By Zach Armstrong
PETERSBURG, Va -- Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) has scored a series of victories in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session with multiple pieces of legislation she introduced set to go into effect July 1 of this year. The bills are HB1990, HB1928, HB1930, HB2031, HR537 and HR538.
HB1990 enables the Chair of the House Committee for Courts of Justice and the Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to request the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to prepare racial and ethnic impact statements on legislation to determine if a bill may disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
“Many of the criminal justice reforms that we are “reforming” all have had a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities. Most notably, the abolishment of the death penalty.” said Kelley Losier, Director of Communications for Del. Aird in an email.
“HB1990 now enables leaders in the House and Senate to request racial and ethnic impact statements for legislation that comes before them. These statements contextualize the pending legislation which in turn allows these Chairs to ask important questions surrounding a bill’s impact on marginalized communities. If policies like this were around decades ago, the lives of so many would be in a very different place.” said Losier.
HB1928 will expand access to the easement program for historic preservation in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The bill lowers barriers including hiring attorneys and historical experts in order to receive historic landmark designations to make it easier for properties of historic significance who would otherwise find the process cost-prohibitive such as historic Black churches or burial grounds.
HB1930 bans public universities from using criminal history questions on admissions applications.
“By removing the question from the preliminary process we not only encourage those who may otherwise feel deterred from applying, we also remove a layer of implicit bias during this part of the process.” said Losier. “This law does not change previous laws that require all admitted students to be checked against the sexual registry and database regarding sexual crimes. This is particularly relevant when we are talking about on-campus housing especially and increased awareness around campus sexual assault.”
HB2031 initially required law enforcement agencies to request authorization from local governing bodies in order to deploy facial recognition technology. Once the bill went to the Senate, Sen. Ryan McDougle (R) worked with Del. Aird to strengthen the legislation so that law enforcement must get General Assembly approval to use the technology creating a de facto ban.
House Resolution 537 declares racism as a Public Health Crisis. A number of policy recommendations are outlined in the resolution including the following: Expanding the Virginia Department of Health's Office of Health Equity as a watchdog to ensure policies addressing racism are implemented, making the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law permanent, establishing training for all state elected officials, their staff members, and state
employees on recognizing racism, creating a list of definitions and terms on racism and health equity and promoting community engagement across the state on recognizing racism.
“The first step in solving structural issues is acknowledging such problems exist. This resolution formally recognizes the inequities and systemic injustices that persist throughout the Commonwealth.” said Losier. “It lays a foundation for immediate action and charges the appropriate agency with providing future recommendations to the General Assembly that will begin to eliminate barriers and challenges built into our governing structures.”
House Resolution 538 declares access to clean water as a Human Right. “The resolution declaring access to water a human right is a mere policy statement that takes a first step in laying the foundation towards ensuring this becomes a reality.” said Losier.
At the age of 28, Aird became the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates when she ran for her seat in 2015. Aird is Chair of 4th Congressional District Democratic Committee, which oversees local Democratic committees in the area between Hampton Roads and Richmond. She is also a member of the Democratic Party of Virginia Steering Committee.
Aird is the Virginia Delegate for the state’s 63rd district which represents the city of Petersburg, the city of Hopewell and parts of the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, and Prince George.