General Assembly

Hope Floats for end to Gerrymandering

Feb 8, 2015
Elkanah Tisdale

Bills to stop gerrymandering are enjoying an unusual bout of success in the General Assembly this year. While most pundits still think they'll get shot down, the head of a political training center thinks there's momentum for reform.

Ever since 1812, when Massachusetts governor Eldridge Gerry drew ridicule for his party's attempt to draw a district in the shape of a salamander, the practice has been seen as a scourge of democracy. But could Virginia end it? Bob Gibson, the director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, hopes so.

Creative Commons,

Virginia State Senate has passed legislation that would impact state hiring of applicants with criminal convictions. The "Ban the Box" bill would allow to people who were charged or convicted of crimes to advance further in the employment vetting process before a prospective employer could inquire about any criminal history. 

Creative Commons,

After a very spirited debate in the state Senate, charter school proponents win a major victory. Senators passed a resolution to amend the state constitution to give the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools in Virginia. 

Bill supporters argue that Virginia has only seven charter schools, but a far greater number of jurisdictions need more options for students with substandard public schools. Senator Tom Garrett agrees that socio-economic status should not determine a child's quality of education.

Anne Marie Morgan

Public employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be prohibited under legislation that has passed the Virginia Senate.  The bill inserts a policy into state law that has been adopted through executive order by Governor McAuliffe and several other gubernatorial 

  administrations. The commonwealth’s Lieutenant Governor played a key role in the legislation’s passage.

Senator Barbara Favola argued that steps to prohibit workforce discrimination are needed.

Virginia’s Medicaid program provides healthcare for poor children, the elderly and disabled, but working adults rarely qualify.  Experts say as many as 400,000 people could get insurance if the state were to expand its Medicaid program, but there’s another reason why some lawmakers support that idea – it could be good for the economy. 

Opponents say Virginia can’t afford to expand Medicaid - even with the federal government paying 90-100% of the bill, but supporters say failing to expand the program will be even more expensive.