Labor Day is the day we celebrate the contributions of organized labor to the betterment of our society. While we now celebrate all workers on this day, in the beginning Labor Day specifically recognized organized labor. For they created the middle class and forced changes that improved the health and safety of the workplace. So as we all enjoy this national holiday, we need to thank the leaders who continue to advocate for fair compensation, improved benefits, and healthy workplaces.
The Virginia General Assembly has made great strides in recent years by raising the state minimum wage, allowing collective bargaining at the local level, and opening the market for insurers to provide family leave plans. But so much work remains.
Please also remember to be safe and drive responsibly this weekend if you are out celebrating!
Student Loan Forgiveness
When I left home for college, my mother gave me four twenty dollar bills. While I was fortunate to receive financial aid packages, I had to beg, borrow, and steal my way through college. I borrowed my way through law school as well. I know what it is like to finish college and law school with debt. And I know what it is like to have to work to get the debt paid off. The difference today is that the cost of borrowing and the cost of education is so much higher.
The student loan process was privatized in the 1980s, which meant the cost of borrowing, interest rates and other costs, went up. That was combined with the divestment in higher education by state governments. In Virginia, our per student expenditures are about half of what they were years ago when adjusted for inflation. In FY 2021 Virginia ranked 38th in the nation in terms of per student state appropriations. This pressure has meant that many students finish school with an unbearable amount of debt.
On August 24, President Joe Biden announced his Student Debt Relief Plan. While the Plan does not fix the student debt crisis, much needed relief will be provided to many people who are drowning in debt. For years we have tried to develop strategies at the state level to provide some relief, but none of those efforts will have as far reaching an impact as the President’s proposal. The details are below.
- Extends the student loan repayment pause through the end of this year. Borrowers will need to begin making payments in January 2023.
- For borrowers with individual income less than $125,000 and household income less than $250,000: $10,000 debt cancellation for non-Pell grant recipients and $20,000 for borrowers who received a Pell grant.
- Institutes short-term changes in eligibility requirements for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, check here to see if you are eligible.
- Seeks to update the rules on income-based repayment plans that will lower future payments for borrowers.
- For more information and to sign up to receive updates visit https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief-announcement/.
The Virginia General Assembly is still in Special Session. We will convene at noon on September 7, to elect judges, including filling a vacancy on the State Corporation Commission. The Commission is an independent state agency that regulates a number of businesses including public utilities, insurance companies, and financial institutions. The Senate Rules Committee will meet prior to the floor session to make appointments to various boards and commissions and to discuss bill limits for the 2023 Session. The Senate and House floor sessions and committee meetings are live-streamed, if you want to listen in.
The Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance is organizing an event at 10 a.m. on September 7 to make it clear that Virginia supports abortion access today and in the future. For more information click here.
This past week, as a member of the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I toured the new CHKD Mental Health Hospital. Families throughout Virginia will benefit from the high quality and innovative services the Hospital offers. After the tour, we met at Old Dominion University with the Institute for Coastal Adaption and Resilience and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to discuss building resiliency throughout Virginia in the face of climate change.
A full schedule of upcoming legislative meetings is available here.
Election Dates – Mark Your Calendars!
September 23 – In-person early voting starts
October 17 – Last day to register to vote online and to update voter information before the poll books close. If you miss this deadline, you can still register in-person and vote using a provisional ballot up to and including Election Day thanks to passage of same-day registration in 2020!
October 28 – Cutoff to request an absentee ballot
November 5 – Final day of in-person early voting
Election Day is November 8th – sign up here to be a poll worker.
In past newsletters, I shared information about the new laws we passed to clamp down on inhumane treatment at facilities like Envigo and about Mila, the bundle of joy and mischief Siobhan and I adopted earlier this year.
The adoption of Mia, a rescued seven year old female beagle from Envigo, by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has generated more interest in ensuring every beagle finds a safe home. Locally, the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA and Green Dogs Unleashed have adopted out beagles from the facility. We so appreciate their work!