In 2021, Virginia took huge steps toward creating a more equitable Commonwealth.  But that progress came to a halt during a tough 2022 session, as a new administration and legislature assumed leadership.  We expect the 2023 session to be just as challenging.  

Since the new administration took office, attacks on civil liberties and civil rights have increased on all fronts – abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, criminal legal reform, as well as First Amendment and privacy rights. We’ll be heading into the 2023 legislative session with a two-pronged approach. We will do whatever it takes to block bills that seek to roll back the progress we have made.  At the same time, we will be proactively pushing several bills – some new, and some we and our partners have been working on for years.  

To be successful, we need you to let lawmakers know exactly what Virginians believe. This year is a short session – only 45 days – but we’ve got a full legislative agenda.   

Reproductive Freedom

We’ll fight to defeat any bill that takes away a person’s right to decide what to do with their body. 

burgundy background with abortion pills and a sign that says "so grateful for my safe abortion"

That includes the governor’s 15-week abortion ban, or any other legislation that seeks to restrict access to reproductive healthcare. The decision to have or not have children should be in the hands of people, not politicians. We are also exploring options to permanently guarantee a right to reproductive freedom in our Commonwealth and will continue to work with our partners to determine the best path forward. 

Bills we're watching:

  • HB1395 (total abortion ban): HB1395 is a “life at conception” bill that outright bans abortion, regardless of circumstances, and may also prohibit some forms of contraception. We oppose it.
  • HB2278 (15-week abortion ban): HB2278 bans abortion after 15 weeks, giving the government control of Virginians’ private reproductive decisions. We emphatically oppose it.
     

LGBTQ+ Rights

The current administration seems to be focused on violating the rights and erasing the existence of LGBTQ+ people, especially young people. 

A banner reading "Protect trans kids"

We will fight to block any bill that will result in harm or discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in our communities and in our schools.

Bills we're watching:

  • SB791 (trans healthcare ban): SB791 would prohibit healthcare professionals from providing or even referring transgender teenagers for medically necessary health care. It also erodes current protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in health insurance and requiring coverage of gender affirming care for adults by making that coverage optional. We oppose it.
  • HB1387, HB1399, SB911, SB962, and SB1186 (trans sports ban): These bills would ban transgender students from participating in sports teams that match their gender identity and discriminate against them based on harmful myths about trans athletes. We oppose them.
  • HB1707 equates being trans with the risk of being suicidal to justify the forced outing of trans youth. It would lead to further stigmatization and harm of trans youth.
  • HB2432 seeks to narrow the legal definition of “abuse and neglect” when it is applied to trans kids.
  • HB1434 would require a court order to change a student's name on any school record. Such a requirement is unnecessary and risks creating a hostile learning environment.
  • HJ532/SJ242 is a procedural step to amend the Virginia Constitution to remove the outdated, defunct ban on same-sex marriage.
  • HB2170 would require parental consent and notification whenever a student participates in a school club, such as a Gender-Sexuality Alliance or Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. In effect, it would deter youth from joining certain school clubs out of fear of being outed.

School Censorship

The administration has prioritized classroom censorship with attempts to ban “divisive concepts” and has emboldened attempts across the state to ban books – typically authored by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people.

Collage-style graphic of a classroom with blackboard, chairs, tables, dialogue bubbles, and a student wearing backpack with their back to the viewer.

We will bring the full weight of our efforts to kill legislation that seeks to further censor books or ban the teaching of inclusive history in our schools. Such legislation is not good for students, for families, or for Virginia.

Voting Rights

In recent years, Virginia went from being the second hardest state in the country in which to vote to being among the top states for ease of voting.

graphic with hands dropping ballots into a box

We will oppose any and all efforts to roll back that progress. And we have not lost sight of the need for an equitable Amendment that guarantees the right to vote for every Virginian over the age of 18. 

Bills we're watching:

  • HB 1444 reduces the in-person absentee voting time period from 45 days to 7 days, repeals provisions for voters without photo ID, and repeals the permanent absentee voter registration list.
  • HB 1467 shortens the early voting period, reduces the in-person absentee voting time period from 45 days to 4 days, eliminates ballot drop-off locations, and voids any ballot without a voter’s lasrt 4 digits of their social security numbera and a witness signature.
  • SB 794 replaces any ballot cast without a photo ID with a provisional ballot, which could hinder voters or disqualify otherwise-valid votes.

Second Look

We’ll once again work hard to pass Second Look legislation this year.

Graphic of prison door open and two hands in each other to symbolize people coming home from prison

Second Look allows people who’ve taken steps to rehabilitate themselves to go back before a judge to show they’ve done the work to merit a reduced sentence. Data shows that extremely long sentences don’t increase public safety. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Bills we're watching:

  • SB842 (Second Look legislation): SB842 seeks to give people who have rehabilitated and are no longer a threat to public safety a second chance at resentencing and coming home to their families. We strongly support it.

Prison and Jail Profiteering

Last year, instead of passing bills to reduce profiteering in Virginia’s prisons and jails, legislators turned those proposals into studies. This year, we’ll be supporting these bills as they return to the General Assembly.

Graphic with prison phone and a pregnant incarcerated woman to symbolize conditions behind bars

Incarcerated people and their families are deeply burdened by price-gouging for commissary goods and services like phone calls and emails. Families with incarcerated loved ones should not be funding prisons and jails, and they shouldn’t have to go into debt just to stay in touch with their loved ones.

Bills we're watching:

  • HB2039 & SB889 would eliminate or cap certain fees charged to people incarcerated in local jails and deter exploitative practices that impact them & their families.
  • SB1274 seeks to make prison phone calls free of charge to people who are incarcerated and their families. Family connection helps a person rehabilitate & reduce recidivism.

VDOC Oversight

We continue to push for legislation for independent oversight of the Virginia Department of Correction (VDOC).

graphic with line drawing of prison cells and a cutout of a person writing a report to signal independent oversight of VA prisons

VDOC has a $1.6 billion dollar budget, houses almost 25,000 people in 43 facilities, and employs 11,000 staff members. Yet it is allowed to operate in secret with no accountability for what happens behind bars. With no meaningful oversight, serious grievances from people who are incarcerated or from staff go unaddressed, while VDOC can take whatever actions it pleases without consequences. An agency of its size that impacts as many people as it does needs independent oversight to ensure that people are treated humanely.  

Bills we're watching:

  • SB994 (state prison oversight): SB994 seeks to establish independent oversight over the Virginia Department of Corrections and bring more transparency & accountability to the agency.

Earned Sentence Credit Repeal

In 2022, Gov. Youngkin rolled back the Earned Sentence Credits expansion through a budget amendment. 

Graphic with prison cells and handcuffs to symbolize our prison system

That resulted in hundreds of people who had done the work to rehabilitate – and were scheduled to come home – being told their hard-earned releases would be delayed. That was just wrong. We anticipate there will be bills this legislative session aimed at making the governor’s budget amendments permanent, further rolling back the progress on Earned Sentence Credits. We will fight hard to stop those bills and to ensure opportunities for incarcerated people to earn their release.   

Bills we're watching:

  • HB1603 (earned sentence credit repeal): HB1603 seeks to roll back the progress made in 2020 on the earned sentence credit program, which provides incentives for people to rehabilitate & earn their early release.

 

Parole Transparency

Existing parole processes are antiquated, unfair, and partisan.

graphic with stacks of files and a gavel in the background to symbolize parole transparency

Code failures have allowed the process to become politicized and resulted in incarcerated people becoming political pawns. We seek reforms to the parole board including but not limited to repealing Virginia’s Parole Board FOIA exception, transparency in decision-making about parole, and a more representative board structure. 

Criminal Legal Reform Repeals

We’ll be on guard to ensure that other criminal legal reform gains – like ending the death sentence and marijuana legalization –  are not repealed during the 2023 session.

Graphic with lady justice holding the scale to symbolize criminal legal reform

We’ll also continue our support of the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement to debunk the myths that VDOC perpetuates about its use of the barbaric practice. 

Bills we're watching:

  • SB887 (end solitary confinement): SB887 is a step in the right direction to end solitary confinement — a barbaric & cruel practice — in Virginia's state prisons.
  • HB1380, HB1445, SB875, and SB1010 (bring back pretextual policing): These bills would allow police officers to use minor traffic infractions like a broken tail light as pretexts to stop & search your vehicles.