Civic Circle: July 2021
New laws went into effect on July 1, 2021. Major criminal justice and democracy reforms have gone into effect. A complete list of new laws can be found here.
Some of the new laws are:
- Legalization of simple possession of marijuana for individuals 21 and older
- Virginia Voting Rights Act which protects voters from discriminatory voting practices
- Abolition of the death penalty
- End to the collection of child support payments from families of children committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice
- Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
- Prenatal Healthcare for undocumented women
- Paid Sick Days for home care workers
- Medicaid dental benefits for adults
- Localities have the authority to provide in-person absentee voting on Sundays
On June 23, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation calling the General Assembly members into a special session on Monday, August 2. A special session is necessary to fill judicial vacancies and allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding.
Earlier this summer, Governor Northam and legislative leaders issued a joint statement outlining their shared priorities for this federal funding:
- Public health. Upgrade long-underfunded state and local public health services, boost affordable housing, and help Virginians with utility costs.
- Small businesses. Fully fund the Rebuild Virginia economic recovery program, invest in Virginia Tourism’s work to recruit visitors back to the Commonwealth, and help the Department of Housing and Community Development support Virginia’s main streets, small towns, and industrial revitalization.
- Workers. Fund the Unemployment Trust Fund to support workers who lose their jobs and avoid increased costs on Virginia businesses. Increase support for the Virginia Employment Commission—historically one of the lowest-funded unemployment systems in the country—to continue upgrading its computer systems and hire necessary staff.
- Public schools. Modernize public school buildings across Virginia by rehabilitating and upgrading existing facilities, improving air quality and HVAC systems, and improving safety.
- Broadband. Accelerate a 10-year plan to ensure universal broadband access within the next 18 months.
Starting July 1, simple possession of marijuana will be legal, but advocates believe there is still work to be done. “Pushing up commercial sales purely for access to weed is not the priority when this always has been and has to be a racial justice issue,” Higgs Wise said. “The July 1 law is rooted in eliminating racist enforcement of simple possession, not to expand access. Because it’s always been accessible, but only certain people have been criminalized for it.” [READ MORE]
Starting July 1, all Virginia public school districts are required to offer in-person instruction, the minimum requirement of lockdown drills per year is reduced down from three to two, and school boards will not be allowed to file lawsuits against students or their parents for not being able to afford a meal at school or having a school meal debt. [READ MORE]
Film Screening & Discussion
July 5 – Join VICPP for their July film series with a screening of The End of The Line – The Women of Standing Rock, followed by a discussion with special guest YoNasDa Lonewolf, a national community organizer, and human rights activist. Register here.
Voter Registration Training 2021
July 11 – It is time to renew your voter registration training. Any group requesting more than 25 voter registration forms from the State Board of Elections is required to register and complete training. This will be conducted by the State Board of Elections and you will get the State certificate. Register here.
Rally for Home Care
July 13 – Join SEIU VA 512 and its members, allies, friends, and family in Washington, DC from across the region as they hold Congress accountable to funding Quality Home Care! The Better Care Better Jobs Act will help ensure good union jobs for care workers, and quality care for consumers and families, but Congress has to pass it! They’re offering FREE buses to transport people from Norfolk, Richmond, and Fairfax to Washington D.C., and back after the rally. Learn more about the event and sign up here.
Town Hall on the American Jobs Plan
July 22 – Join Virginia Interfaith Power & Light and community members in a discussion on the American Jobs Plan and how it affects Virginians and supports environmental justice. Learn more about the event here.