Way back then, Gov. Doug Wilder was busy rebuilding state finances after a recession, holding the line on taxes, reducing state spending and tackling waste in government programs.
General Assembly Democrats, in the waning years of their century-long dominance of the House and Senate, were generally more conservative, and powerful rural Democrats were still a thriving species.
They weren’t about to approve gun-control legislation, nor were they intent on protecting (or even acknowledging) LGBTQ rights. And the Equal Rights Amendment? Not on their watch.
It all seems like ancient history, if not the history of an alien civilization, compared to the agenda and aims of the new Democratic triumvirate.
As incoming House Majority Leader Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria) told The Post’s Gregory S. Schneider, Democrats are “finally” going to give a range of progressive legislation a hearing (meaning the House, at least, is going to pass it).
In the process, Democrats “can take our first steps toward improving voting rights, preventing gun violence, and recognizing all Virginians as equal regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
By and large, these measures will play well with the Democratic base. And there may be a few Republicans, here and there, who won’t be too put off by proposals such as Herring’s HB 1, which would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. State law now lists the excuses people can use to vote absentee, which is all well and good. But it’s also the kind of law that makes fibbers out of so many otherwise honest people who want to vote but don’t legitimately have one of those state-approved excuses to avoid going to the polls on Election Day.
Making honest voters out of us all should be a bipartisan no-brainer.
Things will get a little more heated with the Equal Right Amendment, which, its uncertain viability aside, is guaranteed to draw a strong challenge from the socially conservative Family Foundation.
In a blog post, Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb says the ERA is the “crown jewel for the ideological left,” that “threatens to enshrine abortion into the U.S. Constitution.”
Yea. That’s going to get ugly, fast.
So, too, will the upcoming struggles over gun control. Democrats want more restrictions, and Del. Ken Plum’s (D-Fairfax) expanded background checks for gun transfers is an indication they intend to get results.
This has infuriated the pro-Second Amendment Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), whose president, Phil Van Cleave, waxed apocalyptic about Democratic gun legislation, warning that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) “has declared war on Virginia’s gun owners.”
While Northam’s refusal to rule out confiscating “assault rifles” gives Van Cleave’s appeal plenty of oxygen, the real thing to watch will be the series of Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
The VCDL has a list of counties considering such a move. In fact, it has already been adopted in Appomattox and Campbell counties and is on the docket in Pittsylvania County. These measures are more about sending a resistance message to Richmond than changing any minds or votes in the general Assembly.
And, undoubtedly, this effort will result in other local governments declaring themselves sanctuaries for whatever issues happen to capture the ideological fancy of the governing majority.
That’s just the beginning. There will be struggles over the state’s right-to-work law, the minimum wage, marijuana policy and more that I’ll write about in the weeks ahead.