The 2020 Session of the Virginia General Assembly is off and running—and it is exciting to see an increasingly diverse group of elected leaders consider so many new policy initiatives that have the potential to make Virginia a stronger, healthier and more just Commonwealth for all. In addition to the much publicized, celebrated and long overdue ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, policy leaders are considering measures that would:
- Expand access to safe and affordable housing, particularly for those who have faced discrimination in the past, including victims of domestic violence, those with low incomes, and LGBTQ people;
- Support workers and promote economic security through increasing the minimum wage, extending the minimum wage to more workers, requiring employers to provide vital forms of leave including paid family and medical leave, and eliminating barriers to safety net programs such as TANF and SNAP for those who rely on those programs when they cannot participate in the workforce; and
- Restore agency to all of those who need and benefit from reproductive health services by removing barriers that have been erected in recent years and taking bold steps to protect the reproductive liberty of all Virginians.
The Prevention Institute, a national nonprofit whose mission is “to build prevention and health equity into key policies and actions at the federal, state, local, and organizational level to ensure that the places where all people live, work, play and learn foster health, safety and wellbeing,” recently published an excellent report on preventing domestic violence. The report describes a trajectory of factors that contribute to high rates of domestic violence and suggests policy initiatives that can counteract those factors. Three of the most significant contributors to that trajectory toward perpetration of domestic violence are housing insecurity, lack of living wages, and barriers to obtaining health care, including reproductive health care. Imagine what could happen in our communities if these were eliminated!
Three of the most significant contributors to that trajectory toward perpetration of domestic violence are housing insecurity, lack of living wages, and barriers to obtaining health care, including reproductive health care. Imagine what could happen in our communities if these were eliminated!
A fourth significant contributing factor is “low participation and willingness to act for the common good.” One measure of participation and acting for the common good in any community is engagement in the democratic process—working with others to improve your community, using your voice in community forums, and voting. The 2020 General Assembly will consider numerous bills to make it simpler for individuals to be engaged and act for the common good. From no–excuse absentee voting to making Election Day a holiday to establishing in our Virginia Constitution that voting is a right for all adults that may not be taken away for any reason—there are many improvements being considered.
The work of the Action Alliance encompasses not only ensuring effective interventions and protections for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence, but also preventing violence. One important way that we do this is through building thriving communities where all people can access safe and affordable housing and engage in meaningful and equitably compensated work. In these communities everyone would have access to the full spectrum of resources needed to be healthy and well, and all people would be valued. These communities would be sustained by citizens who are engaged with each other and committed to democratic decision-making, protecting and exercising their right to vote. Consider increasing your engagement during this 2020 General Assembly Session and be a part of bringing us one step closer to future communities where sexual and intimate partner violence might well be a thing of the past.
Curious to learn more about any of these bills? You can go the Legislative Information Services website and search by topic to learn more. Just enter the topic that interests you and the year 2020 for links to bills on that topic. The Action Alliance will also be providing a report after the Session concludes and the Governor has signed or vetoed most major legislation highlighting new policy that will become law. You can then be a part of ensuring their effective implementation in your community!
One important set of bills that we would like you to consider are House Bill 1015 and Senate Bill 297 which establish a new Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Fund in Virginia, and their companion budget items which would make $5 million available for prevention initiatives across Virginia. Reach out to your local Delegate and Senator and let them know how important it is that we invest in prevention now so that future generations of young people have a greater chance to have lifelong relationships that are healthy and safe.