First Night of Hanukkah — Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. [Chabad]
Ebbin Introduces Repeal of Va. Gay Marriage Ban — State Sen. Adam Ebbin has introduced legislation that would repeal Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In order to repeal the amendment, which was approved by voters in 2006, Ebbin’s legislation would need to pass the General Assembly in 2014 and 2016, and be approved in a statewide referendum. [Sun Gazette]
No Tenants for New Rosslyn Skyscraper — So far, no tenants have signed on to lease office space in 1812 North Moore, the new skyscraper in Rosslyn that holds the title of the region’s tallest building (with the exception of the Washington Monument). The lack of tenants is being blamed on weakness in the local office market. The office vacancy rate inside the Beltway has risen from 10 percent in 2010 to 17.5 percent this quarter. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, released a statement on Ted Olson and David Boies’ decision to join the legal team contesting the Marshall-Newman amendment, which defines marriage in Virginia as between a man and a woman.
“Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies are among America’s finest legal minds and I am delighted that they are putting their talents to use in seeking to strike down of the Commonwealth’s draconian Marshall-Newman amendment,” Ebbin said in a statement “It is not a question of whether marriage equality will come to Virginia; it is a question of when.”
The American Foundation for Equal Rights announced today that Olson and Bostic had joined the legal challenge. The organization hopes the suit reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down California’s Proposition 8, but left the power of defining marriage to the states.
Ebbin has previously spoken out condemning state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, for his anti-gay stances.
Thousands Apply to Live in New Affordable Building — Since it started accepting applications on Aug. 27, the new 122-unit Arlington Mill Residences affordable apartment complex has received applications from more than 3,600 people. Nonprofit developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is expected to hold a lottery later this week to determine which of the qualified applicants will get an apartment. [Washington Post]
New Randolph Elementary Track — A dedication ceremony was held on Friday for a new track at Randolph Elementary School. The track was built with $40,436 raised by the Randolph PTA and Randolph Principal Renee Bostick. As part of Friday’s event, the Wakefield High School marching band led students, school staff and parents on a inaugural lap around the track. [Arlington Public Schools]
Lawmakers Laud Progress on Solitary Confinement — Local Democratic state lawmakers Patrick Hope and Adam Ebbin say Virginia has been making progress in reducing the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement. While the state is “off to a good start,” Hope and Ebbin say more work must be done to provide mental health services to prisoners to ensure they don’t wind up back in solitary. [Washington Post]
Weekend High School Football — Wakefield High School opened its football season with a win against Marshall. The team was winless last year. Meanwhile, Washington-Lee defeated McLean and Bishop O’Connell defeated Bishop Ireton. Yorktown snapped its 28-game regular season winning streak with a loss to Langley. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
Arlington Trail Counters — Arlington has “the region’s most extensive bike and pedestrian tracking system,” with nearly 30 sensors on trails and sidewalks. According to sensor data, two thirds of trail users are bicyclists. [Washington Post]
Ebbin Prostitution Bill in Limbo — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), that would allow a prostitution conviction to be expunged if it’s proven the dependent was forced to work as a prostitute, got a cool reception from the Virginia State Crime Commission. The commission took no action on the bill, which was held over from the 2013 General Assembly session for possible consideration next year. [Associated Press]
Amazon Now Charging Sales Tax in Va. — Amazon.com is now collecting the 5.3 percent state sales tax from customers in Virginia. The change went in effect on Sunday. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Ebbin, the first openly-gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, responded to remarks Cuccinelli made at a debate over the weekend. Cuccinelli defended his previously-stated “sincerely held beliefs” about homosexuality — that, in the paraphrased words of moderator Judy Woodruff, “same-sex acts are against nature and harmful to society.”
“My personal beliefs about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed,” he said. “The notion that because I believe marriage ought to be protected, because I believe life begins at conception — just like hundreds of thousands of independents and Democrats — this isn’t just me, it isn’t just Republicans.”
In response, Ebbin issued the following statement today.
Ken Cuccinelli’s unapologetic and bizarre views on gay people perpetuate the worst stereotypes and make Virginia look like a hostile backwater. Labeling gay people “harmful to society” and calling homosexuality a “personal challenge” puts him out of the mainstream of Virginia thinking. It’s one thing to be prejudiced in your private life, but it’s another to use a position of public trust to promote intolerance and bigotry. As a gay person, I know how this type of rhetoric can hurt people, and I don’t think that Ken Cuccinelli understands that at all.
This debate in Virginia is especially timely since our neighbors in Maryland and DC now have marriage equality. Terry McAuliffe understands perfectly, as I do, that this places us at a competitive and economic disadvantage. That’s what this governor’s race is all about.
Cuccinelli has also been trying to overturn a federal court ruling that found Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, which outlawed oral and anal sex, unconstitutional. He says the law wasn’t intended to prosecute consenting adults, but instead served as a tool prosecutors could use in cases involving child sex predators.
Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis in the race for governor. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Ebbin and Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) both plan to introduce bills to get rid of the tax during the 2014 legislative session.
“Hybrids already pay gas taxes and the mileage of both hybrids and non-hybrids vary significantly,” said Ebbin. “There are gasoline-only autos that get better mileage than some hybrids, and some hybrids, including SUVs, that do not get mileage as good as many gas-only powered cars. The punitive annual hybrid tax was not well thought out and hastily passed.”
The $64 tax went into effect yesterday as part of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation bill. As a compromise between McDonnell and the state General Assembly, the amount was reduced from the originally proposed $100 hybrid tax. The measure is expected to raise about $5 million out of the $1.4 billion budget.
The more than 91,000 hybrid vehicles registered in Virginia make up about one percent of all vehicles in the state. Around 80 percent of the hybrids are registered in Northern Virginia.
Earlier this year, Ebbin and Surovell circulated a petition requesting the removal of the tax from the transportation bill. That petition picked up around 8,000 signatures but did not prevent the tax from being included.
The two lawmakers plan to introduce the bills to repeal the hybrid tax on the first day of the state’s new legislative session, which is January 8.
The Commonwealth was once again the butt of jokes on The Daily Show last night. But this time around, a local Virginia legislator at least got some snarky kudos from Jon Stewart.
The Comedy Central show featured a mock-segment, alternately titled “Virginia Is Not For Lovers” and “19th Century News,” about the efforts of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) to repeal the state’s long-standing law against an unmarried couple living together. Though rarely enforced, Virginia law classifies “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” as a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine.
Ebbin’s bill, SB 969, has passed the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate and is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) signature.
VA Senate Panel Advances “Love Shack” Bill — A state Senate panel unanimously advanced a bill proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) that would repeal the Virginia law making it illegal for unmarried couples to live together. Currently, cohabitation by unmarried couples is a misdemeanor under the law, which went into effect in 1877. [Washington Post]
Board Accepts Grant to Fight Childhood Obesity — The County Board has accepted a state grant worth $25,000 to fund a Healthy Meals for Healthy Families program at Carlin Springs Elementary School, intended to fight childhood obesity. The program will include weekly hands-on classes in healthy food preparation and healthy eating for at-risk third, fourth and fifth graders and their families. “[The grant] will fund a program at Carlin Springs Elementary that will not only educate our children and families – but ultimately change behaviors to promote life-long healthy eating and healthy living,” said Board Chairman Walter Tejada. [Arlington County]
APS Makes EPA’s Green Power Purchasers List — Arlington Public Schools has come in at number five on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the Top 20 K-12 green power purchasers. APS meets six percent of its electricity use by purchasing more than 3,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power each year. “Utilizing green power helps us become more sustainable, while also sending a message to others across the U.S. that supporting clean sources of electricity is a sound business decision and an important choice in reducing climate risk,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “Most importantly, this conveys to our students the important role and responsibility that all of us have in safeguarding our environment today and in the future.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Board Promises to Hear PenPlace Concerns — At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board assured concerned residents that their voices will be heard in regards to the proposed PenPlace development. Board member Chris Zimmerman refuted claims by opponents that there wouldn’t be a serious review of the Pentagon City project. The plan involves developing 10 acres of mostly vacant land into a complex of 12 to 22 story buildings. [Sun Gazette]
Flight Makes Emergency Landing at DCA — A US Airways Express flight had to make an emergency landing at Reagan National Airport this morning (Wednesday) due to a cracked windshield. The plane was minutes into its flight from DCA to Raleigh/Durham International Airport when it had to turn around. Nobody was injured. [WJLA]
Plastic Bag Tax Defeated — Sen. Adam Ebbin’s proposal to tax single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores has been defeated in the state Senate. Had the bill passed, it would have imposed a five cent tax on every plastic bag distributed by retail establishments. [Sun Gazette]
Potomac CrossFit to Re-open in Courthouse — After closing last year to make way for a new development in Clarendon, Potomac Crossfit has found a new home. The new 9,000 square foot location will be located at 1320 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 100. It is expected to open in May. [Potomac CrossFit]
Two state lawmakers who represent parts of Arlington have proposed a gun safety legislation package in the Virginia General Assembly.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. Patrick Hope, both Democrats, introduced bills that would close the so-called “gun show loophole,” require universal background checks on gun purchases, require gun owners to report stolen firearms, and restrict weapon sales to the mentally ill. To drive home the point, the lawmakers recorded two videos (above and below, after the jump) showing them buying a handgun without a background check and buying a high-capacity magazine at a recent gun show in Chantilly, Va.
The legislation was introduced Wednesday, a day before President Obama proposed legislation to require universal background checks, ban high capacity magazines, and ban assault-style weapons.
The gun control bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-controled state legislature; Hope and Ebbin called on Virginia residents to contact their legislators in support of the legislation.
From a press release:
Virginia State Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) have introduced a package of gun safety legislation to require universal background checks on prospective firearms purchasers (SB 1232 / HB 2025), close the gun show loophole, and tighten restrictions on the sale of weapons to the mentally ill (SB 1109 / HB 2221).
SB 1109 and HB 2221 would make it a Class 6 felony to sell firearms to persons found mentally incapacitated or who have been involuntarily admitted.
Ebbin also introduced legislation to require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms (SB 965) and to outlaw firearms in legislative buildings (SB 1012).
“We easily purchased a handgun at a Virginia gun show, without undergoing a background check. Sadly, nearly 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check. In the interest of community safety, it’s not too much to ask for responsible gun purchasers to undergo a background check to screen for criminal history or history of serious mental illness,” the two wrote in a joint statement.
The lawmakers discussed their visit to a gun show in a January 15th news conference at the Virginia Capitol. Hope showed the High Standard Sentinel Revolver he bought for $175; because he purchased the gun from a private dealer, he did not have to undergo a background check to screen for a criminal record. “Today, a felon with a violent past can walk into a gun show or go on the Internet and buy any gun with no questions asked,” Hope said. “A law we could pass today, requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, would have an almost immediate impact on gun safety. No responsible gun owner is afraid of a background check.”
Displaying a 30-round ammunition magazine he purchased for $20, Ebbin said, “Buying a 30-round magazine should not be as easy as buying a candy bar.” He noted that a 30-round magazine was used in the recent Newtown, Connecticut tragedy that left 26 dead.
Citing the need to pass SB 965, Ebbin said, “When a gun is stolen, a deadly weapon is in criminal hands—a combination we all want to avoid. Reporting lost or stolen guns can help police avert a tragedy.”
Hope and Ebbin called on Virginians to contact their legislators in support of the gun safety legislation.
A law against “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” has been on the books in Virginia since the 19th century. Currently, § 18.2-345 of Virginia code specifies that “If any persons, not married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together… each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor” — punishable by a fine up to $500.
A quick internet search reveals that talk of repealing the archaic law dates back to at least 1981, when the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily talked to a local prosecutor who attributed “the statute’s permanence… to the reluctance of members of the Legislature to stand up and ask for its repeal.” In 2005, USA Today noted that Virginia was one of seven states that still prohibited unmarried cohabitation.
The law rarely if ever results in arrests these days, although it was the subject of a 1973 Virginia Supreme Court case. According to USA Today, cohabitation laws usually only come up when they’re “cited by landlords as a reason for not renting to cohabiting couples or by government agencies refusing licenses.”
Ebbin, who represents Arlington and Alexandria, is hoping to take lewd and lascivious cohabitation off the books once and for all this year. Ebbin has introduced a bill, SB 969, that would eliminate unmarried cohabitation as a crime in Virginia.
The bill is expected to be heard by a state Senate committee Wednesday afternoon, according to the watchdog website Richmond Sunlight.
The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed support for Ebbin’s bill. Ebbin’s office has not responded to a request for comment.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) In the wake of a presidential election that saw 3+ hour lines at polling stations in Arlington, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed a bill to extend polling hours in Virginia.
Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, is proposing extending the poll closing time to 8:00 p.m. from 7:00 p.m.
“My legislation to extend polling hours to 8:00 p.m. is designed to make it easier for Virginians to participate in our democracy,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Particularly in Northern Virginia, unforeseen circumstances like ice storms, earthquakes, traffic tie-ups and work emergencies have prevented people from getting to vote. Based on our recent presidential election, we know that a successful voter turnout can lead to long lines at the polls, particularly early in the morning. SB 964 would make it easier to vote — as it should be!”
Ebbin’s bill, SB 964, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Privileges and Elections committee on Tuesday, Jan. 15, according to the legislative tracking website Richmond Sunlight.
Photo courtesy Arlington Public Library
Close Call at Reagan National — Three commuter jets nearly collided at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday afternoon due to a communications failure among air traffic control personnel. The planes were about 12 seconds away from a collision when a tower controller corrected her mistake. [Washington Post]
Ebbin Endorses Krupicka — State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has endorsed Alexandria Councilman Rob Krupicka (D) in the Sept. 4 special election to fill Del. David Englin’s former 45th District House of Delegates Seat. “[Krupicka] has been a steadfast ally in the fight for true equality, world-class education system, a cleaner environment, smart transportation solutions, and innovative policies that keep our economy strong,” Ebbin said.
Kaine to Visit Arlington Business Today — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine will be visiting Clarendon-based business GridPoint this afternoon. Kaine, who will be joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), will highlight his “Strengthening Our Economy Through Energy Innovation” plan.
Extreme Weather on the Rise in Va.? — Extreme downpours and snowstorms are happening 33 percent more frequently in Virginia compared to 65 years ago, according to a new report by Environment Virginia. The group says the finding supports the idea that global warming is changing weather patterns. “We need to heed scientists’ warnings that this dangerous trend is linked to global warming, and do everything we can to cut carbon pollution today,” said Environment Virginia Field Organizer Laura Kate Anderson. [Environment Virginia]
Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former Navy fighter pilot whose judicial nomination was supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), failed to receive the 51 votes necessary in the 100-member House of Delegates. Del. Bob Marshall (R), who led the charge against Thorne-Begland’s nomination, cited his public opposition to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy 20 years ago, while still in the Navy, and his expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Thorne-Begland is “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda,” Marshall said in a press release. “Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’ constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?”
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, argued that Thorne-Begland was rejected solely on the basis of being openly gay. He also condemned the state Senate leadership for dodging a vote on the nomination.
“The debate in the House of Delegates was homophobic and embarrassing, and showed a disrespect to a chief deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and decorated veteran who was honorably discharged,” Ebbin told the Washington Post. “It’s also offensive that the Senate Republican leadership wouldn’t even grant Lt. Thorne-Begland the courtesy of a Senate vote.”
On Twitter, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), who along with Del. Patrick Hope (D) was among the 33 “yes” votes for Thorne-Begland, Tweeted about the vote in real time early yesterday morning.
“Shameful,” Lopez said. “Virginia and Mr. Thorne-Begland deserved better. I have a feeling the Commonwealth will be in national headlines again.”
Del. Bob Brink and Del. David Englin, Democrats who both represent portions of Arlington, were among the 26 lawmakers who did not cast a vote on Thorne-Begland.
Update at 1:55 p.m. — Del. Marshall and Sen. Barbara Favola (D) appeared on NewsChannel 8′s NewsTalk program this morning to discuss the judicial vote.
Update at 3:35 p.m. — Del. Brink has issued a statement to ARLnow.com regarding his absence from the voting.
Due to previously scheduled travel out of the country, I was absent for the May 14 session of the House — the first session I’ve missed in my 15 years as Delegate. The House minutes reflect that I was granted a leave of absence for this reason.
Tracy is my friend. For several weeks, after the right-wing threat to his nomination became known, along with other concerned members of the General Assembly including my colleague Adam Ebbin, we strategized on the steps needed to get him confirmed. I deeply regret that we were unsuccessful.
The rejection of this eminently well qualified lawyer, in addition to its unfairness to him, is a loss to Virginia’s justice system and another black mark on Virginia’s reputation.
It goes without saying that I would have vigorously supported and voted for Tracy if I had been present.
Photo via Office of Sen. Adam Ebbin
A bill that was introduced by Rep. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) inserts a “conscience clause” into the Virginia law concerning private adoption and foster care agencies.
“No private child-placing agency shall be required to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would conflict with the religious tenets of any sponsor of the agency or other organization or institution with which the child-placing agency is affiliated or associated,” the bill reads. It also says that adoption agencies cannot be held liable for civil damages as a result of denying the placement of a child.
Ebbin says the clause is discriminatory.
“Adoption and foster care agencies that receive state funding should not be allowed to pick prospective parents based on their sexual orientation,” Ebbin said. “Adoption is a public act that goes through state courts, and no government agency should ever engage in discrimination. When placing a child in a permanent home, the only factor we should take into account is what is best for the child.”
Ebbin tried to patron a bill, SB 569, that would have banned discrimination on the basis of “race, religion, national origin, sex, age, family status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity” among adoption and foster care agencies that receive state funds. The bill failed to make it out of a Senate committee.
The conscience clause bills, meanwhile, are advancing. On Friday Gilbert’s bill passed the House by a vote of 71-28, and McWaters’ bill has passed a Senate committee by a vote of 8-7.