Charting Virginia’s path out of the Covid pandemic has been a priority of Rip’s, and of 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 ensuring a smooth, equitable, fast vaccination program, to making sure we get our kids back to school as soon as safely possible, Rip has been focused on rebuilding Virginia’s economy. Rip is proud to have helped lead the way to Virginia raising the minimum wage. The Democrats have charted a path to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2026. It is important to acknowledge the thousands of Virginians who are still seeking employment, especially due to the effects of COVID-19. Rip opposes efforts to roll back the social safety net that is vitally important to unemployed Virginians searching for work. 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 our understanding of the importance of our teachers to our Commonwealth and our deep appreciation to these outstanding public servants. Rip is proud that the most recent budget reflects this, and teachers in the Commonwealth will soon get a 5% salary increase. Virginia also expanded funding for early childhood education initiatives, and improved student/counselors ratio.
Rip was proud to Patron and lead the fight to pass the historic Virginia Clean Economy Act, which made Virginia the first southern state to chart a course to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Rip helped to lead Virginia’s 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.
During the 2021 legislative session, Rip was proud to be at the epicenter of electrifying our transportation system here 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.
As a parent with children who attended our public schools and a son who attended Virginia Tech, this is an issue particularly important to Rip. Rip has worked since he got to Richmond 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. Whether it is a potential mass shooter who has shared plans with another person, a perpetrator of escalating domestic violence, or someone who has told a loved one that she is considering ending her life, in many cases gun violence can be stopped before a single bullet is fired. Dozens 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.
It’s simple. A woman’s decisions regarding her reproductive health should be left between her and her doctor, and the government has no business interfering in such a private matter. Rip opposes all measures that would limit reproductive freedom.
On the Courts of Justice committee, Rip has worked to build a fairer, more equitable criminal justice system in Virginia. He led an effort to compensate pardoned individuals wronged by our justice system and reformed our compensation laws while working 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 in Virginia. Rip also supported the Virginia Human Rights Act, providing protections from discrimination to LGBT Virginias.
Here is an article on Jacob’s Law: https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/jacobs-law-to-strengthen-surrogacy-rights-in-virginia/8484