News & Politics

Virginia Gov. Northam Sneaks in Raft of Lefty Bills on Voting, Guns, Abortion, Climate, LGBT — Under Cover of Easter Weekend

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures as he delivers his State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the Assembly at the state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

As Virginians celebrated the Christian holidays leading up to Easter and the Jewish Passover, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) signed a sweeping array of lefty legislation — 45 bills in total, with proposed amendments for even more. From abortion to voting, from climate to LGBT issues, from guns to collective bargaining, the minimum wage, and Confederate monuments, the governor seemingly attempted to smuggle Democrats’ radical new laws past Virginians as they celebrated the holidays and hunkered down to fight the virus.

Northam’s office issued no fewer than eight press releases announcing the governor had signed legislation that the Democrat-majority House of Delegates and Senate had signed over the past year.

On Good Friday, Northam announced he had signed five gun control bills. “We lose too many Virginians to gun violence, and it is past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer,” he said. The governor signed a law requiring background checks on all firearm sales in Virginia, a red flag law enabling cops to seize firearms from people judged a danger to themselves or others, a limit preventing people from buying more than one handgun per month, a law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement, and a law imposing a penalty on gun owners leaving firearms in the reach of children.

Northam also proposed amendments to more gun control bills.

Democrats’ assault on the Second Amendment has energized gun owners across Virginia. In January, thousands of protesters flocked to the state capitol. As PJ Media’s Jeff Reynolds reported, the gun control backlash could trigger a wave election for Republicans in November.

But Northam was just getting started with gun control. On Good Friday, the day Christians remember Jesus’s Crucifixion that offered eternal life, and amid a crisis in which doctors fight to save lives from the coronavirus, Northam also signed a bill making it easier to kill babies. He struck down an ultrasound law and mandates for abortion facilities to provide information about a baby’s development in the womb, how babies are killed in the womb, and alternatives to abortion.

Virginia’s governor kept signing legislation on Holy Saturday. He signed the “Virginia Values Act,” a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in places of public accommodation. Under this kind of law, governments have prosecuted Christian business owners for refusing to provide custom services for same-sex weddings. The Virginia SOGI law does include an exemption for places of accommodation “owned by or operated on behalf of a religious corporation, association, or society.”

Also on Holy Saturday, Northam announced he had signed ten laws lumped together under the category of “historic justice, equity.” He overturned Virginia’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate monuments and created a commission to recommend a replacement for Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. “These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone,” the governor said. “In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”

In the same press release condemning Confederate monuments, the governor announced he had signed laws to “repeal discriminatory language” regarding education, criminal law, health care, housing, transportation, and voting. These laws followed a report on racial inequality in Virginia that highlighted some truly racist laws still on the books.

Gov. Northam’s office sent out no fewer than four press releases on Easter Sunday, announcing he had signed laws regarding criminal justice, voting, climate regulations, and workers — including a minimum wage increase.

Northam’s criminal justice laws raised the threshold for felony larceny; eliminated driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and court costs; eliminated driver’s license suspensions for non-driving-related crimes such as drug offenses; raised the age of juvenile transfer to adult court; reformed parole; allowed inmates to earn credits against fines through community service; and decriminalized simple possession of marijuana. He also proposed a study to consider the impact of legalizing marijuana in Virginia.

Many of these reforms are laudable, but it does seem odd that the governor would sign them on Easter.

The governor also signed six laws regarding voting, some of which are likely to increase fraud and abuse. These laws allow early voting 45 days before an election without an excuse, remove the voter ID requirement, replace the holiday celebrating Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson to make Election Day a state holiday, implement automatic voter registration for individuals using the Department of Motor Vehicles in person or online, expand absentee voting deadlines, and extend in-person polling hours from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The governor’s office repeated the tired canard that voter ID requirements “disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.” Non-whites actually support voter ID laws, however, and the studies on the racial impact of voter ID are not conclusive.

Northam also signed climate legislation on Easter Sunday. He signed the Virginia Clean Economic Act, which “incorporates environmental justice concepts related to the Green New Deal,” the socialist takeover of the economy that would impose tremendous costs on Americans. Among other things, the law establishes high renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for local energy companies, advances ineffective wind energy while requiring Dominion Energy Virginia to “prioritize hiring local workers from historically disadvantaged communities,” and encourages solar energy.

The governor also signed the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, which establishes a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program and a Flood Preparedness Fund.

“These new clean energy laws propel Virginia to leadership among the states in fighting climate change,” Northam said. “They advance environmental justice and help create clean energy jobs.” The laws also represent a massive government intrusion in the energy sector at a time when U.S. emissions are already decreasing.

Finally, Northam also announced he had signed thirteen labor-related bills, and that he submitted amendments to other bills, including one raising the state’s minimum wage.

“Every Virginian deserves access to a safe and well-paying job,” Northam said in a statement on the laws. “These new laws will support workers and help our economy rebound as quickly as possible from COVID-19.” Yet more labor red tape will arguably make it harder for the economy to recover, not easier.

The laws Northam signed will: authorize investigations into alleged worker misclassification (employers are allegedly classifying employees as contractors when they are not), enable workers to sue for misclassification, protect complainants from employer retaliation, ban employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth, ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, combat wage theft, create new ways for workers to demand unpaid wages, empower a state agency to investigate wage theft complaints, prohibit employers from entering into non-compete contracts with low-wage employees, protect workers from employer retaliation for reporting violations of state law, and more.

Northam also proposed amendments to bills regarding unemployment insurance, discrimination in apprenticeship programs (he wants the non-discrimination provisions to include gender identity), delay the proposed minimum wage increase, delay the implementation of a “prevailing wages” bill, and delay the implementation of a collective bargaining law. The governor supports increases to the minimum wage, the “prevailing wage” measure, and the collective bargaining law, but he wants them to come into effect in May 2021, instead of January 2021.

The laws Northam signed had been passed by the Virginia legislature over a period of months, but the governor announced he had signed these 45 bills over the course of three days. His decisions on this wide array of causes must have taken months to formulate, but the governor buried them all on a news dump during the most important weekend on the Christian calendar in the middle of a global pandemic. It may not be entirely clear what he is hiding, but he is definitely hiding something.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.