(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rep. Jim Moran (D) spent the morning reading to first graders at Barcroft Elementary School and talking with them about autism.
After meeting with some students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moran read the first graders a story about everyone being different and how everyone’s differences should be celebrated. He explained that autism is another difference, just one that can’t be seen.
“Nobody is the same as everybody else, which is wonderful! Some children have different challenges,” Moran told the children. “Some children have autism. Autism is a challenge that affects the way our brains work. So some children have different ways their brain works.”
One of the students noted his brother has autism, to which Moran responded, “So he’s different and special and wonderful.”
Moran also talked to the students about the “AUTISM Educators Act,” a bill he is re-introducing to request funding for training educators how best to work with students with autism. Barcroft is one of the schools currently offering special services for students with autism, and training all staff members how to work with students with ASD. It is considered a model for other schools across the country.
“We’re going to try to teach other teachers around the country how to be as good of teachers as you have at Barcroft Elementary,” Moran told the students. “We’re going to use Barcroft Elementary as a model for other schools to learn from.”
The bill would establish a five-year pilot program to provide the special training for teachers and school staff. There would also be a focus on recruitment and retention of trained personnel and implementation of a program for parental support and involvement.
“I actually think this bill is going to become law. This is one that I think is going to make an enormous difference in the classrooms around the country that have children on the autistic spectrum,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is going to be groundbreaking legislation. I know it’s going to be bipartisan, I already have Republican sponsors. So I think we’re going to get it passed in the House, and I’m confident we’ll get it passed in the Senate as well. It’s going to become law all because the parents in the Arlington school system worked with the superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the teacher aides to make it happen in a way that other school systems can learn from.”
Moran is requesting up to $5 million for the pilot program and could ask for more once the program expands around the nation. We’re told the funds will come from existing teacher development accounts.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) What started with polite applause ended with jeers and shouts, as Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) hosted a panel discussion on gun violence at Washington-Lee High School Monday night.
Hundreds turned out at the school’s auditorium for the discussion, with gun supporters — wearing “Guns Save Lives” stickers — outnumbering gun control advocates about 3:2, based on the volume of completing applause points.
Among the panelists on stage with Moran were:
- David Chapman, a retired ATF Special Agent and advisor to Mayors Against Illegal Guns
- Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Earl Cook, Alexandria Police Chief
- Jonathan Lowy, of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
- Karen Marangi, of Mayors Against Illegal Guns
While expressing general support for the Second Amendment right to own firearms, Moran and the panelists made the case for additional gun control measures, including universal background checks, an renewed assault weapons ban, magazine capacity limits and mandated reporting of stolen guns. Possible changes to the treatment of those with mental illness were also discussed.
“We hope those of you in the room will really help us to move this, so we can make our communities safer,” Marangi said of some of the gun control legislation that has been proposed in Congress.
Many in the audience, however, were there to voice another opinion. After a generally polite reception for a opening statements by the panelists, the question and answer session brought a different tone.
A majority of speakers spoke strongly in support of gun rights and against additional gun laws, and some expressed fear that the government’s ultimate goal in gun legislation is to gradually ban gun ownership. Moran and the panel’s response to the audience statements and questions often drew boos and shouts.
“Congressman, I know you’re pro-choice, but why aren’t you pro-choice when it comes to self-defense for women?” said one speaker to loud applause. “Why don’t you guys listen to the young rape victims in Colorado when they said that if they had a gun it would have prevented their attacker.”
Other gun supporters called for the elimination of “gun-free zones,” particularly around schools.
“As you can see, there are a lot of people here who are legitimate, law-abiding gun owners,” said a man who asked fellow gun owners to stand, before voicing support for allowing teachers to carry guns. “We would be more than happy to defend innocent lives should a psycho… come into an area to commit an act of violence.”
“I would be opposed to teachers carrying guns in the classroom, and I would not want my children in a classroom where their teacher was carrying a gun,” Moran said in response, to applause from gun control advocates in the audience.
“I know this community well enough to know that the people standing up in this auditorium are not representative of the majority of the residents, ” he continued, to more applause as well as some jeers.
Moran and the panelists drew the most jeers when they brought up “assault weapons.”
“What does that even mean?” some audience members shouted, about the term. Some speakers — those who stood in line to speak — made the case that the term assault weapon is often used to refer to a gun that might look menacing but isn’t significantly different, functionality-wise, from a standard semiautomatic handgun.
“I don’t agree that there’s a need for individuals to have military-style assault weapons,” Moran retorted. “I don’t believe that we need guns that can hold in excess of ten bullets.”
Adding to the urgency of passing gun control laws, Moran said, is a projection that gun deaths will exceed traffic fatalities by 2015. That expected milestone is partially due to rising gun deaths, but mostly due to advances in car safety that started in the 1970s — safety improvements, he said, that came about after being mandated by law.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Moran said he expected a negative response from the crowd.
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.
Same-Sex Couples Denied Marriage Licenses — In what has become a Valentine’s Day tradition in Arlington, three same-sex couples applied for and were denied marriage licenses at the Arlington County courthouse yesterday. Arlington Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson reluctantly turned down the applications and spoke outside the courthouse in support of same-sex marriage. A similar demonstration, organized by another gay rights group, took place outside the courthouse last month. [Sun Gazette]
‘Dooring’ Bill Fails in Va. House — Legislation that would outlaw the “dooring” of bicyclists has failed in the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill had passed the state Senate but failed to pass a House committee earlier this week. The bill would have made it illegal to open a car door in the immediate path of a cyclist. Virginia is one of ten states in the country that do not have such a law on the books. [Washington Post]
Questioning the ‘Female-Friendly’ Sports Bar — Is Bracket Room, the new “female-friendly” sports bar that’s coming to Clarendon, insulting to women? One Washington City Paper writer says the answer is yes. She writes of Bracket Room partner and former reality TV star Chris Bukowski: “…his 2012 appearance on Bachelor Pad, in which former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants live in a house together and compete for $250,000, suggests he may not be the most in touch with women’s preferences. Over the course of the season, the chiseled-abs, blue-eyed Bukowski became the show’s villain, hooking up with and then ditching two of the female contestants.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has suggested that he’s open to a discussion about imposing a local income tax and using it to fund transportation projects, the Washington Post reports.
A bill that would allow Arlington and other Virginia localities to impose a 1 percent income tax without a voter referendum passed the Virginia state Senate last week. It’s now under consideration in the House of Delegates, although most tax bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-majority body.
(Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and other jurisdictions are currently authorized to impose a 0.25 to 1 percent income tax, but must first have it approved by voters.)
Tejada told the Post’s Tom Jackman that the Board is following the bill “intently.”
“We’re always trying to find ways to fund transportation projects, and considering we were ranked number one in gridlock, any resources would be helpful,” Tejada said. “We’ve been trying different things, and traffic’s not going anywhere.”
At last month’s meeting, County Board members said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation plan might not raise enough new revenue to meet Northern Virginia’s transportation needs. McDonnell and state lawmakers are currently working to hash out a compromise version of the governor’s proposal.
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.
The House voted (257 to 167) to send the plan to President Obama, less than 24 hours after the Senate passed it. But Moran spoke on the House floor last night in opposition of the legislation, contending it doesn’t create a permanent solution.
“We set up three more fiscal cliffs. We’re going to have to deal with the debt ceiling, we’re going to have to deal with the continuing resolution expiration and we’re going to have to deal with the sequester,” Moran said on the House floor. “We’re going to look back on this night and regret it, notwithstanding the fact that 95 percent of us apparently will vote for it.”
Moran released the following explanation in a statement:
Throughout negotiations aimed at staving off the economic damage of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ I have been hoping to cast a vote for a balanced deal which addressed both long run fiscal issues and the artificial short term crisis created by the Budget Control Act.
Unfortunately the bill before us today is wholly inadequate. It leaves our country with three more ‘fiscal cliffs’ to negotiate over the next three months. There’s no clarity as to how we preserve the full faith and credit of the U.S. by raising the statutory debt limit, the economically devastating sequester is delayed two months but remains in full effect, and there’s no direction as to how we will fund the government for the remainder of the year when the continuing resolution runs out in March. Each of these deadlines represents a major political battle in which nearly 40 percent of Northern Virginia’s economy in terms of federal contracts and federal employees will be on the chopping block. Our leverage to strike a balanced deal will only be weaker in those coming battles following passage of this bill.
Furthermore, I question the wisdom of permanently locking in revenue levels which are far too low. This includes an estate tax structure which provides a massive tax cut for a small minority of the richest Americans at the cost $369 billion dollars, in exchange for only a temporary extension of important programs that help low and middle class Americans.
“I am deeply concerned by the long term consequences of this hastily crafted agreement, both in terms of our ability to invest in our priorities, such as educating and training future generations, and in terms of the way we govern this country. For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience support this legislation.
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congressman Jim Moran is proposing a bill called the “NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act.”
The bill will “implement five commonsense gun safety reforms that polling shows are supported by at least 63 percent of NRA members,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).
The National Rifle Association is holding a “major news conference” tomorrow (Friday). In its first public statement since the Sandy Hook massacre, the organization has said that it’s prepared to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Details about the NRA’s proposals have yet to be released.
Moran’s bill would require background checks for every gun purchase and for gun shop employees, prohibit individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns, require gun owners to report to police when their guns are lost or stolen, and establish a set of minimum standards for concealed carry permits.
On Wednesday, President Obama called on Congress to act on gun control legislation. He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to draft policies intended to reduce gun violence.
The County Board has approved a revised list of legislative priorities for the 2013 General Assembly session. As anticipated, the focus is to reverse some of the funding cuts Arlington has experienced in recent years.
Board members first presented a draft of the priorities at November’s Board meeting, noting that balancing the state budget will prove to be a major issue. Board members requested that the state restore at least some of the $7.2 million that was cut between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2013 to balance the state budget.
One of the major areas the members hope to receive funding is for transportation. The Board wishes to secure funding for new projects as well as some for maintenance of existing modes of transit.
Arlington is also seeking the power to collect local transient occupancy (hotel) taxes from online travel companies like Expedia and Orbitz, and asking that state legislators “oppose any state mandates to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.”
Other priorities include housing, human services and the environment.
Since November’s meeting, county staff members have been collecting public recommendations for changes or additions to the draft. Based on those suggestions, those of Board members and a work session with the Arlington General Assembly delegation, eight changes were made. Among those legislative requests:
- Requesting that Virginia pass a law in order to join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Program, which allows the collection of local sales tax on internet and mail order sales.
- Requesting that transportation funding formulas not be adjusted in a way that reduces revenue to Northern Virginia
- Requiring nursing homes and long-time care facilities to have auxiliary power generators and adequate emergency sheltering and evacuation plans
The Board unanimously approved the legislative priorities.
This year’s General Assembly session begins on January 9, 2013 and is scheduled to last for 45 days.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) says lines to vote in last month’s election were “prohibitively long,” and is proposing legislation designed to reduce wait times at the polls.
Moran introduced a bill called the Voting Line Reduction and Online Registration Act yesterday (Tuesday). The bill comes a month after Arlington set a new voter turnout record, while residents reported waiting in 3+ hour lines to vote.
“Voters in many states, including Virginia, faced waits of up to four hours to vote, due in large part to insufficient or faulty voting equipment,” the congressman’s office said in a press release. “Moran’s bill addresses these problems by directing the Election Assistance Commission to set a minimum number of voting systems, poll workers, and other election resources at each voting site for all Federal elections.”
The 51-page bill also “establishes a system where individuals can both register and update their voting information” online, and mandates at least a week of early voting. Virginia currently allows in-person absentee voting, but voters must have a valid reason to be voting early.
At a press conference this morning, Moran was joined by officials from Arlington Public Schools, along with several Arlington parents of autistic children. The bill — the “AUTISM Educators Act” — could specifically benefit Arlington schools, where more than 10 percent of the special education population has been diagnosed with ASD, according to Moran’s office.
From a press release:
Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, today introduced legislation, the “Autism Understanding and Training In School Methodologies for Educators Act of 2012,” or the “AUTISM Educators Act,” to establish a pilot program to train teachers who work with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Moran was joined at the bill announcement by original cosponsor Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) parents, children with ASD, and local officials from Arlington County and City of Alexandria Public Schools.
“This legislation is the product of a grassroots effort by parents, instructors, school officials and caring communities,” said Rep. Moran. “Autism Spectrum Disorders are being diagnosed at an exploding rate. We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to provide the best education for our children.”
Autism Spectrum Disorder is now the fastest growing serious developmental disorder in the United States, increasing the number of children with high-functioning autism (HFA) taken out of special education and placed in mainstream classrooms.
Moran’s legislation will create a five-year grant program to allow local school systems to partner with experienced university or non-profit programs to establish a training program for general education teachers who have large numbers of HFA students. The programs will also incorporate parental involvement and retention of skilled educators.
The AUTISM Educators Act has received endorsements from a wide range of organizations including Autism Speaks, the Arlington County School Board and Arlington Special Education Parent Teacher Association.
“Congressman Moran’s bill will provide much needed funding for local school districts as they strive to meet the needs of the growing population of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In Arlington, as across the nation, we have seen a significant increase in the number of students with ASD: from 100 students in 2003 to more than 350 students this year with ASD,” said Abby Raphael, Chair of the Arlington County School Board. “Providing general education classroom teachers and others with additional training is essential to ensuring that students with ASD are successful. The Arlington School Board appreciates Congressman Moran’s leadership and recognizes the work of our very active parent community in working with him, which has resulted in this important legislation.”
In March the Centers for Disease Control released a new study citing the growing rate of ASD. One in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD before their eighth birthday. Boys are five times more likely as girls, with one in 54 diagnosed with ASD.
“Congressman Jim Moran has brought renewed hope to families across Arlington who have a child on the autism spectrum,” said Alex Arriaga, Arlington resident and parent of a child on the spectrum. “The AUTISM Educators Act of 2012 can help bring essential training to classrooms across the country, improving the outcomes for students on the autism spectrum and making it more likely that they can fulfill their great potential.”
The targeted pilot program would be available only to schools with high incidences of ASD; qualifying school systems must have 10 percent or more of the special education population diagnosed with ASD.
Chopper Called in for Suspect Search — The U.S. Park Police Eagle 2 helicopter hovered over the Claremont neighborhood — near Wakefield High School — for about half an hour last night while assisting Arlington County Police in a search for several armed robbery suspects. The chopper assisted police and K-9 units on the ground in the search for the suspects in a armed robbery on the 1000 block of S. Frederick Street, in the Columbia Forest neighborhood, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Police eventually arrested three men in connection with the crime, according to police radio traffic.
Board to Consider ‘Pipestem’ Lot — The County Board is expected to decide this weekend on a controversial development proposal in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood. A developer wants to build a large new home on a parcel of land set back from the street and only connected to the street via only a thin driveway strip known as a “pipestem.” Neighbors have been fighting the plan, but to some degree state law — which emphasizes the rights of property owners — prevents the Board from completely blocking development on the lot. [Sun Gazette]
Pregnant Inmate Shackling Bill Fails Again — Del. Patrick Hope tried again this year to pass legislation restricting the use of shackles on inmates while they’re giving birth. A House of Delegates subcommittee tabled the bill on Thursday, however, prompting Hope to pledge to introduce the bill again next year. Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur presented an alternative viewpoint when she told a reporter that legislation is not the proper way to deal with the issue — state regulatory changes are. [Associated Press]
Venus Stereos Closes — Venus Stereos, a quirky electronics/soccer jersey/music store at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, has closed. A sign in the window say the storefront, directly adjacent to the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse, is available for lease. [Pike Spotter]
In addition to providing prenatal care for the children of recent legal immigrants and studying the tax implications of the theoretical legalization of marijuana, Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly has proposed a number of other interesting pieces of legislation.
- SB264: Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bill would include bicycles, electronic wheelchairs and mopeds in the statute that prohibits drivers from following another vehicle too closely. Currently, the law only requires drivers to maintain a safe distance from other motor vehicles on the road. This bill passed the Senate on Tuesday, and is identical to a bill proposed by Del. Alfonso Lopez.
- HB784: This bill from Del. Lopez would have required drivers to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or the operator of a human-powered vehicle” (such as a bicycle). A House of Delegates subcommittee recommended killing the bill yesterday.
- HB1026: This bill, proposed by Del. David Englin, would allow restaurants to advertise their happy hour specials on the internet. Currently, advertising happy hour prices or other specifics is prohibited by law. Del. Dave Albo (R) of Springfield has proposed an identical bill.
- HJ231: Del. Bob Brink has introduced an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow Virginia governors to run for a second term, starting in 2017. A House Republican has proposed the same amendment.
Newly-elected delegate Alfonso Lopez (D) has introduced a bill that would provide prenatal care for recent legal immigrants.
Low-income women in their first five years of lawful residence in the United States are eligible for a number of pregnancy services under Virginia’s Medicaid system, including payment of labor and delivery costs and costs associated with the child once he or she is born. Prenatal costs, however, are not covered. Del. Lopez’s bill would change that.
“Prenatal care can reduce maternal deaths, miscarriages, birth defects, low birth weights, and other preventable problems,” Lopez said in a statement. “Women who receive no prenatal care are three and a half times more likely to have a low birth weight baby and nearly three times as likely to give birth prematurely as other pregnant women.”
“For every dollar we spend on prenatal care, it is estimated that we will get back 150% of the funding due to reduced neonatal costs,” Lopez noted. “Providing this coverage is both the right thing to do and the fiscally responsible thing to do. I encourage my colleagues in the House of Delegates to join me in supporting this legislation.”
Similar legislation has been introduced by Richmond-area delegate John O’Bannon (R) and Sen Adam Ebbin (D).
Ben Affleck Flick Filming in N. Arlington? — Local residents are telling us that ‘Argo,’ a new Ben Affleck-directed political thriller, is currently in production in the area near Overlee pool. [Forums]
New Restaurant Coming to Shirlington — A new Mediterranean restaurant called Medi is coming to Shirlington. The eatery will offer “uniquely blended flavors, healthy ingredients, and great value,” according to The Village at Shirlington Facebook page. [Shirlington Village Blog]
County Board Candidate Sims Launches Website — County Board candidate Terron Sims II has launched a new campaign website. Sims is one of three Democratic candidates who have formally announced for the upcoming special election to replace state Senator-elect Barbara Favola. The West Point grad and Iraq war veteran has already won support and endorsements from County Treasurer Frank O’Leary and Rep. Jim Moran. [Sims for Arlington]
County Scales Back Legislative Agenda — With Republicans firmly in control in Richmond, Arlington County may be abandoning hope of getting its quarter percent hotel taxing authority restored any time soon. [Sun Gazette]
Signs Biting the Dust in the Rosslyn Area — One local blogger has taken note of at least two recent incidents where signs have apparently been knocked down by out-of-control cars in the Rosslyn area. [Ode Street Tribune]