In the wake of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade, Virginia is on the frontlines of the fight to protect reproductive freedom. Rip has been a champion for protecting access to reproductive healthcare and will continue to fight to ensure abortion rights are part of the Virginia Constitution.
As a parent with children (and now grandchildren) who attended our public schools and a son who attended Virginia Tech, this is an issue particularly important to Rip. Since he got to Richmond, Rip has worked to pass meaningful gun safety reforms. He introduced and passed Virginia’s “Red Flag Law,” which gives law enforcement the tools they need to remove firearms from someone deemed by a judge to be a serious risk to himself or others. Hundreds of Substantial Risk Orders have been issued across the Commonwealth since the law went into effect in July of 2020. It is working, and lives are being saved. Rip continues to fight for legislation and other policies to eliminate gun violence.
Rip was proud to patron and lead the fight to pass the historic Virginia Clean Economy Act, which launched Virginia from the back of the pack to the front of the pack and made Virginia the first southern state to chart a course to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Rip has been a leader as Virginia has made dramatic strides in wind, solar, and energy efficiency, transforming Virginia from a laggard to a leader in the effort to address climate change. Rip was also at the epicenter of the successful effort to move Virginia toward electrification of our transportation system, and to get more electric vehicles on Virginia’s roads.
Charting Virginia’s path out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a priority of Rip’s and our Democratic caucus. From supporting small businesses to increasing funding for the Rebuild VA grant program, to implementing the G3 jobs training program, to helping constituents navigate the Virginia unemployment system, to making sure our kids are safe in schools, Rip has been focused on rebuilding Virginia’s economy. With Rip’s leadership, the Democrats have mapped a path to increase the minimum wage to $15/ hour by 2026. A Freedom Virginia Economic Security Ally, Rip opposes efforts to roll back the social safety net that is vitally important to unemployed Virginians searching for work, and has supported bills to increase the economic security of hardworking Virginians and families, including Paid Family and Sick Leave. Rip believes we can grow our economy by expanding workforce training programs, increasing access to capital for small businesses, and creating incentives for small business development.
Great teachers are the key to our children’s success, which is why Virginia must ensure that teachers are paid competitive salaries that reflect the importance of our teachers to our Commonwealth and our deep appreciation to these outstanding public servants. Rip is proud that Virginia’s recent budgets have reflected this, and Virginia teachers compensation has been rising–but not far enough. Virginia has also expanded funding for early childhood education initiatives, and improved the student/counselors ratio.
During the 2021 legislative session, Rip was proud to be at the epicenter of electrifying our transportation system in Virginia. Virginia’s transportation sector actually contributes more to our carbon emissions than does the energy production sector. There was a package of bills designed to put Virginia on that path. Virginia established a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program for motor vehicles beginning in 2025, putting more electric vehicles on our roads. Virginia established an electric vehicle grant program to help transition our school buses to electric, a rebate program for purchasing or leasing electric vehicles, and set in motion a process for building the infrastructure necessary to support clean affordable electric vehicles right here in Virginia.
On the Courts of Justice committee, Rip has worked to build a more fair and equitable criminal justice system in Virginia. He has led the effort to compensate individuals who have been found to be innocent of crimes for which they were wrongfully convicted–and thus wrongfully incarcerated for, in some cases, over thirty years–working closely with the UVA Innocence Project.
One of the votes of which Rip is most proud was to expand Medicaid in Virginia. Quite simply it is saving lives and giving more Virginians the opportunity to have quality affordable healthcare.
Rip is proud of the progress we have made in advancing and protecting the rights of our LGBT friends and neighbors. In 2019, he was the author of “Jacob’s Law,” which strengthens surrogacy rights for gay and straight couples (as well as single parents) who want to start families in Virginia. Jacob’s Law was the first successful legislation to advance LGBTQ+rights in a generation. Rip also worked to pass the Virginia Human Rights Act, providing protections from discrimination to LGBTQ+ Virginias.
Here is an article on Jacob’s Law: https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/jacobs-law-to-strengthen-surrogacy-rights-in-virginia/8484