Three Central Virginia legislators met with constituents on Thursday to outline some of the initiatives they plan to tackle in the upcoming General Assembly session.
Del.-elect Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, and Sens. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, and Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, spoke at a legislative session at the University of Virginia.
The lawmakers were asked questions from the audience on topics ranging from climate change to election reform.
“This is going to be an interesting session,” Deeds said.
Deeds said the General Assembly will discuss topics that weren’t given “due diligence” in the past, now that Democrats will have control of both chambers.
“I think you’re going to see an awful lot of stuff like that move in Richmond in the next couple of months,” Hudson said.
Hudson predicted that the Equal Rights Amendment would be one of the “first things to move” in the General Assembly session. She also advocated for anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment and housing.
Ivy Hinton, a former chair of the Charlottesville Democratic committee, asked how the legislators could use their position to enhance the relationship between UVa and the city.
UVa Rector Jim Murray responded and highlighted President Jim Ryan’s community working group and strategic plans.
“This is not just a generalized promise,” Murray said. “This is something that has real concrete meat behind it.”
Murray said UVa has “bold plans” to tackle affordable housing needs and hopes to announce a project by March.
Deeds didn’t answer and Reeves had left for a family obligation. Hudson said legislators could advocate for funding of university projects.
The three lawmakers voiced support for Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed G3 bill that would make community college free for some students.
The proposal would give low-income students funds to pursue degrees in certain high-demand fields.
Hudson said the proposal is a bit too complicated, but she supports the trend to make community college free.
On climate change, Deeds advocated for more renewable sources of energy and Hudson called for revisions to tackle emissions. Hudson said she’s introducing legislation allowing localities to tax or ban single-use plastics.
The lawmakers talked about rural broadband, with Deeds saying it’s tied into health care in rural areas.
“The only way we’re going to be able to provide people services is through telehealth,” he said.
Deeds, Hudson and Reeves supported measures to increase voter turnout.
Hudson said she will introduce legislation allowing localities to opt in to ranked-choice voting mechanisms for their elections.
Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank the candidates for office on their ballot. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote on the first count, the candidate with the lowest vote total is removed and the results are recalculated.
Hudson said the system could eliminate the need for primary elections because more than one party candidate can appear on the general election ballot.
“It saves the localities money,” she said.
Deeds and Reeves support a redistricting commission that wouldn’t include General Assembly members, although the legislature passed a bill in 2019 that would create a commission of both legislators and non-legislators.
“I am a byproduct of being in a gerrymandered district,” Reeves said. “I think we owe it to Virginians to bring a fair process to that and take as much politics out of it.”