Arlington, VA

Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Democratic victories in the November 5 Virginia legislative elections provide new opportunities to enact excellent legislation. These are a few of the laws that should be enacted relating to women’s rights, gun safety, and voting rights.

Women’s Rights

Virginia should pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Passage of the ERA is an important statement of our aspirations for equal rights for women.

There is a critical need to repeal various extreme provisions in current Virginia law and
regulatory policy that seriously and adversely affect women’s health and bodily autonomy.
These are among the highest priorities for repeal.

  • 24-hour waiting period

Current Virginia law requires a 24-hour waiting period between a request to terminate a pregnancy and that procedure. This provision should be repealed.

  • TRAP

As NARAL pro-choice Virginia explains  (TRAP) laws are burdensome, medically unnecessary regulations designed to shut down reproductive-health-care clinics and make it more difficult for women to access abortion.” These laws should be repealed.

  • vaginal ultrasound

Current Virginia law requires that women undergo an ultrasound before an abortion and be shown an image of the fetus. This law should be repealed.

Given the present uncertainty surrounding whether the U.S. Supreme Court will overrule its decision in Roe v. Wade, Virginia should enact a law guaranteeing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. That law should be as broad as or broader than the rights currently guaranteed by Roe.

Gun Safety

These are examples of common-sense gun safety legislation that should be enacted.

  • expanded local options to prohibit guns in public buildings

Virginia localities like Arlington have very limited powers to regulate the use of guns. An
analysis of the current law is here. Virginia law should be amended to give localities the option to limit the possession of guns in public buildings to only certain categories of owners (e.g., police officers).

  • universal background checks

Virginia law should be amended to require private sellers to conduct background checks
through a central law enforcement agency that has access to federal and state databases of
prohibited purchasers; to maintain records of all firearms transfers for a lengthy period, and to report all transfers to state and local law enforcement.

  • red flag law

A red flag law permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the
temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to themselves or
others. Even Donald Trump has endorsed red flag laws. Unlike 17 other states, Virginia doesn’t have a red flag law. Virginia law should be amended to include one.

  • One-a-month limits.

Virginia used to have a one-gun-a-month law. But Virginia repealed that law in 2012 at the request of the NRA. That law should be re-enacted.

Voting Rights

  • re-districting

Like many other states, Virginia currently has a partisan redistricting system. Even though Democrats will control all three branches of state government starting in 2020, we should resist the temptation to redraw district lines on a partisan basis.

With strong bi-partisan support, Virginia enacted a 2019 law that will lead to a less partisan redistricting system.

An overview of this proposed new Virginia redistricting system is here. The new system establishes an advisory redistricting commission to draw the district lines. The new system is not perfect, but it’s much better than the current system.

In 2019, Virginia legislative leaders assumed that the new system could only be adopted by amending Virginia’s Constitution. Such amendments require three steps: (1) pass a law in one legislative session; (2) pass the identical law in the next legislative session, and (3) voters approve that law in a referendum.

We have accomplished  number (1). Now we need to pass the Constitutional amendment again without changing so much as a comma, and convince voters to vote for it in November 2020.

  • other voting reforms

Virginia also should enact Election Day voter registration, no-excuse voting by mail, further expansion of early in-person voting, automatic restoration of voting rights for ex offenders, and ranked-choice voting.

Conclusion

Let’s take advantage of this great opportunity to create a better Commonwealth by enacting this new legislation relating to women’s rights, gun safety, and voting rights.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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