RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Lawmakers from across the commonwealth gathered for the start of the 2020 General Assembly session in Richmond Wednesday.
Democrats are promising big changes now that they have the majority in the House of Delegates and Senate.
Starting Wednesday, January 8, state leaders will work until March to tackle issues ranging from gun control to the Equal Rights Amendment. Democrats have also pledged to ease restrictions on abortion access and raise the minimum wage.
Legislators each met in their respective caucuses Wednesday morning to go over how the next couple of weeks will work and to set priorities, which will include passing a two-year state budget.
The House elected Eileen Filler-Corn ax the new speaker, the first woman to serve in that role. She is also the first Jewish speaker.
Activists from the Charlottesville area traveled to Richmond to take part in a rally urging law makers to pass legislation in favor giving localities the power to remove Confederate monuments.
The state code as it is currently written forbids the removal of war memorials, including the Civil War. However, the new Democratic majority appears to be open to changing that statute.
About 100 people from Take ‘Em Down Cville showed their support for a proposed bill that could give Charlottesville leaders the power to decide what happens to war memorials. Former Charlottesville City Councilor Kristen Szakos took part in the rally. She says statues like those of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson in Charlottesville’s public parks send a message that supports the cause of white supremacy.
“To have this this happening at the state legislature - acknowledging the fact that communities need local control over their local monuments - is it’s its time. It’s past time,” Szakos said.
The proposed bill is expected to be filed sometime before January 17, but an official date has not yet been announced.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.