2021 Legislative Agenda

Delegate Alfonso Lopez
2021 Legislative Agenda 

Bill No.

Description

HB 2123

Expanding Financial Aid to Undocumented Students

Last year, I passed legislation granting in-state tuition access to Virginia’s undocumented students. However, many of those students remain ineligible for state-based financial aid. No child or student in this country should be punished for the choices of their parents—and depriving a young person of an opportunity to earn a good education solely due to their immigration status is simply cruel. Working closely with the Governor’s team and with immigration rights advocates, I have introduced legislation that would end the prohibition on access to state financial aid and Tuition Assistance Grants for students without legal immigration status.

 

HB 2124

Clarifying that Undocumented Virginians are Qualified for Emergency COVID Care

Few communities have been hit as hard by COVID-19 in Virginia as our immigrant communities. Moreover, no person in the Commonwealth of Virginia should have to go untested, untreated, or unvaccinated during the most catastrophic pandemic in a century due to their inability to pay or their immigration status. Prohibiting individuals from accessing affordable COVID treatment will have dramatically negative consequences for our ability as a state to inoculate the entire population and thus keep us all safe. Indeed, if low-income or undocumented individuals are not encouraged to get tested, treated and vaccinated, every member of the community potentially suffers due to community spread. This legislation takes into account how all of our communities are interconnected and expands “Emergency Medicaid” coverage to include COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations. This measure will have a dramatic impact on the ability of undocumented and low-income Virginians to access lifesaving COVID care.

 

HB 2125

Voter Preregistration for 16 & 17 Year Olds

We are not doing a good enough job in Virginia of helping young people become civically engaged. Working with both the Virginia Young Democrats AND the Young Republicans, my legislation would allow individuals who are 16 or older—and otherwise qualified to vote—to pre-register. Pre-registration allows citizens who are not old enough to vote to complete a registration form and be automatically added to the voter rolls when they reach voting age. Expanding voter pre-registration to 16 and 17 year olds would make it much easier for students to complete their voter registration without barriers and encourages the creation of many more contact points at which government agencies, educators, or third party organizations can offer registration opportunities. Helping young people pre-register to vote increases the odds that they will make civic engagement and voting a lifelong habit.

 

HB 2128

Closing the “Charleston” Gun Sale Loophole

My legislation addresses a major gun sale loophole by increasing the amount of time authorities have to run background checks before the gun sale can take place. Individuals who buy a gun from a licensed dealer must undergo a background check. While 89.5% of background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System provide an answer within seconds or minutes about whether an individual is legally allowed to buy a gun, around 10.5% of cases require further investigation and review by FBI and ATF agents.

Unfortunately, Virginia law enforcement officials only have three days to complete this check—and if the background check isn’t completed in time, dealers ARE ALLOWED TO SELL THE FIREARM ANYWAY. This is known as a “default proceed” sale. This loophole is often called the "Charleston loophole" because it allowed the perpetrator of the 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC to purchase one of the guns used in his attack, even though he had a prior conviction that made him ineligible to possess a firearm. The FBI has recommended extending the three-day period to allow agents more time to complete background check investigations and to reduce the number of prohibited purchasers who are able to purchase firearms. HB 2128 does just that and finally expands that window to five business days before allowing a “default proceed” of a gun sale in Virginia.

 

HB 2129

Keeping Harmful and Polluting Nutrients out of the Chesapeake Bay

As the Chair of the Chesapeake Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources, I am greatly concerned for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the vitality of the many ecosystems and communities that depend on it. After years of negotiation between environmental activists and industry officials, I have introduced a landmark piece of legislation that would dedicate $800 million to overhaul Virginia’s wastewater treatment policy in order to keep harmful nutrients out of the Chesapeake Bay for good. This compromise approach will ensure we achieve the pollution reductions necessary to meet our 2025 Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, while also saving Virginia money. This bill commits a number of local wastewater treatment plants across the Bay region to a specific timeline for undertaking significant new treatment improvement projects, focusing on nitrogen and phosphorus reductions, that will help keep our Bay clean and safe for generations to come.

 

HB 2130

Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

Over 300,000 Virginians identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. And they’ve come a long way in Virginia. In just the last decade, Virginians ended marriage inequality, passed legislation that banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing and employment, and won the right to get licenses and IDs with a nonbinary gender marker. But there is still work to do. HB 2130 finally creates a statewide advisory board to represent Virginia’s significant LGBTQ+ community. The Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board is modeled after existing boards and enables to community to undertake studies and provide recommendations to the Governor regarding policies, programs, and legislation that could advance social and economic issues that impact Virginians and improve the quality of life for the LGBTQ+ community. With LGBTQ+ Americans continuing to face disproportionate levels of violence, hate crimes, and discrimination across the nation—creating this Board will be an important signal that Virginia is truly a place for ALL lovers.

 

HB 2131

Increasing Local Input into ABC Licensing Process

Residents in South Arlington have been deeply concerned for quite some time over a number of violent crimes and late-night disturbances that have taken place at one business that was authorized to serve alcohol in the early hours of the morning. The Virginia ABC has revoked the establishment's liquor license on more than one occasion, but then restored the license without community input after a short period of time—provoking intense concern about the safety of the residents who lived near the business.

This bill was drafted in consultation with Arlington County and will improve local oversight for nuisance businesses and other properties that pose a threat to the safety and security of residents. Additionally, the bill expands the definition of criminal blight to include repeated violations of state laws that pose a threat to individuals or private property in order to further increase the ability of localities to respond and keep the community safe.

 

HJ 556

Environmental Justice Constitutional Amendment

This proposed constitutional amendment would establish that it is the policy of the Commonwealth to follow the principles of environmental justice in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies—and to ensure that no population, especially minority, low-income, or historically economically disadvantaged communities, faces higher levels or greater impacts of pollution and climate change than other populations.

 

HJ 557 Marriage Equality Constitutional Amendment

This proposed constitutional amendment would update the language of the Virginia Constitution to reflect the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges which held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry guaranteed by the United States Constitution. If Virginia is to truly be a place “for ALL lovers,” then it’s time for us to remove the language passed in 2006 that prohibited same-sex marriages and enshrine marriage equality into our state constitution once and for all.