How key state bills were voted on

Louisa County’s representatives in the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate John McGuire and Senators Mark Peake and Bryce Reeves, have voted on numerous bills over the past two months in the Virginia General Assembly.

Many of those votes were cast on Tuesday, the day before bills crossed over from the House of Delegates to the Senate and vice versa.

This is not the end of the review process for these bills. The Senate may have voted in favor of certain gun restrictions, for example, but they may have to vote on a new version of the bill after the House acts on it. Or, the House could kill the bill, or leave it in committee until next year.

Only after the House and Senate agree on legislation can it be sent to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature (or veto).  

The following are some of the key bills that McGuire, Peake and/or Reeves have voted on [Some bills have yet to be voted on by both houses]:

Minimum wage increase: The House passed a bill to raise the minimum hourly pay to $15 by 2023. McGuire voted no. The Senate passed a bill to raise the minimum to $11.50 by 2024, with future increases linked to wages in Northern Virginia, the part of the state with the highest cost of living. Reeves and Peake voted no.

Collective bargaining for public employees: Allows teachers, police officers, fire and rescue personnel and others to negotiate pay and working conditions with county and state governments. McGuire voted no.

Marijuana decriminalization. Rather than facing a criminal misdemeanor charge, people found to possess marijuana would be assessed a $25 to $50 civil penalty. The House bill also calls for a study of the impacts if the state legalizes marijuana. McGuire, Reeves and Peake voted no.

Local control of war memorials: Allows a locality to remove memorials for war veterans located in its public space. Reeves, Peake and McGuire voted no.

End to Lee-Jackson Day: The state would end observance of Lee-Jackson Day in January and replace it with a holiday on Election Day in November. This also affects Louisa County government, which observes state holidays. McGuire, Peake and Reeves voted no.

LGBTQ protections: The Virginia Values Act extends anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ population in jobs and housing and in public accommodations such as restaurants and hospitals. Reeves, Peake and McGuire voted no.

Equal Rights Amendment: Virginia legislators voted to become the 38th state to ratify the amendment, which states that all citizens have equal rights regardless of sex. Reeves, Peake and McGuire voted no.

Assault firearms ban: Prohibits sale or possession of certain guns. McGuire voted no.

Universal background checks: The bill requires a background criminal record check before private individuals sell guns to each other. McGuire voted no.

Red flag law: Allows police to confiscate firearms temporarily when there is evidence a person poses immediate danger to themselves or others. Peake and Reeves voted no.

Work and Save: Authorizes a study to determine the needs of Virginia businesses for a retirement program for their employees. McGuire voted yes.

Redistricting: Establishes a commission to try to eliminate politics and “gerrymandering” from the process of drawing legislative district boundaries. McGuire voted yes on the enabling legislation. Reeves and Peake voted no on the enabling legislation but voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to establish the commission.

Immigrant driver’s license: Allows people who lack documents to be in the United States legally to obtain a driver’s license. Reeves and Peake voted no.

Overdose immunity: Provides immunity from prosecution for illegal drug possession for people who report an overdose and cooperate with authorities. Reeves and Peake voted yes.

Equal taxing authority: Allows counties the same taxing authority as cities, including the right to tax cigarettes, and allows an increase in the meals tax. McGuire, Reeves and Peake voted no.

Clean Economy Act: Mandates more solar and offshore wind as a share of energy produced by the state’s regulated utilities. McGuire, Reeves and Peake voted no.  

Tenant repairs, late fees: These bills allow renters to deduct the cost to make repairs themselves if landlords don’t do it and cap fees landlords can impose if tenants pay rent late. Reeves and Peake voted yes on tenant repairs. McGuire voted no on late fees.  

Stream fencing mandate: Requires farmers to fence their cattle out of perennial streams if they have 20 or more animals. McGuire, Reeves and Peake voted yes.

Same day registration, voter ID repeal, absentee voting: Allows voters to register to vote on the day of an election, repeals the requirement to present photo ID at the polls, and allows absentee voting without an excuse. McGuire voted no to same-day registration and voter ID repeal. He and Peake voted no to easier absentee voting; Reeves voted yes.

Ranked choice voting: Allows localities to adopt an elections system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference on their ballot and votes are reallocated in rounds until the winner has a majority. McGuire voted no.

Ban on skill games: Requires the removal of so-called skill games that are not currently subject to regulation under state law from stores and restaurants. McGuire voted yes.

Fairness in lending: Increases the time borrowers have to pay back short-term loans, such as payday and car title loans, and caps interest rates. McGuire, Reeves and Peake voted no.

Fair Energy Bills Act: Allows state regulators to order Dominion Energy to lower rates and issue refunds in cases where the company is believed to have overcharged them. McGuire voted yes.

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