January 14, 2015 — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday unveiled his Equal Opportunity legislative agenda, which includes legislative proposals that range from protections for abortion rights to addressing college sexual assaults and domestic violence, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
McAuliffe said he will push to repeal a 2012 state law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound.
In addition, McAuliffe plans to propose a bill that would place restrictions on individuals' abilities to own a gun if they have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges and are subject to protective orders. McAuliffe also said he will propose legislation that requires employers to provide leave for any employees who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking so that the individuals may seek counseling and treatment.
Further, the governor proposed under the agenda that the Council for Higher Education for Virginia help update sexual assault policies for all public higher education institutions in the state. Under such policies, McAuliffe recommended that students' academic transcripts include any dismissals for violating a school's sexual misconduct code, code of conduct or honor code.
McAuliffe said during the announcement that the policies are not "partisan" or "political," and called them "common-sense things that move the commonwealth forward." He added that the agenda would put in place pledges he made "when [he] ran for governor" (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/12). McAuliffe also said the policies would help the state to be more inclusive and welcoming in its efforts to diversify its economy.
Agenda Could Face Uphill Battle in State Legislature
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the governor's agenda could face an uphill battle in the state General Assembly (Hieatt, Virginian-Pilot, 1/13). For example, a Virginia House subcommittee last year rejected a bill (SB 617) that would have repealed the state's ultrasound requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19/14).
Meanwhile, conservative observers were quick to criticize the agenda. Republican Party of Virginia spokesperson Garren Shipley wrote in an email that the agenda shows "McAuliffe is focused on playing politics and waging divisive social battles under the guise of economic opportunity" (Virginian-Pilot, 1/13).
Virginia Women's Group Announces Agenda
In related news, a coalition of women's groups in Virginia on Thursday announced its legislative agenda for the state's 2015 legislative session, the Capital News Service/Southwest Times reports.
The coalition -- which includes ProgressVA, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and other women's rights and health groups -- is called the Women's Equality Coalition and has support from the Virginia chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood. Margie Del Castillo, a field coordinator for the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, said the group will focus on "creat[ing] an environment in Virginia for all women to have the economic means, social capital and political power to make and exercise decisions about their own health, family and future."
According to the Capital News Service/Times, the group's main push will be for the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which Congress passed in 1972.
In addition, the group will advocate for the repeal of the state's ultrasound requirements and for passage of legislation that would provide unemployment benefits for survivors of domestic violence. The group also will support McAuliffe's efforts to expand the state's Medicaid program, among other initiatives (Mislowsky/Zirpolo, Capital News Service/Southwest Times, 1/12).