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Friday, Jan. 5, 2024

Virginia's 2024 General Assembly session begins next week, and once it does, lawmakers will have just 60 days to propose, negotiate and pass new laws in the state.

Hundreds of bills are proposed every year (there are already more than 400 in the state's bill tracker) and only a handful will make their way through both the House and Senate and be signed by the governor into law. But here are some to watch that — if passed — could affect life in central Virginia:

Local sales tax

For several years, counties and cities around Virginia — including Charlottesville — have asked the General Assembly to allow them to implement local sales taxes. Most recently, Charlottesville wanted to implement the tax to pay for construction of new Buford Middle and Walker Upper Elementary Schools. But the state has said no every year. This created a bit of a crisis locally, because the city had to dip into its capital improvement fund to cover the $91.8 million expense for just Buford.

A plastic yard sign sticks out of the dirt in front of an apartment building. The sign reads “2021 Senior, Charlottesville High School Class of 2021: Zymir.”
Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf / Dexter Auction

Exasperated community members ask: Why must Charlottesville choose between a new middle school and public housing?

But Charlottesville received a state grant to cover most of the shortfall, so other projects wouldn't be delayed. Construction on Buford began this summer and is expected to continue until fall 2026.

A man in a backhoe demolishes a brick building.

Charlottesville City Schools receives $17 million state grant to complete Buford

Officials are still looking for ways to pay for renovations to Walker, including sales taxes if the state allows it. Senate Bill 14 would allow all localities to impose sales taxes to fund capital projects, construction and renovations of schools.

Minimum wage

Both the House and Senate will consider a bill that raises the state's minimum wage from $12 an hour to $13.50 in 2025 and then $15 in 2026. This was actually the first bill proposed this legislative session as House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1.

Locally, the University of Virginia decided in 2019 to pay its contractors $15 an hour, minimum.

A group of people stand on steps in front of a grand building with white columns holding signs that say things like: "UVA worth $10 billion and won't pay $16," and "Workers can't eat prestige."
Credit: Ézé Amos, Dexter Auction

University contract workers get $15 minimum wage

For reference, someone working 40 hours per week at $7.25 an hour would earn $15,080 per year. At $15, that's $31,200.

If the bill is passed, it would mean Virginia's minimum wage would more than double in just five years. In 2020, it was $7.25 an hour. A law passed that year gradually raised the rate, first to $9.50, then $11 and now $12 in 2023. (You can read more about raising the minimum wage in the Virginia Mercury.)

From the Newsroom

A graphic reading year-end and a title that reads 2023 Fundraising Update over top of a background of houses in a neighborbood.

As promised, here are some quick takeaways from our year-end goals:

  • Over 600 people gave this year, in addition to foundations and sponsors. We're thrilled that 169 of you made a direct gift to support Dexter Auction for the first time. Thank you to our new supporters.
  • 115 of you — almost 20% — show your support with a monthly gift. Recurring support like this is crucial for our ability to plan and grow, so thank you!
  • In December, you helped us unlock a $15,000 bonus from our partners at NewsMatch, and $500 additional bonus for getting so many new donors! You also met the $15,000 matching challenge from our board — bringing our extra funding to $30,500!
  • And, we are happy to report in 2023, we had our highest fundraising total since we opened our doors in 2005. We'll keep you updated with what this means as we grow as your public service newsroom.

With deep thanks,
Michaux Hood, Development Director

Firearms

The second bill introduced this year is an outright ban on assault weapons, House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2. As is often the case, there are a number of other bills related to firearms this year. House Bill 158 would require firearms dealers to provide a locking device with any sale along with a written warning to keep the weapon locked and away from children. House Bill 36 and Senate Bill 44 would make it a crime for a firearm owner to allow children to possess their weapon. Senate Bill 100 would make it a Class 5 felony for someone to manufacture or assemble weapons that are not detectable as firearms, sometimes referred to as “ghost guns.” (You can read more about ghost guns in this New York Times article.)

Abortion

Democrats are trying to add abortion rights to the state's constitution. This will be a yearslong process, if they're able to accomplish it. In the meantime, it's unlikely any law prohibiting abortion in the state will be passed this session — Democrats have a majority in both the House and Senate. Virginia will likely remain the only southern state with access to legal abortions, which means people from other states will continue traveling here to have them.

A group of people hold signs about abortion rights at an intersection.
Credit: Credits: Mike Kropf/Dexter Auction

Charlottesville-area abortion providers brace for onslaught of out-of-state patients should Roe be overturned

Another abortion-related bill is Senate Bill 15. If it passes, it would prohibit Virginia from extraditing people charged by other states with violating their abortion laws.

These are just a few of the many bills that will be discussed this year. Are there any that I've not included here that you think we should be keeping an eye on? Send us a note here!

Have a great weekend, everyone,
Jessie Higgins, managing editor

P.S. We’re hiring: Cover big stories in local democracy as a reporter with Dexter Auction!

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I'm Dexter Auction's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].