A message on the General Assembly

From Senator Jennifer McClellan


One hundred and fifty years ago, in the wake of the Civil War, a new Virginia Constitution, and the ratification of the 15th Amendment granting African-American men the right to vote, 27 African American men were sworn in for the first time to the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. One hundred years ago, women were granted the right to vote. Thirty-five years ago, Yvonne Miller was sworn in as the first African-American Woman to serve in the General Assembly.

Last Wednesday, the most diverse General Assembly in our 401-year history convened to begin a 60 day session. Eileen Filler-Corn became the first woman and first Jewish Speaker of the House. Louise Lucas became the first woman and first African-American President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Charneile Herring became the first African-American and first woman Majority Leader of any party in either the House or Senate. Suhas Subramanyam was sworn in as the first Indian-American Delegate. Ghazala Hashmi was sworn in as the first Muslim woman to the General Assembly and the first Asian woman in the Senate. The Clerks of both the House and the Senate are women. And we have a record number of African-American and women committee chairs.

This session is also historic because, for the first time in 26 years, Democrats will have trifecta control of the Governorship, House and Senate. For years, we’ve witnessed too many important priorities for Virginians blocked on party-line votes. Now, we can finally make progress on issues with broad support across the Commonwealth, including increased education funding, criminal justice reform, addressing climate change and gun violence, ending discrimination against the LGBTQ community, removing barriers to voting, and protecting access to reproductive healthcare.

The Senate took a giant leap towards making history yet again yesterday by passing SJ1 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. With passage of the ERA, we take another step towards making true for women the founding principles of our country: Liberty and Justice for ALL. I was proud to patron the ERA ratification bill in the Senate; and I’m especially proud that women of color are leading the charge to finally enshrine women’s equal rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Given Virginia’s history, it is fitting that we become the 38th – and final – state needed to ratify the ERA. Too often, Virginia has been on the wrong side of history: the capital of the Confederacy, late to ratify the 14th and 19th Amendments, the epicenter of Massive Resistance. But in this historic 2020 Session, we can be the state that puts the ERA in the Constitution. Instead of being dragged forward into progress, we can lead the change for future generations.

Over the next couple of months, I look forward to sharing my thoughts on issues before the General Assembly – and hearing from you. Please feel free to share your views on legislation with me at district09@senate.virginia.gov or (804) 698-7509. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instragram at JennMcClellanVA or on Facebook at Senjennifermcclellan.