House Crim Sub:
For the last four sessions and special sessions, the House Criminal Subcommittee had the reputation of being the most deliberative place in the General Assembly. With lots of bills and each one getting excruciating scrutiny, meetings often ran hours, with Chair Mike Mullin sometimes bringing in pizza. Not so anymore–now it’s just a rubber “NO” stamp, with no deliberation. Here’s a list of good bills that have been killed in Crim Sub, most with almost zero discussion:
HB375 (Williams Graves-HD90) shortens period of limitations for collecting court fines and fees to 3 years (from 60).
HB620 (Hudson-HD57), eliminating interest accruing on court fines and fees.
HB866 (Lopez-HD49), shortening misdemeanor sentences by one day to avoid triggering deportation action against legal residents who commit minor infractions.
HB501 (Mullin-HD93), giving the accused a chance to observe police records and other files the prosecution has collected in his case.
HB799 (Price-HD95) preventing assessment of collection fees on court fines and fees while a person is still incarcerated or in the first 90 days thereafter.
HB1241 (Avoli-HD20) explicitly allowing local prosecutors to use pre-trial diversion programs in place of prosecuting criminal charges.
HB369 (Williams Graves-HD90) would make the first time an individual appears in court productive, where counsel is appointed, information is exchanged, and counsel has time to confer, etc.
…and more news from Richmond
Attorney General power grab failed in Senate: SB563, to let the AG step in and prosecute cases without the consent of locally- elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys, failed in the Senate Judiciary. Even the conservative Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys opposed it. A House version HB1198 (Bell-HD58) is still pending.
GOP ableist voting policies: With no discussion, House P&E kills HB974 (Simon-HD53) that would add people with developmental disabilities to those who can vote curbside. And in the Senate P& E Committee, Amanda Chase repeatedly urged in-person Election Day voting, saying “we go to the market, we go to the library, if we try hard, we can make it to the polling place.”
Senate and House votes on the Governor’s nominations for Cabinet positions are expected next week. Former Trump EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler, nominated to be Secretary of Natural Resources, appeared this week before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees. Delegate Lopez (HD-49) asked him about his record at EPA, where he “intentionally tried to dismantle the agency, sidelined scientists…gutted coal ash rules…rolled back Clean Water Act Protections…slammed vehicle emissions rules into reverse…and cut funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program 90%.” Meanwhile, the nominee for Secretary of Finance couldn’t answer a simple question about school funding, calling it “not in his swim lane,” which is pretty worrisome, since school funding makes up over a third of the annual budget.
If any of the above bills are important to you, now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them how this bill affects you and your family. Contact information for Delegates and Senators can be found HERE; if you aren’t sure who represents you, put your address in HERE to find out.
Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network
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