- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus kicked off the new General Assembly session Wednesday by announcing their plans to secure economic and criminal justice priorities.

“We take hold of our opportunity to make a significant difference, whether that’s healthcare, access to the ballot box, whether that’s justice reform, education — you name it,” Chairman Lamont Bagby said at a press conference. “We are excited to champion these causes and look forward to the work.”

The caucus released an outline of its legislative proposals and endorsements Wednesday, which highlight its plans to invest in historically Black colleges and universities, request racial impact statements for new bills and  declare racism a public health crisis.

One of the caucus’ top priorities will be social and criminal justice reforms. The list of proposals includes an effort to rein in qualified immunity legal protections for police officers, require the release of body camera footage, end solitary confinement and abolish the death penalty.

The caucus also is joining Gov. Ralph Northam in pushing to legalize recreational marijuana, in addition to supporting bills that would no longer categorize drug possession as a felony and implement automatic expungement for certain crimes.

“If, after conviction, you go eight years without [another] conviction, your record will be automatically expired. It’s free. It’s equitable and it’s far-reaching,” said Delegate Charniele Herring. 

The caucus also is looking to respond to inequality exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic by supporting additional rental and mortgage assistance, as well as protections against evictions and foreclosures.

The full agenda includes a list of proposals to fund education resources, support the Democratic Party’s paid sick leave drive and new environmental regulations. 

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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