1/11/2019, 6 a.m.
The Virginia General Assembly began its 2019 session this week, and last week, the 116th Congress got underway. As both ...

The Virginia General Assembly began its 2019 session this week, and last week, the 116th Congress got underway.

As both legislative bodies get busy doing the work of the people, we feel a sense of hope and encouragement.

Here’s why:

• Washington will have the most diverse group of lawmakers in history with a record number of women and people of color. More than 100 women were sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3, and six in the U.S. Senate. 

This is a groundbreaking moment in our nation’s history, as the members of Congress reflect the diversity of background and thought of the wide range of people of this nation. Democracy will no longer be the bailiwick largely of white men. 

The group includes the nation’s first Native American women to serve in Congress (Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas); the first Muslim women — one, (Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota) the first Somali-American, and the other, (Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) the first Palestinian-American; and several new LGBTQ representatives.

The 116th Congress also will have the largest number of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

 The Congressional Black Caucus now has 55 members. That includes two U.S. senators, 51 representatives in the House and two non-voting delegates representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. CBC chair Rep. Karen Bass of California said it is the first time in the CBC’s 48-year history that it has had more than 50 members.

 The Congressional Hispanic Caucus now has 37 members, the largest ever, while the number of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders has reached 20, according to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

• In the 116th Congress, Democrats hold the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. And they hold 45 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, with two additional seats being held by independents.

• In the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus is starting the session with a record 21 members, including six representing the Richmond-Petersburg area, and a real chance of making its power felt for its constituents. 

• With the Democrats holding 19 of the 40 seats in the Virginia Senate and 48 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates, the VLBC has a clear chance to wield its political muscle.

We don’t offer this information so that readers will be lost in the numbers. We offer this information as an encouraging sign of possibility on the state and national levels that progressive agendas aimed at lifting the health, welfare and prospects of every man, woman and child in this nation and in the commonwealth will come to the fore, receive a genuine hearing and have a better chance of becoming law.

That progressive agenda includes the basics we have come to believe in — adequate funding for public education so that our children can go on to higher education, solid jobs and a bright future; economic development that will provide opportunities for meaningful work for people at all skill levels; health care initiatives that will protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and that will make the price of medicines more affordable; initiatives to boost the funding and availability of mental health services; housing initiatives to address and combat homelessness and poverty; and public safety efforts to reduce gun violence through tougher gun restrictions, including universal background checks.