t has been a long week here at your Capitol, and as we move toward the close of assembly, negotiators have begun to work on reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of Virginia’s record-breaking $138 billion biennial budget.

With the 2020 session scheduled to end on Saturday, the fate of more than 900 bills and resolutions must be determined in the few remaining days. Last week, we reviewed and voted on the House of Delegates proposed amendments to Governor Northam’s Biennial budget, as well as the final set of bills (we call them “revenue bills”) that have been proposed by both chambers that directly affect the proposed two-year spending plan. On that night alone, the Senate was in session nearly 14 hours, adjourning at nearly 2 o’clock in the morning. But there was no rest for the weary, as we returned to work six hours later to continue to process the legislative work still to be done.

The Democrat new majority has made doubling the minimum wage an integral part of their liberal legislative agenda. This year, an increase to the current minimum wage was passed on a party-line vote (21-19), which will now give Virginia one of the nation’s highest minimum wage. Only six other states and the District of Columbia has set their minimum wages as high. And, the states that have — California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — have suffered job losses in entry-level positions, and automation has replaced human beings as a cheaper alternative to paying real citizens to fill those positions.

The drastic rise in the minimum wage will hurt small business all across the commonwealth, but will be especially hurtful to existing small businesses in our region and will hinder our economic revitalization in Southside and Southwest. Until this session, Virginia was ranked as the “best state to do business,” above all other states in the union. This policy, combined with Democrats new proposals for higher taxes and the deconstruction of Virginia’s Right to Work laws with the adoption of collective bargaining for state and local government employees, will cause our state to slip precipitously down the rankings of business-friendly states.

The impact on our economy will be significant, as new businesses and established businesses looking to expand will go to other states and employ their citizens, when they might have otherwise located their business in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If one needs an example of what will happen to Virginia’s economy with these new liberal economic policies now in place, one only needs to look to California, Washington state, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — they are not known as great states in which to do business.

We also continued to hear more unworkable and quite frankly, unconstitutional gun-control legislation proposed by the Democrats. They appear to be determined to create and pass laws that will eventually make the entire state of Virginia a “gun free zone.” That is their hope, that is their dream. And the legislative vehicles that they use to accomplish this agenda appear benign on the surface, and they tout it as “commonsense gun control legislation,” when in reality, it is nothing more than “wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” with its far-reaching intent to severely restrict the Second Amendment lurking beneath the surface.

Take for example, Senate Bill 71, which would ban firearms in or around preschools, both private and public, sounds good, right? But the catch is if the preschool or daycare is on the ground floor of a private business’ office building, then firearms are now banned in the entire building. The Democrats are attempting to make Virginia a gun-free state, one property, one event, one county at a time.

This week was another monumental week for my Senate Bill 1. It will require the Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate driver’s licenses which had been revoked or suspended solely due to unpaid court fines. Senate Bill 1 passed the full General Assembly, and is now on its way to the governor’s office.

Suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court debt when people are struggling to make ends meet is just flat-out wrong; more than 8 million people call Virginia their home, but close to a million of them aren’t truly equal and contributing citizens here because the commonwealth has suspended their driver’s license solely due to unpaid court fines and fees. We want all people to be an equal and contributing member of our society, able to travel freely to and from their jobs, to make a living, to care for their family and live the American Dream.

Suspending licenses of those people who cannot pay the government’s tax only leads to more poverty, a loss of individual dignity, and a resulting reliance upon welfare and government dependency in order to survive. Fortunately, that arcane “debtors’ prison” practice is now coming to an end, once and for all.

As the General Assembly is winding down for the 2020 session, we are seeing fewer visitors from the district. If you are here in Richmond, feel free to stop by and say hello; our office is located on the fifth floor (E504) in the Pocahontas building directly across from the visitor’s entrance to the Capitol on Bank Street.

Stanley is a state senator representing parts of Halifax County.