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by Ethan Rothstein — January 27, 2015 at 4:30 pm 0

All gun control bills proposed by Democrats that went before the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee yesterday were defeated. Among the legislation struck down was a bill from Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) that would have made it illegal for parents to allow a child 4 years old or younger to use a firearm.

Another bill, from Sen. Barbara Favola (D), would have prevented those convicted of stalking or sexual battery from carrying a firearm.

More than a dozen bills that would restrict everything from who can purchase guns, which convicted criminals can carry guns and how many guns one person can buy were all struck down by the committee. The bills’ defeat was not a surprise considering Republicans control the state Senate and the House of Delegates, and the GOP has long opposed any legislation viewed as restricting Second Amendment rights.

“Handing a child under the age of 4 a gun, the adult is no longer in control of the situation. Simply requiring adult supervision, even with careful instruction, cannot guarantee the safety of anyone nearby,” Del. Alfonso Lopez, who proposed similar legislation to Ebbin’s bill in the House of Delegates, said in a speech before the General Assembly. “If it’s illegal to hand a gun to a person with the mental capabilities of a 4 year-old, why would you hand a gun to an actual 4 year-old?”

Ebbin’s major legislation was an omnibus gun bill that restricted the use of and ability to carry firearms when drinking, at restaurants, and leaving loaded firearms around minors among a litany of other proposed regulations. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the large bill “took longer to present than it did to debate and vote down.”

Before the committee met, Ebbin spoke with ARLnow.com about gun control measures, and he was optimistic that some reforms could pass.

“I’m not sure how much consensus we’ll reach, but gun violence is going to be a big discussion we’re having,” Ebbin said. “I have a thick skin and a positive attitude. Too many people are dying to not press forward on it.”

Favola’s bill to prevent stalkers and those convicted of sexual battery from possessing firearms was originally reported out of committee — meaning it would go before the state senate — and the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Thomas Norment, was heard voting “aye” for Favola’s bill. Hours later, on the legislature’s website, the bill was reported defeated, leading to outcry from senate Democrats.

“This smacks of back-room politics,” Favola told ARLnow.com. The bill will be reconsidered by the committee tomorrow afternoon, according to Favola’s office.

In contrast to the legislation that was shot down, a bill advanced out of committee that would allow people with concealed handgun permits to carry guns on school property when there are no school activities happening. It’s unclear if that, or other pro-gun rights laws, will be vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

by Ethan Rothstein — January 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm 465 0

State Sen. Janet Howell at Arlington Democrats 2011 election victory partyThe Virginia General Assembly concludes the second week of its annual session today, and soon eyes will begin to turn toward passing the state budget.

State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents the westernmost part of Arlington as well as a large chunk of Fairfax County, called the state’s budget outlook “bleak” while praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, which closes the projected shortfall through a series of tax changes and spending cuts. However, Howell and other Democrats say the budget doesn’t go far enough in improving the state’s K-12 education system.

Fortunately, the Governor’s budget closes the budget gap. His budget is balanced,” Howell said in a newsletter to her constituents. “What we do not have, however, is any real ability to make investments in public education, higher education, human services, or workforce development.

“Direct aid to public education has been spared additional state cuts,” she continued. “However, unless we have a sudden, unexpected upswing in our economy, we will have to jettison a proposed and deserved salary increase. For context, in terms of per pupil general funds for public education, by FY 2016 we will be just back to FY 2008 levels on a statewide basis.”

This past summer, McAuliffe announced Virginia was projected to have a $2.4 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Much of that deficit, Howell said at a recent Arlington Democrats meeting, can be traced back to cuts from the federal budget sequestration and the layoffs at government contractors it prompted.

Additional revenue growth has since reduced the deficit, and cuts to the state prison system and elsewhere have saved millions. Del. Patrick Hope (D) says the closing of tax loopholes for some corporations — most notably coal producers — are necessary to even preserve the current level of education funding.

“There are a lot of companies in Virgina that don’t pay any taxes,” Hope told ARLnow.com yesterday. “We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars that Virginia gives out every year to companies for job creation, and research is coming out that that’s not happening today. We need to take a hard look at what those tax credits are, and if they’re not doing what the intended purposes are, we need to pull it back.”

Hope said a state yacht tax credit should also be stripped — “I can’t look my voters in the eye if I vote for a budget” that includes that tax credit, he said — but said that the budget should become more ambitious in terms of education spending. Funding K-12 education millions of dollars less than before the recession, without accounting for inflation, isn’t enough, he said.

“There’s no reason why spending shouldn’t go in the opposite direction,” he said. “We are out of the recession now, it’s time to fill those holes back up.”

Although some form of a balanced budget is expected to pass — which may include cuts to education, according to Hope, if the Republican-controlled General Assembly balks at the loophole cuts — Howell said the realities of the budget situation don’t figure to change anytime soon, especially after the sequester’s cuts to federal defense spending.

“Growth has halted or declined in the good-paying ($77k+/year) jobs in the ‘business and professional services’ categories. Instead, we are seeing more growth in lower-paying jobs, such as health, leisure and hospitality ($45k/year on average),” Howell wrote. “Unfortunately, no one believes this situation is a temporary one.”

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by Ethan Rothstein — January 22, 2015 at 10:00 am 655 0

Taxi drivers protest with road slowdown in CourthouseDel. Rob Krupicka (D) has written legislation that would put a video camera inside every taxi in Virginia.

Krupicka, who represents parts of south Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax in the 45th District, introduced HB 2188 this month, requiring all taxicabs and vehicles “performing a taxicab service” to mount a digital video camera somewhere on the interior, and to keep it recording the entire time the taxi is in service.

According to the legislation — which is under review in the House Committee on Transportation — the Department of Motor Vehicles would regulate how the recordings are used. That would likely include what happens to the recordings after they are taken, assuming there has been no incident.

“This bill is meant to serve as protection for both the consumer as well as the taxicab driver,” Krupicka’s website says.

Krupicka has also introduced legislation to put a referendum on November’s ballot to incrementally increase the state minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2016, $8.00 on Jan. 1, 2017 and $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018. The bill is currently in subcommittee.

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by Ethan Rothstein — January 21, 2015 at 11:05 am 877 0

The Virginia State Capitol in RichmondA bill that would have expanded the definition of hate crimes in Virginia to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals has failed in the state Senate.

Sen. Barbara Favola (D) sponsored the bill, SB 799, which failed by a 7-6 vote in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee last week.

Another local state Senator, Janet Howell (D), serves on the committee and voted to pass, along with five other Democrats. “No” votes by the seven Republicans on the committee doomed the bill before it reached the Senate floor.

If it had passed, the bill would have given crimes directed at people because of sexual orientation or gender identification the same protections under state law as those directed because of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.

Favola’s bill was one of several proposed by Arlington legislators aimed at increasing protections for the gay and transgender communities. Del. Patrick Hope introduced HB 1385, which would make conversion therapy — interventions and efforts to change one’s sexual orientation — illegal when conducted on someone under 18 years old. That bill is in subcommittee in the House of Delegates Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin, Virginia’s first openly gay state legislator, has a number of bills on the matter, including one officially striking down Virginia’s state prohibition on same sex marriages and civil unions. Even though the state Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriage is legal in Virginia, the state’s laws still do not reflect that.

Ebbin has also introduced bills to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” in the state code and to prohibit discrimination in the public sector when considering gay and transgender job applicants.

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by ARLnow.com — January 21, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,641 0

Yellow-bellied sapsucker in Barcroft Park (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Two Rescued From House Fire — Arlington County firefighters battled an early morning house fire in the Old Glebe neighborhood overnight. Two adults were rescued from the roof of the three-alarm fire. An ACFD spokesman said hoarding conditions inside the home made battling the blaze more difficult. [WUSA9, WJLA]

Two Trees Considered for ‘Specimen’ Status — The Arlington County Board will vote this weekend, then hold a public hearing, then vote again next month, to determine whether two trees should be protected with a “specimen tree” designation. [Arlington County]

Future of Arlington’s Office Market — The Arlington County Board held a work session Tuesday to discuss the future of the office market in the county. Arlington Economic Development produced a video that discusses how the office market is changing and how that pertains to local policymaking. [YouTube]

Anti-DACA Bill Defeated — A bill that would have denied in-state tuition to some immigrant students has been defeated in the Virginia state senate. Last week, Arlington’s Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) vowed to fight the bill, which was aimed at students who had been protected from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. [Virginian-Pilot]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Ethan Rothstein — January 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,292 0

Marijuana and handcuff (photo via Facebook)The Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is in Richmond today, lobbying legislators to support Sen. Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization bill.

Ebbin’s bill, SB 686, has been referred to the 15-member Courts of Justice Committee, and if it’s approved would need to be approved by the full Senate before going through the same process in the House of Delegates.

Both houses are controlled by Republicans, which has traditionally been the party opposing marijuana legalization efforts nationwide. For that reason, Ebbin and NORML are targeting decriminalization, instead of NORML’s preferred policy, recreational legalization.

“Decriminalization is the first step in the process of fully legalizing cannabis,” Virginia NORML writes on its website’s section for SB 686. “Virginia is slow to change its laws in general; it often takes several years to make any significant changes, and usually requires support from both Republicans and Democrats. Our goal is to make the simple change to stop charging people with a criminal misdemeanor for simple possession.”

More than 60 marijuana reform advocates converged on the state capital today to discuss the legislation with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. If it passes, Ebbin’s bill would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail to a $100 citation payable to the state’s Literary Fund. According to Ebbin’s legislation, Virginia currently spends $67 million a year investigating, prosecuting and jailing marijuana offenders.

“Criminalizing marijuana disrupts careers and families resulting in more harm than the drug itself and decriminalization is a commonsense step to allow law enforcement to focus its efforts on serious crimes,” Ebbin said in a press release.

by Ethan Rothstein — January 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm 908 0

State Sen. Barbara Favola speaks to the crowd at the groundbreaking for the Union at Queen apartmentsState Sen. Barbara Favola has introduced a series of bills aimed at regulating the in-home child care industry in Virginia.

Her bills — SB 780, SB 818 and SB 898 – would require everyone who receives compensation for child care in their home to be licensed with the Department of Social Services, undergo background checks and include their own children in official counts of how many children are under their care.

Currently, only homes caring for six or more children must be licensed by the state as a child care provider. If Favola’s bills pass in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, all employees who are alone with children would also have to receive first-aid training and ensure the home is clear of fire hazards.

We should give families some assurances that there’s some standard of care,” Favola told ARLnow.com this week. “Right now the law reads if you have five unrelated children, you’re not regulated. This would require all day-home providers to meet minimum standards, like CPR, background checks and house fire safety code.”

The bills are currently in the senate’s Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, which met this morning. Favola is hoping that she can draw support from across the aisle to win some form of child care legislation. Favola’s colleague in the senate, Sen. Adam Ebbin, thinks she may have a chance.

“Daycare is going to be a significant issue to see progress on,” he said.

Favola called her bills “baby steps” at this month’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, but she said she wanted to introduce legislation she felt could pass. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in December that daycare is an issue he wants to see progress on in 2015. According to an editorial in the News Leader in Staunton, Va., 46 children have died in unlicensed daycares in Virginia since 2004.

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by Ethan Rothstein — January 15, 2015 at 11:00 am 0

Adam Ebbin and Alfonso Lopez before Arlington's first same-sex marriage on 10/6/14With former Gov. Bob McDonnell starting to serve a prison sentence on Feb. 9 after being convicted of federal corruption charges, Arlington’s state legislators are taking aim at the state laws surrounding political gifts.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has introduced SB 1289, called the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act. If passed, the bill would establish an independent commission on ethics, which would review all government disclosure forms, conduct random audits of legislators and grant waivers for certain gifts. It would also limit “tangible” gifts to $100 and intangible gifts, like flights and meals, to $250.

“Having a commission gives real teeth to our efforts and shows we’re serious about enforcement,” Ebbin said yesterday. “I’ve been working on this for a few years, for common sense ways to increase transparency and to penalize things that are beneath the standards of our public officials.”

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of receiving more than $177,000 in impermissible gifts from a high-profile donor, and the former governor and attorney general was sentenced to two years in prison. Despite the conviction, McDonnell wasn’t charged with corruption in any state case.

“You can drive a Mack truck through Virginia’s ethics laws,” Del. Alfonso Lopez said.

ARLnow.com spoke to several Arlington state legislators yesterday, and all of them pegged ethics reform as the biggest issue the General Assembly will face in its 2015 session. McDonnell’s conviction has helped drum up efforts for reform on both sides of the aisle.

“I’m confident there will be bipartisan support for increased reform, it’s just a matter of the details, and I’m a pretty detail-oriented guy,” Ebbin said. “I’m going to work hard to make sure the most effective elements of this legislation are adopted, I’m going to do everything in my power.”

Ebbin says his bill would aim to curb “unlimited dinners” for lawmakers and “private jets to golf tournaments,” which he finds “reprehensible.” There would be opportunities for public officials to get waivers if trips are educational or fact-finding, he said.

by Ethan Rothstein — January 15, 2015 at 10:00 am 785 0

Alfonso Lopez speaks at the Democratic victory party on Columbia PikeDel. Alfonso Lopez (D) knew his work trying to secure in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants wasn’t over last spring when Attorney General Mark Herring declared some “DREAMers” eligible for in-state tuition immediately.

The decision allowed children of undocumented immigrant who are legal residents because of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to receive in-state tuition if they meet other state residency requirements.

In this legislative session, there are bills in the House of Delegates and the state Senate that aim to undo Herring’s action. Lopez had previously introduced bills every year to do what Herring did in one fell swoop; now, he’s moving to block the new bills.

“We knew we’d have to defend against Tea Party attacks,” Lopez told ARLnow.com yesterday. “We assumed it would come. We hoped it wouldn’t, but now it has.”

The bills are HB1356, introduced by Loudoun County’s Del. David Ramadan (R), and SB722, introduced by Sen. Richard Black (R), also from Loudoun. Ramadan is himself an immigrant: he was born in Beirut, Lebanon, before immigrating to the United States.

Both bills declare that DACA-protected immigrants “do not have the capacity to remain in Virginia indefinitely,” and therefore are ineligible for in-state tuition. The bill applies to DACA children, those with temporary protected status — political refugees from foreign countries — and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability.

“To think that Sen. Black would want to take the refugees of civil wars and deny them an opportunity of education… that is a huge step backwards.,” Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) told ARLnow.com.

Republicans control both houses in the General Assembly, and with a 67-32-1 advantage in the House of Delegates, so Lopez knows he faces a steep climb in trying to beat the bills.

“We’ve talked to the attorney general’s office, we’ve talked to the governor’s office,” Lopez said. “We also are organizing through education and religious groups, getting them to lobby in opposition against these bills. There are many groups around the state making calls who are saying this is the wrong attack to take, not only from a fairness and a moral issue to take, but also an economic development and job growth [perspective].”

“I think we’ll either be successful and able to defeat these bills in subcommittee or there will be a heck of a fight on the floor of the Senate and the House,” Lopez continued. “Even if by some miracle these bills pass, I don’t believe the governor will sign them into law. I think he’ll veto, but I don’t know.”

Lopez said the issue impacts “my family, my friends and my neighbors,” and highlights the importance of providing in-state tuition for the state’s economic growth. Arlington residents will directly be affected, like Dayana Torres, a student at George Mason University in Fairfax who commutes to school from Arlington.

“I see being able to pay the in-state tuition rate as an essential benefit for my education that my parents and I have paid into through taxes,” Torres said in an email to ARLnow.com. She is the president of the Mason Dreamers and co-founder and former president of Dreamers of Virginia. “I affiliate with the Republican party in many key political topics, so it is always difficult for me to see Republicans in office actively trying to reverse decisions that benefit my family and I since we have been paying taxes and desperately need the in-state-tuition rates.”

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — January 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm 832 0

Rip Sullivan celebrates 48th District victory at O'Sullivan's in ClarendonDel. Rip Sullivan (D) has already filed 16 pieces of legislation, and his first session in the Virginia General Assembly is just hours old.

One of his biggest priorities after being elected in August to replace Del. Bob Brink (D) will be reforming the process by which Virginia draws its districts for both state and federal legislatures. Sullivan’s legislation, HB1485, would follow through on recommendations made by a state government integrity panel last month.

Although a long-shot in the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly, Sullivan’s bill calls for redistricting to become a nonpartisan process.

Every 10 years, after a new U.S. Census, state legislatures redraw their district maps to align with the population changes. Often, these districts are drawn in a way to include certain blocks of voters with one another in order to gain seats in Congress or the General Assembly. The problems are not unique to Virginia, but they might be worse here.

In October, a three-judge federal court ruled that Virginia would have to redraw its congressional map after it ruled it was drawn to include too many black voters into Virginia’s 3rd District.. The court gave the state until April 1, 2015 to redraw its map, but the case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sullivan and state Democrats think a nonpartisan panel would make redistricting fairer.

“This legislation will go a long way toward creating legislative districts that are truly compact, contiguous and respect political subdivision boundaries,” Sullivan said. “By reducing the role of politics, we will establish a redistricting process that is fair, transparent, and takes into account the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Voters should choose their legislators, not the other way around.”

Sullivan’s legislation appears unlikely to pass; after the state’s panel — co-chaired by former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — ruled the process should be changed, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell told the Washington Post through a spokesman that he would resist redistricting reform.

Nonetheless Sullivan thinks that Republicans, who have a vast majority in the House and a one-seat majority in the state Senate, may come around to his ideas yet.

I’d like to think people come down to vote for what’s best for Virginia rather than what’s best for themselves,” he said just hour before his first regular session. He said he senses “real traction” from some Republicans on the measure. “The fact that redistricting affects my [district's] lines ought to be way down the list of concerns for someone down here.”

If the Supreme Court decides to overturn the lower court’s decision, Virginia’s electoral map would be redrawn in 2021, after the next census. A statewide organization called One Virginia 2021, which claims to have members from across the political spectrum, has endorsed Sullivan’s legislation.

“Delegate Sullivan’s legislation takes a major step toward ending gerrymandering  in the Commonwealth,” Greg Lucyk, the president of One Virginia 2021, said in a press release last week. “Gerrymandering eliminates competition in elections, increases voter apathy, and promotes polarization and gridlock.”

If passed, the bill would prevent the use of election data in redistricting, except to ensure “racial or ethnic minorities can elect candidates of their choice.” It would create a nonpartisan panel to look at population size, makeup and communities of interest when redrawing the maps.

by Ethan Rothstein — January 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm 794 0

State Senator Barbara Favola at Arlington Democrats 2011 election victory partyThe 2015 session of the Virginia General Assembly official begins at noon today, and a pair of Arlington lawmakers are using the session to try to protect victims of sexual assault on college campuses.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D), in his first regular session in the General Assembly after being chosen in a special election to replace now-retired Del. Bob Brink, has already filed a bill aimed to help campus sex assault victims. HB1508 would require college campuses to have a memorandum of understanding with “a local sexual assault crisis center” to allow those reporting sexual assault to be able to take their claims off campus.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is co-patron of a bill in the senate, along with two Loudoun senators, Sens. Jennifer Wexton (D) and Jill Vogel (R). Favola said that despite Rolling Stone magazine retracting its story detailing a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, she’s still concerned about university responses to reports of sexual crimes on their campuses.

The Rolling Stone article gave me great concern, even though I know there were questions on whether it happened,” she told ARLnow.com this morning. “The point is this is a pretty serious problem on college campuses… We wanted to empower victims to come forward and report.”

The bills would allow victims to make anonymous reports if they do not want to officially report an assault, and it would provide amnesty to students who are worried that the circumstances under which they were assaulted could jeopardize their academic standing — for example, if a 19-year-old student was raped while drinking underage.

“My bill shouldn’t be a burden” for colleges that have stringent sexual assault policies already on the books, she said, “but for the colleges and universities have not been as aggressive with this, this bill will actually be able to enforce a zero-tolerance for sexual assault policy.”

With Vogel as a co-sponsor, Favola and Sullivan hope the bills can draw votes from the Republican side of the aisle – a requirement if either were to get passed by the Republican-controlled houses in the state legislature.

“I hope this bill with Sen. Favola is one that will receive bipartisan support in this environment,” Sullivan said. “There is a lot of attention paid to the hot-button issues in which there can be disagreement and things turn into partisan wrangling, but a lot of good law is, as I understand it, made every session on a bipartisan basis that doesn’t attract much attention.”

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by ARLnow.com — January 13, 2015 at 9:45 am 1,546 0

Ballston and I-66, as seen from a commercial flight

Unitarian Church Named Historic Place – The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. The church’s modernist building was designed by noted architect Charles M. Goodman. [Arlington County]

Va. Lawmakers Fight Over State Song — Virginia is one of two states currently lacking a state song. The old song was “retired” 18 years ago due to questionable lyrics that drew complaints from African Americans. State lawmakers are against trying to settle on a new state song, but so far there are no clear frontrunners. [Washington Post]

College Game Almost Cost Arlington Man $16K — Arlington resident Patrick Leonard was told by the ticketing website Stub Hub that he was buying four tickets to Monday’s college football championship game in Dallas for $1,600. The next day, however, the bill came back for $16,000. Leonard, a die-hard Oregon Ducks fan, shared his tale of woe on social media and the school arranged four end zone seats for him at face value. [CBS DFW]

Hike to Arlington’s Highest Point — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation is organizing a family hike to the highest point in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 24. The highest point in Arlington is Minor’s Hill, which rises 459 feet at the western tip of the county. The hill has a history that includes roles in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. [Arlington County]

by ARLnow.com — November 24, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2,125 0

Marijuana and handcuff (photo via Facebook)(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who represents part of Arlington, has proposed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana for personal use.

Ebbin’s bill, SB686, is similar to the marijuana decriminalization statute that went into effect in the District earlier this year. (D.C. has since voted to legalize marijuana.) SB686 changes simple marijuana possession from a crime punishable by a $500 fine, and/or up to 30 days in jail, to a civil infraction — a ticket — with a maximum $100 penalty, payable to the state’s Literary Fund.

The distribution of marijuana would remain a crime, but would be reduced to a lesser misdemeanor for all marijuana quantities less than a pound. Growing up to up to six marijuana plants would be considered personal use and not an intent to distribute.

Ebbin, who was endorsed by the marijuana advocacy group NORML earlier this year, told Richmond’s CBS 6 that Virginia’s current marijuana laws do more harm than good.

“I don’t think marijuana decriminalization has ever been introduced in the Virginia Senate,” Ebbin told the TV station. “I think criminalizing marijuana, disrupting careers and families, does more harm than the drug itself does.”

The bill has a co-patron in Del. Kaye Kory, the Falls Church Democrat.

“Marijuana decriminalization is trending across the country and this bill will get us talking about it in Virginia,” Kory told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “The conversation will go back and forth over what steps we want to take and when to take them. There’s no telling how long the process will take, but the important thing is that we’re having the conversation.​”

There’s some history of support for marijuana-related reforms among local politicians and politically-active groups. In 2012, then-Del. David Englin (D) proposed studying whether Virginia ABC stores should some day sell marijuana. In April, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans hosted a forum to discuss marijuana sentencing reform.

Ebbin’s bill will be considered once the Virginia General Assembly convenes in January. With both the House of the Delegates and the state Senate now controlled by Republicans, the bill seemingly faces long odds of passage.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,620 0

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingThe three state senators and four delegates that represent Arlington in the Virginia General Assembly have sent a letter to state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in support of the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

The letter calls out County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt for their continued opposition to the project. On Friday, Garvey laid out alternative uses for the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local transportation funding that are being directed toward the streetcar.

“We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project,” the letter states.

The letter also cites the return on investment study the county funded that predicted more than $3 billion in economic impact in the first 30 years of the streetcar system. It refers to the support the streetcar has already received from state officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The letter was signed by state Sens. Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola and Dels. Alfonso Lopez, Patrick Hope, Rob Krupicka and Rip Sullivan.

The full letter is posted, after the jump. (more…)

by Barbara Favola — September 19, 2014 at 5:00 pm 721 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) and Del. Kaye Kory (D-38), the chairs of the Reproductive Health Caucuses in the Senate and House of Delegates, respectively.

Our health care system is neither healthy nor accessible for many women, but Richmond lawmakers have an opportunity to make improvements. They need to stop playing politics with people’s lives and begin to start governing.

In large swaths of Virginia, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, women are suffering. This suffering affects the well being of all of us, not just the children and communities that are directly affected.

You probably didn’t know that childless, uninsured women are not eligible for Medicaid in Virginia even if they are planning to have children. Moreover, for many mothers who are eligible, they lose their Medicaid coverage 60 days after giving birth because they exceed the very low income requirements to qualify for Virginia’s sparse Medicaid program. This exacerbates an already stressful period in a mother’s life.

In fact, mothers in most parts of Virginia qualify for Medicaid only if they earn less than 40 percent of the federal poverty line. This means that a single mother in Richmond cannot receive Medicaid if she makes $6,100 a year or more. But if Virginia participated in Medicaid Expansion, a program for which we are already sending tax dollars ($5 million per day) to Washington, hard working individuals, including women, earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line would gain insurance coverage. Virginia’s tax dollars are supporting Medicaid Expansion in 29 other States but not here at home!

Medicaid expansion may not be perfect, but the cost of not going forward is astronomical. We all know that maternal health is critically important for the healthy development of a child. This means that prospective moms can only achieve a healthy state if they have access to care before pregnancy as well as access to pre- and post-natal care.  Preventing low-birth weight babies and developmentally delayed babies is something we must embrace. Virginia cannot afford to wait; we must pass Medicaid Expansion now.

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