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My fellow Young Democrats-
First and foremost: I want to say that we had an incredible first meeting of the year. We had over 50 people join, including 18 new members who were ready to hit the ground running on our policy goals. Not bad for an off-year. But speaking of policy: we’re in the midst of 2 massively important moments of this year:—the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s Presidency and the Virginia Legislative session.
I want to take a moment to speak about what our power as young people can be in the legislative process. This past weekend, the AYD Executive Board had a planning session and as we were going over our goals for the year, one word stuck while talking about legislation. .
Our mission in regard to legislation in 2021 is to advocate for progressive policies at all levels of government and to hold our elected officials accountable to deliver on those policies.
It is not enough for us to help elect Democrats to office. It is not enough for those candidates to make speeches and promises on progressive policies during a campaign. It is imperative that we as young Democrats are the watchdogs of our own party and that we let everyone know that we may be young, but we are paying attention.
We helped put you in that seat and we can help others do the same thing just as easily. We are the ones who will be living with these policies for years after these legislative bodies are turned over and so we are the ones that will be taking the torch to make sure that our values and principles are acted on today. I implore you as Young Democrats to make sure you pay attention to the legislative process when it comes to the issues that you care deeply about because, as the quote goes “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
So let’s talk legislation folks.
Starting here at home:
I wrote to you 2 weeks ago to talk about some key pieces of legislation and I have some updates.
Any chance we had at true meaningful campaign finance reform: dead in committee. HBs 1756 and 1906 that would have banned donations from for-profit companies were killed.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was withdrawn from the Senate because it didn’t have the votes (still has yet to be heard in the House).
The ban on for-profit prisons failed in the Senate as well.
But, there are bright spots! (Not all mentioned here but some highlights never hurt)
We can still repeal Right to Work! The bill has been referred to the House Labor & Commerce Committee and we need you to contact Chair Jeion Ward to ask her to give HB1755 a hearing and then send it to the House Floor, not a referral to Appropriations.
Richmond Office: (804) 698-1092
District Office: (757) 827-5921
Email: [email protected]
The Green New Deal Act (HB 1937) and the Fossil Fuel Moratorium (HB 2292) have both been assigned to the Labor and Commerce committee. Email the committee now to have the bills put on the docket!
Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s bill for paid sick leave (HB2137) in Virginia has passed all the way to the House Appropriations Committee and it’s time to get that one into the budget!
Del. Sally Hudson’s bill to ensure that abortions are covered by health insurance in Virginia has passed through the House into the Senate! A massive step forward for reproductive health.
Del. Marcus Simon’s bill (HB 2776) to ban the manufacturing of plastic firearms or “Ghost Guns” passed through the House!
Del. Cia Price’s Voting Rights Act of Virginia (HB 1890) which will effectively end discriminatory practices in voting laws is working its way through the House of Delegates.
Sen. Scott Surovell’s bill (SB 1165) to abolish the death penalty is currently on the Senate Floor and the House version has not been assigned yet! It’s time to make Virginia the first Southern state to ban capital punishment.
Del. Sally Hudsons’s drug use and possession Hudson’s bill (HB 2303) to defelonize all and instead would be misdemeanors, ending the mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is still alive in the House!
Finally, the State Senate overwhelmingly voted to censure Sen. Amanda Chase for participating in the rally before the insurrection at the Capitol and because she deemed the rioters “patriots.”
It is key to have legislators hear your voice If any of these pieces of legislation interest you or you want to know where your legislator, call, email, post on their Facebook, Tweet at, and get a meeting with your legislators! To find your Virginia legislators, visit this site.
Now let’s look across the river:
You’ve probably heard this word a lot recently: filibuster.
What is it? Why should you care? What should we do?
Strap in folks, because this is gonna be a long and bumpy one.
A filibuster is an attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter. Under the current rules, the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate (Or at a city council meeting as Leslie Knope demonstrates here.) The filibuster is still considered to be a relic of Jim Crow as it was created by politicians in the 1800’s to increase the power of the slave-holding classes because before the civil war, the Senate was a majority ruled body.
This rule was put in place so a vocal minority would be able to block the vote on the abolition of slavery. Then in 1917, the Senate decided to put a rule that you must have a super majority to end the filibuster which has been amended over time to be ⅗’s of the Senate (or 60 Senators). Now the rule that was supposed to end the filibuster is being used by people like MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell (never get tired of hearing that) to stall votes on important pieces of legislation.
There are other ways to pass bills. The main way to get around this is reconciliation. Reconciliation bills can be passed on spending, revenue, and the federal debt limit, and the Senate can pass one bill per year affecting each subject. Unless the bill affects the budget, it can’t be worked around the filibuster. This will oftentimes end up in attaching line items to budgets that don’t look like they belong, but it’s the only way to pass them.
So TL;DR you would think that a majority to pass things would be 51 votes out of 100 but basically right now, it’s 60 and we have to arbitrarily figure out a fiscal cost on literally every single issue.
Why is this a problem? Well we currently have a 50-50 Senate and in this structure, even in the Minority, the Republicans can dictate whether President Biden’s mission in his first 100 days will be successful or not.
Now how could we get rid of it? Well there is something called the nuclear option that you may have heard of before. The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override a standing rule of the Senate, such as the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules. The option is invoked when the majority leader raises a point of order that contravenes a standing rule, such as that only a simple majority is needed to close debate on certain matters. The presiding officer denies the point of order based on Senate rules, but the ruling of the chair is then appealed and overturned by majority vote, establishing new precedent. The last time this was used was in 2017 when McConnell extended the nuclear option to Supreme Court nominations in order to end debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, reversing his stance after blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland to SCOTUS.
Right now, we need more votes because as of right now, we still have a few holdouts even in the Democratic Caucus: Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema mainly and we need at least 50 votes (so that Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie).
BUT, McConnell said he wanted Democrats to promise to preserve the 60-vote threshold to pass nearly every piece of legislation — a rule known as the filibuster — in exchange for the transfer of control of the Senate's committees. Without the transfer, the Republicans, who are in the minority, would be the chairpeople of the committees instead of the Democrats, who are in the majority.
The last time we had a 50-50 congress was back in 2001 and there was a “power sharing agreement” in which they were able to come to a compromise. McConnell wanted the filibuster to be a part of this compromise to protect Republicans from the “tyrannical majority rule of the ruling party” (sound familiar?), and unfortunately, Manchin and Sinema will still not vote against the filibuster so a compromise is under way.
But, Matt...we’re in the majority why are still compromising, that doesn’t make any sense!
I know right? Wild! So you’re probably wondering what it is that we can do here.
Well, as of right now, it doesn’t appear that we can vote to get rid of the filibuster in THIS Congress. However, how do you get around stuff like this happening where we have a 50/50 split and slim Majority? You boost your numbers.
The best way for us to do this in an easy and effective way: give the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood. Right now, 3.2 million people in Puerto Rico and 712,816 people in DC are American citizens, live under the rule of the American government, and pay taxes, but do not have meaningful representation in Congress. DC has more people living in the area as registered residents (not just transient professionals) currently than Vermont and Wyoming. Puerto Rico has more residents than those 3 areas as well as Iowa, Nevada, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Idaho, West Virginia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Alaska, all of which have 2 Senators.
You give DC and Puerto Rico statehood, you give millions of people, and mainly BIPOC, the representation that they deserve. DC still has one of the highest percentages in terms of populations of Black folks currently (45%) and Puerto Rico has the largest population of Latinos in the United States and accounts for 10% of all Latinos living in the United States. All of these people deserve to have a voice in the legislative branch. Republicans don’t want these populations to have this voice and they have made that clear.
If DC and Puerto Rico achieve statehood, you are almost guaranteed to pick up 4 Democratic Senators. I don’t know about you, I would much rather have a 54 - 50 majority than a 50 - 50 majority in the future. With that, we will have a clear path way to a simple majority for the nuclear option . We have the ability to pass this in the current congress so we should definitely, definitely be pushing for this from our Virginia delegation. So reach out to our Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as Congressman Don Beyer. They are all in support of statehood but need to lean on their colleagues to make it happen.
Make your voice heard today.
Arlington Young Democrats
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The Arlington Young Democrats are a group of progressive and liberal individuals who provide an inclusive, growing, and empowering forum for all community members. We believe in: living our Democratic values, electing leaders who embody these values, elevating the voices of young people within the party at the local, state, and federal level, responding to the needs of the people, and furthering outreach and education while developing our future generation of leaders.
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