RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic legislators in Virginia have dramatically reshaped the state in two months, sweeping aside many of the state’s old business-friendly and socially conservative laws and replacing them with a broad, progressive policy agenda.
Lawmakers wrapped up this year’s session Sunday — apart from passing the state budget — after advancing the South’s strictest gun laws, broadest LGBTQ protections and some of its loosest abortion restrictions. Democrats had not had full control of the legislature for more than two decades, and their years of pent-up frustrations yielded one of the most consequential sessions in Virginia’s history.
Some of Virginia’s scores of Confederate monuments could soon be removed under legislation state lawmakers approved Sunday. The Democratic-led House and Senate passed measures that would undo an existing state law that protects the monuments and instead lets local governments decide their fate. The bill’s passage marks the latest turn in Virginia’s long-running debate over how its history should be told in public spaces.
Virginia lawmakers have also approved a broad expansion of gambling options in a state that’s been largely loath to embracing new betting options in the past. Lawmakers gave final approval Sunday to legislation to allow voters in Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk and Portsmouth to hold local referendums later this year on whether to approve casinos. Legislators also have approved the expansion of slot-like machines and signed off on online lottery sales and sports betting. Gov. Ralph Northam still needs to give final approval before the legislation can become law.