Abortion and gun control are the top priorities for Virginia Democrats heading into the new year after their election wins earlier this month.

Bills and resolutions to ensure abortion access and ban so-called assault weapons were filed Monday as Democratic leaders set the agenda for the 2024 legislative session. Democrats propose increasing the state’s minimum wage and automatically restoring voting rights for convicted felons who have completed their sentences.

Del. Don Scott, the new speaker of the House and first Black man to hold the office, said the upcoming legislative session will move Virginia forward.

“I am especially glad to see the resolution to start the process of codifying the automatic restoration of rights,” Scott said in a news release. “With this, we are sending a message that there is no room for the spirit of Jim Crow that has plagued our Commonwealth for far too long.” 

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Virginia Essential Workers Demand Unions for All at Rally & Roundtable With Del. Don Scott

Del. Don Scott (D-80) was nominated and elected by Democrats to be the first Black speaker of the House in Virginia history. (Shannon Finney/Getty Images for SEIU)

If the resolutions for abortion access and restoring felons’ rights pass the legislature, it would be the first step in a lengthy process to amend the state constitution. The amendments would then need to pass the legislature during a second year, and then be put to voters for approval in a state referendum, according to The Associated Press. 

House of Delegates Majority Leader Charnlele Herring, who sponsored the abortion resolution, said Democrats were keeping a promise made throughout the 2023 campaign cycle. 

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Glenn Youngkin on Election Day

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin gestures to supporters while arriving at Piney Branch Elementary School on Nov. 7, 2023 in Bristow, Virginia. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“It has become all too clear that without constitutional protection, access to reproductive healthcare is at risk for the Commonwealth,” Herring said.

Bills filed in both the House and Senate would make buying, selling or transferring an assault firearm a Class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 12 months in jail. The bills use an existing state definition of “assault firearm,” which covers semiautomatic, center-fire rifles and pistols that use magazines holding more than 20 rounds of ammunition or are “designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.”

The state Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year, but it died in the House, which was then controlled by Republicans.

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Democrats retained control of the state Senate and flipped the state House of Delegates from Republicans in the Nov. 7 election. The elections grabbed national attention, as Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned for several GOP candidates in what came to be viewed as a barometer ahead of next year’s 2024 elections and a test of Youngkin’s political strength. 

Two years ago, Republicans in Virginia won elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — their first statewide victories in a dozen years – and they flipped the House. The victories in a state that had trended blue over the previous decade energized Republicans nationwide.

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This year, however, Democrats successfully campaigned on preserving abortion access and Youngkin, who advocated for a 15-week abortion restriction, lost the argument with voters. Now, he must contend with a Democratic-controlled legislature that will stymie his conservative agenda for the remainder of his term. 

Fox News Digital’s Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.



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