Assault weapons ban brings lots of calls

We’ve completed the fifth week of the 2020 Session and are headed into crossover on Tuesday, where we have to complete all the work on bills presented in the House and start working on Senate proposals.

During the 2020 General Assembly session, there is no doubt that small business has been under full assault, and I wanted to give you the latest on several of those proposals.

The House came close to approving a bill to entirely repeal the Right to Work law and make employees join unions and pay dues just to keep their job. One Democrat introduced HB 153 that would repeal Virginia’s Right to Work law, which protects workers from forced unionization.

Currently, in Virginia, an employee does not have to join a labor union as a condition of them keeping their job. This proposal would remove that protection. Concerns were raised about the impact this would have on the capacity to attract future business deals to the Commonwealth, and fortunately, the House Appropriations Committee decided not to act on it any further.

Also, SB 426 sponsored by the Democrat Senate Majority Leader would require employees to pay a “Fair Share” fee that is no different than repealing Right to Work. It would require employees who don’t join the union to pay a union fee that is 60% of union dues. This bill was killed late Sunday by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Legislation requiring a $15 minimum wage is flying through both the Virginia House and Senate with lightning speed. For many small businesses, especially those who offer jobs to unskilled and inexperienced workers, this is a job killer. It will hurt employees, not help them. Even other employers will see significant cost increases when they have to raise pay across the board to keep up with this huge jump in the wage floor. If business profit margins are slim, and an employer can’t raise prices and compete, this bill will do a lot of harm. It will force employers to eliminate entry-level jobs and cut worker hours or benefits.

In the House, the minimum wage bill reported out, with a substitute, of Labor and Commerce and Appropriations Committees on a party-line vote. HB395 raises the minimum wage to $10 an hour on July 1, 2020, and steadily increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2024. In addition, the substitute also increases the base tipped wage to $4.88 on July 1, 2020, and increases to $9.88 by July 1, 2024. After that, the state minimum wage will be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index, and the base tipped wage will remain not less than 70% of the state minimum wage. Exemptions for farm labor and piece workers were eliminated, which will impact those in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

I will keep fighting to do away with all these proposals that would be bad for small businesses that are so important to rural Virginia and the entire state.

The majority of the calls and emails to my office last week were constituents and citizens all around the state that were opposed to House Bill 961, the so-called ‘assault weapon’ ban. House Democrats watered the bill down, but it would still turn countless Virginians into felons overnight. While the bill doesn’t ban modern sporting rifles (such as AR-15’s) outright, it does make it a crime to import, sell, transfer or do virtually anything else with them. It also bans the sale of parts that can be “readily converted’ into such a weapon, putting repair of a failing rifle or other firearms in question.

Democrats settled on the arbitrary number of 12 as to what constitutes a “high-capacity” magazine – making it a felony to possess the standard magazines that come with most sporting rifles and pistols. After a brief grace period, ending on January 1, 2021, those who continue to possess those magazines will be guilty of a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, up to a $2,500 fine, or a combination thereof. I voted against this bill and will continue to vote against it as it moves to the House floor for a full vote this week. I take our Second Amendment rights very seriously and will continue to do everything within my power to protect this constitutional right.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.