In the wake of elections this month, the first bills and resolutions for the 2020 General Assembly have already been filed. Prominent Democrats have promised a “new” Virginia, and the early legislative proposals already are shaping up to have catastrophic effects on the Commonwealth. Democrats, with their slurry of new proposals, are prepared to change the face of Virginia and dismantle the simple rules under which ordinary Virginians have prospered. Some changes such as decriminalization of marijuana are welcome and even necessary, but for the most part I fear that this new Democratic trifecta in Richmond will have negative effects on prosperity in Virginia.
Economically, incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw proposed a bill for a five-year shift to a 15 dollar minimum wage, statewide. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major association of private businesses, has indicated that a minimum wage increase would have serious adverse effects on small businesses, nonprofits and the low-skill workers. Conventional economic wisdom has repeatedly shown that minimum wage increases often hurt the poor when they bind employers to a higher level of pay than is feasible for a business.
While the damage from a minimum wage increase may be negligible in wealthier areas — such as Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads — where employers already choose to offer higher wages according to market pressures, they will hurt the more rural, low-wage regions of Virginia. If Democrats did want to alleviate many low-wage concerns without a heavy-handed approach that hurts workers, they would instead simply raise the $2.13 tipped worker minimum wage to be in line with the general purpose $7.25. As Saslaw’s bill stands, lower cost of living regions in Virginia will suffer.
Another frightening set of propositions for the 2020 session are a slew of useless gun control proposals, a start to exactly what many Republican legislators warned us about. The most egregious and deleterious regulation of the lot is the proposed “assault weapons” ban, which defines that term as pretty much any modern firearm, including the most ubiquitous and popular firearms purchased for self-defense as well as hunting. These new regulations would effectively disarm Virginians, and will tie up Virginia courts in litigation for years. Another poorly thought out gun regulation would prohibit carry of firearms in government buildings, which would successfully deter exactly zero shootings, as prohibition of carry in schools already has. These new gun regulations will certainly make Virginia less safe and less prepared for emergencies. Though Gov. Ralph Northam might tout them as “common sense” gun reforms, many of the proposed changes are anything but. I can only hope gun crimes will not rise as Virginians are only made more vulnerable.
Going through Northam’s poorly chosen endorsements, another familiar scandal to those monitoring the Virginia political sphere has returned for the 2020 session. Del. Kathy Tran’s bill to loosen late-term restrictions on abortions has been filed in the Senate, along with a constitutional amendment to prohibit meaningful restrictions on abortion in Virginia. Though I am not friendly to the camp of full-on abortion restrictionism that is prevalent among my fellow conservatives, I believe these bills do nothing to actually reach solutions to the core issue — reducing unwanted pregnancies, which would consequentially lower abortion counts. They simply serve as fuel for the partisan dumpster fire that is the abortion debate, and further distance the Democratic party from the old line of “safe, legal and rare. ”
The example set by Colorado in its statewide intrauterine device program has shown that the best way to achieve satisfactory moral ends, such as reduction in abortion numbers and reduction of state expenditure, is evidence based policy. Democrats here in Virginia ought to consider more effective means to provide reproductive freedom to women, while also saving on Medicare healthcare costs and reducing abortion counts in the Commonwealth. No matter how you look at it, the aggressively “progressive” stance the new General Assembly is shaping up to take on abortion is harmful to useful healthcare reform, squandering the opportunity Democrats have to breathe new life into Virginia’s take on this policy.
I am disappointed, but not surprised by the newly proposed legislative measures. Some good proposals, such as protections for student journalists, are overshadowed by poorly crafted laws and regulations. My hopes for a productive two years under Democratic control in Virginia are low, and as a result I counsel Virginians to prepare for partisan controversy after controversy, driven by radical new laws from leftist legislators. This is, after all, only the beginning of a “blue” Virginia. I hope I am wrong, and the General Assembly is willing to do work that truly helps Virginians the Commonwealth across, but I’m not holding my breath.
Bilge Batsukh is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.