Delegate-elect Sally Hudson outlined her upcoming legislative priorities at an intimate town hall meeting in Fifeville Tuesday.
Hudson, an incoming freshman Democrat, will represent the 57th district when the 2020 legislative session starts on Jan. 8. She is replacing Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, who announced his impending retirement earlier this year.
As part of a swell of Democratic legislators who helped win the majority of the General Assembly during the upcoming session, Hudson said she was hopeful some of the changes Democrats have been trying to make for years — such as instating stronger background checks for gun buyers and codifying housing a job protections for LGBTQ residents — will finally get the support they need to pass.
The first question Hudson took was from a single mother from Fry’s Spring concerned about potential gun legislation that might restrict access to firearms. As the mother of a young teen, the woman said she was worried that her handgun could be taken away, leaving her “defenseless if two men invaded.”
Hudson assured the woman that she did not have to worry about her gun being taken away, stressing the preventative nature of the background check legislation as well as legislation that seeks to close the so-called “gun show loophole.”
In Virginia, as in many other states, people looking to sell or buy a gun privately — not through a dealer with a federal firearms license — can do so legally at a gun show.
“It’s important that we hear your voices in these discussions because gun violence takes so many different forms — the number one cause of gun deaths is suicide,” Hudson said. “We want to be talking about all those dimensions of gun violence: the parts that are about mental health, weapons of war, white supremacy and public forms of gun violence.”
“I think you can expect this to be a very nuanced debate that is encouraging all of those voices to come forward and we’re going to be tailoring the regulations to ensure we’re facing specific problems head on,” she said.
Though gun legislation is a priority, Hudson said her first priority is passing legislation that will allow localities to remove Confederate monuments.
Currently, state code prevents localities from removing monuments to any U.S. war or veteran, a code section which became the focal point of a lawsuit against the Charlottesville City Council following a 2016 vote to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Though a Charlottesville Circuit Court judge recently imposed a permanent injunction against removing the Lee statue, Hudson said she plans to introduce legislation that will allow localities to make that decision.
Currently, Hudson is trying to recruit other legislative patrons from across the Commonwealth in order to show that the legacy of the Confederacy and monuments to it are a statewide issue.
“This is a Virginia problem, it’s a broader problem with our history and from my perspective I don’t think we want this to be the #Charlottesville bill, I think it’s part of a broader reckoning with Virginia history and U.S. history,” she said.
Hudson’s bill will not be the first time such legislation has crossed the House floor. For the past two sessions, Toscano unsuccessfully sponsored similar legislation, with each bill dying early in the legislative process.
However, with a newly elected Democratic majority, Hudson said she was hopeful the bill would pass.
Hudson said she expected many of the proposed legislation from Democrats to target issues with the Dillon rule, a legal precedent upheld by the United States Supreme Court that prevents localities from exercising any power not explicitly allowed by the state code.
Though she has not yet received her committee assignments — which are usually assigned the week before the session starts — Hudson said she hoped to be assigned to the privileges and elections committee, finance committee, and/or commerce and labor committee.
As an economist by background — she is an assistant professor of public policy who specializes in labor economics at the University of Virginia — as well as someone interested in the electoral process, she said all three of those committees seem like good fits.
Hudson finished the town hall by stressing the importance of meetings with the community, getting a sense of the issues facing her constituents and educating area residents about the legislative process.
Another town hall meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Northside Library in Albemarle County.