I have heard that Virginia needs “business-minded leaders” in the General Assembly. We see the General Assembly routinely pass legislation benefitting businesses like Dominion Energy. Virginia has consistently ranked as one of the Best States for Business since George Allen’s term as Governor. Let’s not forget that Virginia’s campaign finance laws allow candidates to collect unlimited donations from corporations.
Knowing this information, the question should be “where are all the PEOPLE-minded leaders in the General Assembly?”
Time and again, I have witnessed the General Assembly ignore the needs of poor and marginalized communities across Virginia. But I have yet to see our leaders pass a minimum wage increase, pledge to stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast or Mountain Valley Pipelines, or implement strong checks on police power. I wonder when will they abolish the School to Prison Pipeline, which Virginia leads nationally. And many Virginians are still wondering why the General Assembly repeatedly resists expanding healthcare coverage to the 400,000 fellow Virginians that need it.
When the people dare ask of their candidates or elected leaders to take a stand in defense of the people, we’re told “We need more time”, or “That’s a single issue and there are bigger things to worry about”. Yet when a corporation lobbies the General Assembly for something they want, the General Assembly has no problem with putting it on the Governor’s desk within one or two sessions.
For example, S.B. 1349 (the 2015 “Dominion Rate Freeze” bill) made it to the Governor’s desk in one session. H.B. 2108 (the Virginia Wireless Services Authority Act) halted the construction of publicly-operated internet access networks. That bill was supported by Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. McAuliffe signed H.B. 2108 into law this year along with H.B. 2291, a bill that now allows Dominion “Energy” to raise the “rider fees” on our electric bills to pay for upgrades of its nuclear power plants.
Those bills are prime examples of the General Assembly quickly acting on legislation prioritizing the interests of their donors, but at least they are consistent. After all, they did not hesitate to ax legislation raising the minimum wage (H.B. 1444, 1771, and 2309), ending long-term suspensions for school students (H.B. 1534, 1535, and 1536), or including protections for the LGBTQ community (H.B. 1776 and S.B 822). And no effort was made to strike racially-motivated policies (like lifetime felon disenfranchisement) from the books.
This kind of inaction leads to 67 seats being challenged in this year’s general election.
Now is not the time for incumbent leaders and candidates to take “safe” positions when comprehensive action is needed to advance criminal justice reform, human rights, labour rights, health care access, electoral integrity, and protections for the very air, land, and water we depend on for survival. Now is not the time for “business-minded leaders” to compromise with corporations handing out hefty campaign donations. Now is not the time to support candidates that enjoy comfortable privileges isolating them from the oppression of public housing residents, public transit riders, minimum wage workers, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
We can no longer sideline the advancement of economic, social, racial, reproductive, and environmental justice when the future of so many Virginians hang in the balance.
I believe everyone should live a life of dignity and love from birth to death. That’s why I will fight for a $26 per hour minimum wage, the end of lifetime felon disenfranchisement, and a statewide ban on fracking and the construction of natural gas pipelines. I will fight to include protections for LGBTQ community into the Virginia Human Rights Act. And I want to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help Virginians heal the racial divides amongst ourselves. Our liberation demands that we collectively dismantle the oppressive system of control over our lives and I want to do my part to achieve that end.
It is the time for the people to demand better from those seeking to represent us in our governments. Those running for the House of Delegates (myself included), along with those running for Governor must develop and vehemently defend a plan that will build the greater good for all of us. I urge voters across this state to demand that candidates fight for the people’s betterment. We must end our silence and stop voting how the powers that be tell us to. The time to advance true justice and liberation is NOW!
*Montigue Magruder is the Green Party candidate for the 69th District House of Delegates.