Diversity and Inclusion in the Old Dominion

March 28, 2017 | Culture & Community, Diversity & Inclusion

While the grand spectacle of national politics dominates the news, it can be easy to miss the lawmaking underway closer to home.

The Virginia General Assembly session that adjourned on February 25 covered issues ranging from reproductive rights and voting rights to immigration policy and environmental stewardship. As one would expect, the gathering yielded compromises that both helped and hindered the cause of diversity in our corner of the country.

Here are but a few examples of business that was conducted at the Capitol building early this year:

Among the positive steps toward creating a more inclusive Commonwealth was the rejection of a proposed measure that would require convicted felons to wait five years – and pay a host of fees and fines – before their voting rights could be restored. On a somewhat related subject, but less favorable to the cause of equal opportunity, a bill that would raise Virginia’s notably tough grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500 failed to pass.

Such subtle forms of disenfranchisement create barriers to participation in our common discourse by portions of our population whose perspectives, like all perspectives, matter.

TMI is very pleased that Senate Bill 1262, which would have held sanctuary cities in Virginia legally liable for damages caused by undocumented residents, expired in the House Courts of Justice Committee after passing the Senate.

In a move that highlights the diverse influences of Virginia’s past, the General Assembly also passed a bill that would promote recognition of the contributions of Virginia’s formerly enslaved African Americans to the Commonwealth and beyond. The legislation charges the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities with a mission that would include identifying, preserving, and developing for tourism sites relevant to this important history.

We’re also happy to note that the recent session championed the cause of equal pay. Remediating a longstanding disparity, the Assembly gave a raise to the woman who has clerked in the Senate for many years for a far lower salary than her male counterpart in the House.

With gratitude for the hard work of our local legislators, we applaud the measures they’ve adopted that represent progress for our diverse community. We also look forward to their re-evaluation of the measures that inhibit positive change. As long as we as Virginians continue to watch and weigh in on the local debates that impact our lives, we are always moving in the right direction.