The 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly begins Jan. 13. This session will be unique in form and substance. Due to COVID-19 precautions, all public input during committee hearings will be virtual. Also, committees will be addressing far fewer bills than they typically do.
Legislators have been given unusually tight limits on the number of bills they can file. Senators and Delegates are in the process of making difficult decisions about which measures they will propose in 2021 and which ones they may save for a future year. Given these deliberations, very few bills had been filed as of Jan. 4 — the date this article was written.
The Virginia Catholic Conference is monitoring this evolving situation closely. We do know legislation to abolish Virginia’s death penalty will be considered, as will legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults. We will advocate in support of death penalty abolition and in opposition to marijuana legalization.
We also know more proposals are coming soon, though it remains to be seen what exact form they will take. Based upon debates last year, we anticipate efforts to further erode longstanding protections for the unborn and for those who object to paying for abortions. We also expect to see — for the third straight year — legislation attempting to legalize assisted suicide.
In debates on these topics, we will take strong stands for life, conscience and protection for the vulnerable. We will also be deeply involved in discussions on any measures that threaten to roll back hard-fought, broadly supported policies that protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to provide services consistent with their beliefs.
As bills continue to be filed impacting key areas of VCC advocacy such as education, poverty reduction, marriage and family life, access to health care and immigration, we will be on the lookout for emerging opportunities and challenges.
People often ask, “How can I make a difference?” Here are a few ways:
Connect. Visit www.vacatholic.org, where you can click “Join us!” to sign up to receive VCC email alerts, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Each of these platforms will provide action alerts throughout the session – easy and effective ways for you to contact your legislators before they vote on key bills.
Engage. Act on VCC action alerts. Also, seek additional opportunities for “virtual involvement.” As committee hearings are scheduled, we will let members of our email network know of opportunities to testify.
Caruso is executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.