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Potential new state laws coming soon

The Virginia General Assembly reached the halfway point of the 2020 Session on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Known as Crossover, this is the point at which the House and Senate exchange legislation and begin to work on the other chamber’s bills.

I wanted to take a moment to renew my commitment to you and the citizens of the 59th District, as well as my dedication to the principles you elected me to uphold.

This year has seen many changes in the General Assembly, as Republicans are in the minority for the first time in two decades. Democrats have wasted no time in moving to overturn years of Republican-crafted legislation that has protected individual liberties, positioned Virginia to have the nation’s top business environment, and take into account the diverse needs of Virginia’s localities.

Democrats have approved legislation that will make a number of major changes to Virginia, including the following:

Taxes: increase taxes for cigarettes, admissions, meals, and lodgings without a voter referendum — totaling up to $528 million. Another bill would allow localities to enact taxes on plastic bags.

Labor: HB 582 would repeal the ban on collective bargaining for public employees. HB 833 would require government contractors to pay the prevailing (union scale) wage.

Public Safety: HB 34 would make it harder to prosecute drunk drivers, while HB 33 would grant eligibility for parole to an estimated 280 violent offenders in Virginia.

Immigration: HB 1150 would eliminate the requirement that jail/prison officials determine the citizenship status of inmates. Other bills would allow undocumented noncitizens to obtain Virginia driver’s licenses and receive in-state tuition at state universities.

Firearms: The House Democrats passed eight bills endorsed by Governor Northam, including HB 421, which would allow any locality to pass its own criminal ordinances covering possession of firearms, and HB 961, which forbids purchase or sale of certain firearms.

Statues: HB 1625 will empower localities to remove Civil War — and other war — statues.

Abortion: House Democrats passed HB 980, which would eliminate most legal restrictions on abortions in Virginia, including the waiting period.

Republicans have voiced numerous concerns about the unintended consequences that these potential new laws may pose to the rights of Virginians. We have urged Democrats to consider the economic toll that raising the minimum wage would place on small businesses; we have pressed them to understand the need to protect unborn life, and we have fought to preserve the rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution, including our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I would like to reassure you that your concerns have not gone unheard. I value you as a constituent and take your concerns into account daily. Many of my constituents have reached out to me this session with thoughts and questions regarding firearm legislation in both the House and Senate. I have even had the privilege of meeting with some of you at my Richmond office to discuss this very important matter.

Please know that you have an advocate in the General Assembly, and that I will do everything in my power to protect your Second Amendment rights.

As we move forward with the rest of the 2020 session, I hope you will continue to follow what I have been doing in Richmond.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.