Virginia Latino Caucus champions renters’ rights, worker protections in General Assembly

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Virginia Latino Caucus champions renters’ rights, worker protections in General Assembly


Virginia Latino Caucus champions renters’ rights, worker protections in General Assembly

VLC members advance bold agenda for Virginia families and workers

 

RICHMOND, Va. — With new leadership in the Governor’s Mansion, state lawmakers in the Virginia Latino Caucus (VLC) have been working tirelessly to defend critical workers’ protections and advance a policy agenda focused on improving the lives of Virginia families. As Virginia families continue to recover from the ongoing pandemic, VLC legislators have made strengthening tenants’ protections and increasing language access for non-English speakers two of their top legislative priorities for the General Assembly’s 2022 session.  

 

On top of an affirmative agenda that reflects the values of our caucus, VLC legislators are working tirelessly to fight attempts to reverse the progress we have made on worker protections, immigrant rights, and education. After years of working to expand access to in-state tuition, college financial aid, and driving privilege cards to undocumented Virginians, the VLC will not stand idly by as any attempts are made to roll back those essential rights of education and economic opportunity for all.

 

When tenants of an affordable housing complex in Arlington began to voice concerns about mold and vermin in their units, VLC Co-Chair Alfonso Lopez met with his constituents to discuss reforms that could be introduced into state law.

 

“Every Virginian deserves to live in good-quality housing that is affordable and meets their health or accessibility needs,” said Delegate Lopez (D-Arlington). “From Arlington to Richmond, it has become all too clear that there are too many bad actors in the affordable housing market who have not followed adequate standards when it comes to living conditions for low-income and immigrant residents.” 

 

VLC Co-Chair Elizabeth Guzman has introduced a number of measures that expand education access and strengthen worker protections in the Commonwealth.

 

“As Virginia is becoming incredibly diverse, our constituents have made it clear that—after two years of grappling with COVID—they want decisive action from lawmakers to protect workers and help Virginia families maintain a degree of economic security,” said Delegate Guzman (D-Dale City). “Every Virginian deserves to have a high-paying job and to feel secure in their housing and employment and this pandemic has laid bare many of the widespread and systemic inequities that create obstacles for Latino and immigrant Virginians as they navigate the post-pandemic world.”

 

“With the help of some great local reporting,” continued Delegate Lopez, “Latino residents across Virginia have been able to use their voices to advocate for better conditions in their communities. Like all Virginians, Latinos care deeply about access to housing, employment, and social services, as well as strengthening public education and protecting the environment. We are proud to stand with them and offer and support bold policy solutions to help address these issues—not just on behalf of Virginia’s more than 900,000 Latino residents, but on behalf of every Virginian.”

 

VLC Legislative Priorities for the 2022 Session of the General Assembly 

Economic Justice & Workers’ Rights

Any state that is good for business must also be good for workers and strong unions mean a stronger, well-paid workforce and economy for every Virginian. That is why the VLC is supporting a number of reforms to strengthen Virginia’s working class, including:

  • Paid family and medical leave for Virginia workers (SB 1, Boysko)
  • Eliminating the state sales tax on diapers and other essential toiletries (HB 848, Lopez)  
  • Expanding occupational and professional licensing access to noncitizens (HB 864, Lopez)
  • Creating a safety net for building maintenance workers displaced from their jobs (HB 865, Lopez)
  • Banning the use of child labor on Virginia tobacco farms (HB 876, Lopez)
  • Implementing paid sick leave for home health workers (HB 997, Guzman)
  • Expanding the scope of injuries covered by worker’s compensation laws (HB 1002, Guzman)
  • Expanding the definition of work that is eligible for overtime pay (HB 1017, Guzman)  
  • Virginia Anti-Predatory Towing Act (HB 1218, Lopez)

 

Health & Housing

No American should be expected to live without adequate access to good, affordable housing and healthcare. The VLC is committed to a vision of our Commonwealth that prioritizes the needs of the working class, especially the need for greater access to the fundamental building blocks of a good life, like housing and healthcare. That’s why the VLC supports significant reforms to Virginia laws, including:

  • Creating a free healthcare program for low-income immigrant children (SB 484, McClellan/HB 1012, Tran)
  • Reducing the cost of insulin (HB 240, D. Adams)
  • Strengthening tenants’ protections against retaliatory evictions (HB 840, Lopez)
  • Clarifying the duty of landlords to maintain fit, habitable standards in rental units (HB 868, Lopez)
  • Creating a legal remedy for renters forced to vacate condemned housing (HB 882, Lopez)
  • Incorporating basic housing livability standards into the Va. Building Code (HB 885, Lopez)
  • Prohibiting housing discrimination based on immigration status (HB 909, Lopez)
  • Increasing access and information about Medicaid programs (HB 987, Tran)
  • Directing the state to study lowering costs for obesity prevention healthcare and other related services (HB 1098, Guzman)
  • Directing the state to study increasing funding for low-income housing (HB 1159, Lopez)

 

Education

As the birthplace of American democracy, we must strive to ensure that every Virginian understands how they fit into our great American experiment. Language access, equity and additional funding for education are all critical to instilling democratic values in the next generation of civic leaders. Every Virginian deserves to see themselves in our classrooms and textbooks, which is why the VLC supports policies to improve our education system, including:

  • Expanding staffing and funding for English language learner programs in Virginia public schools (SB 156, Hashmi/HB 1184, Guzman)
  • Implementing policies to end racial harassment and hate speech during high school sports (HB 844, Lopez)
  • Creating a tax credit for teachers to cover the cost of buying classroom supplies (HB 846, Lopez)
  • Ending the Selective Service registration requirement for Two-Year College Transfer Grants (HB 1004, Guzman)
  • Permitting student absences for citizens of Virginia’s indigenous nations attending tribal pow wow gatherings (HB 1022, Guzman)
  • Adding instruction in human trafficking prevention to public school curricula (HB 1023, Guzman)
  • Establishing the Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Council under the Virginia Department of Education (HB 1026, Guzman)
  • Creating a Virginia Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latino, and Indigenous Education Advisory Board (HB 1179, Clark)
  • Studying the working conditions for and critical shortage of school bus drivers (HJ 84, Guzman)

 

Criminal Justice Reform

No society of laws can function without justice for all and true accountability for those who abuse their lawful authority over others. The VLC is supporting a raft of measures that would reform Virginia’s criminal justice system in order to protect and secure the constitutional rights of all Virginians, including:

  • Creating a Corrections Ombudsman’s Office (HB 655, Hope)
  • Eliminating barriers to legal access for low-income minors and families (HB 658, Hope)
  • Ending automatic deportations for misdemeanor convictions (HB 866, Lopez)
  • Immediate questioning of police officers involved in shootings or abuse (HB 870, Lopez)
  • Banning the use of canines to control people incarcerated in Virginia prisons (HB 908, Lopez)

 

Good Government & Social Justice

Latino, immigrant, and New American communities face some of the greatest obstacles to civic engagement due to the lack of language access and existing policies that target and alienate Latino communities. The VLC supports reforms that would expand civic and governmental access for all Virginians, including:  

  • Elevating the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into the Governor’s Cabinet as Secretary of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (SB 153, Locke)
  • Creating the Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund (SB 158, Hashmi/HB 141, McQuinn)
  • Directing the state to study and implement policies to improve language access for all Virginians (SB 270, Hashmi/HB 1049, Tram)
  • Mandating Latino representation on Virginia’s new Cannabis Policy Boards (HB 875, Lopez)
  • Ending the ban on access to public benefits for undocumented Virginians (HB 877, Lopez)
  • Eliminating the use of the derogatory term “alien” from the Virginia Code (HB 891, Lopez)
  • Establishing the Virginia Children’s Cabinet to advise the Governor regarding policies to improve the health and well-being of children (HB 1149, Guzman)
  • Virginia Local Journalism Sustainability Act (HB 1217, Lopez)

 

Environmental Protections

Our future depends squarely on confronting one of the most significant challenges of our time: the rising threat of climate change and environmental degradation. The VLC supports reforms to ensure that our Commonwealth is better prepared for a future that runs on greener, safer energy, including: 

  • Helping low and moderate income Virginians afford the cost of solar power (SB 625, Favola)
  • Requiring larger localities to adopt environmental justice strategy plans (HB 969, Simonds)
  • Commissioning a study of PFOS chemicals in Virginia's drinking water (HB 1011, Guzman)
  • Incorporating environmental justice principles into the Virginia Constitution (HJ 77, Lopez)

 

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The Virginia Latino Caucus (VLC) is the legislative caucus representing Virginia’s diverse Hispanic and Latino communities in the Virginia General Assembly. The VLC’s mission is to advance legislation and policies in the General Assembly that will improve the lives of Latinos, immigrants, New Americans, and other underrepresented communities across the Commonwealth.

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