Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates vowed Monday to fight for prison and health-care reforms, more education funding and better job training during the General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, which starts Wednesday.
At a press conference, 18 of the 33 Democratic delegates detailed their caucus’ plan to support Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s workforce initiative, called “the New Virginia Economy.”
“We support the governor’s initiative so that we can invest in Virginia,” said Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “Together we can pave the way forward creating programs and job training for jobs that exist today, so that people can get the training that they need, jobs they desperately need, to be filled right here at home.”
The House minority leader, Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, agreed.
“Workforce training is significant, but it’s not just workforce training to give people a certificate for a job that exists,” Toscano said. “Otherwise we’re wasting people’s time, and putting people more in debt, and then people are not getting good jobs that pay them a living wage.”
The delegates expressed confidence that they would also be able to accomplish their goals despite being outnumbered by Republicans, who make up 67 of the 100 House members.
“I think by nature, the general sense of this group is we’re pretty optimistic people, and we believe in the power of rational argument,” Toscano said. “And we do believe that when you look at the financial elements of this, it has to appeal to people who look at things financially.”
As part of a “wide variety of public safety and criminal justice reforms,” Toscano said Virginia Democrats also support laws they believe will reduce gun violence.
“It’s important at least in our view that we get mandatory universal background checks, that we close the gun-show loophole, that we provide better protection for those who have gotten protective orders against folks who might hurt them,” he said.
Toscano said Democrats would support Senate Bill 49, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston. It would prohibit anyone who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm; currently, such individuals are prohibited only from purchasing or transporting firearms.