Opinion: Commentary: Legislature: From ERA to No Excuse Voting

Opinion: Commentary: Legislature: From ERA to No Excuse Voting

The 2019 Virginia General Assembly session is in full swing. There are measures regarding equality, voting, and even taxes up for debate this year. We have seen the Equal Rights Amendment pass Senate Committee, though it has not yet been heard in the House of Delegates.

Once again, I am joining others to sponsor legislation to make sure that voting is both easy and secure. My bill HB1641 would make a simple, but powerful, change in the way people can vote in Virginia. It would allow people to vote absentee without an “excuse” or reason that they need to vote absentee (before Election Day). Like many in other states where this is law, no excuse absentee voting would ease lines on Election Day and has a beneficial impact for working people, the elderly, and the physically challenged. This measure joins a host of other bills including same day voter registration and automatic voter registration.

In addition to the Equal Rights Amendment, we are going to see legislation this year that addresses housing and employment discrimination. We will also see bills that protect women’s health and promote fair pay.

Of course, one of the largest debates we will see in the coming weeks is the response to the Trump Tax Plan and the effect that it will have on the Commonwealth. Governor Northam has proposed a plan that helps working Virginians, most of whom are not seeing substantial benefit from the new law, by making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable. This is an ongoing debate with ongoing negotiations. Despite the Governor making his intentions clear about his plan, Republicans have only recently offered one of their own. Despite what partisan spin you might believe, there is no tax increase on the table right now, just responses to the new Federal law.

Making sure Virginia is a place that works for everyone is very important to me. The EITC has been proven to encourage work and has helped many increase their earnings more rapidly over time. According to the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis the EITC helps over 600,000 low and moderate income Virginia families every year. It is most effective for families with children. Moving to a refundable EITC would also help balance out Virginia’s somewhat regressive state tax system, where low income and middle class families pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than those who are more affluent. More importantly, we would help families give their children the building blocks they need to be successful while their parents demonstrate the value of hard work. Many families who receive federal and state EITCs no longer claim the credits within two years because they earn more money than the eligibility cutoff. The benefits of the EITC are wide ranging — helping families with health, education, and meeting their basic needs.

I look forward to the ongoing debate and encourage my constituents to reach out with their thoughts on how we should proceed in dealing with the consequences of the Trump Tax Plan.

Del. Charniele Herring represents Alexandria City’s 46th District in the Virginia General Assembly where she serves as House Minority Caucus Chair and on the Courts of Justice, Counties, Cities, & Towns, and Agriculture, Chesapeake & Natural Resources Committees. Follow Herring online at www.charnieleherring.com.