Written by Joey Slusher
Virginia, along with a number of states including Kentucky and Mississippi, held state and local elections last Tuesday. This election was set to be a close one in the state, as the Democrats and Republicans went to bat over who would control the Commonwealth’s General Assembly. In an interesting turn of events, the Democrats took control of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. Because Governor Northam’s term does not expire until 2022, this election yielded control of both the legislative and executive branches to the Democrats for the first time in 26 years.
With unified control of the state, Virginia Democrats can begin implementing their legislative agenda without any real objection. One of the first issues that the Democrats will likely seek to address is expanding Medicare, something that the people of Virginia had voted to support and the Republican majority had passed bills to weaken. They will likely also focus on lowering prescription drug costs.
In an interview with Vox, state Delegate Lashrecse Aird said, “[My constituents are] still feeling like there’s a heavy expense for prescription drugs, and they want to know how you’re going to try to get some of these costs down.”
Another pressing issue the Democrats will likely seek to address is gun access reform. After the shooting at Virginia Beach last May, Governor Northam called an emergency session of the General Assembly to address the situation. The Republican majority quickly put an end to the session without seeing a single bill brought to the floor. Governor Northam will likely move to consider reforms aimed at reducing gun violence again now that his party has control.
Other issues, such as raising the state’s minimum wage (which is currently at 7.25 dollars per hour) will also be brought up by the Democrats. They will also likely attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would create more protections against sex-based discrimination.
Additionally, the Democrats will now be the party in power when it comes time for redistricting after the 2020 census. The most recent district map, which had been created by the Republicans, was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2014 due to the benefits it provided the party. This means the Democrats now have the opportunity to create districts that benefit them or general fair districts for the future, which will surely be a difficult question to grapple with going forward.