School Board Says No to Wilson School Historic Status — Any hope preservationists had of salvaging pieces of Rosslyn’s Wilson School are likely dashed. The Arlington School Board voted last night, during an abbreviated meeting, to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s proposal to give the Wilson School, built in 1910 at 1601 Wilson Blvd, historic protections. It has been renovated in the interim, and school officials contend the renovation diminishes its historic value. [InsideNova]
Cops Looking for Crime-Fighting Cabbie — Arlington police are trying to find a cab driver who helped them make an arrest in Pentagon City Tuesday night. An officer was trying to chase down a man suspected of stealing from a store in Pentagon City mall when the cab pulled up and the driver told the officer to hop in. The cab drove up to the suspect and the officer got out and made the arrest — but the driver left the scene before police could thank him and pay the fare. [WJLA]
Happy Hour Advertising Bill Passes — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow Virginia bars to list the names of drinks they’re offering when advertising happy hour specials. Current ABC laws prohibit ads that use language like “beer and wine specials” or “discounted margaritas.” Even under the new legislation, however, bars would still be prohibited from listing the actual prices of happy hour specials in their advertising. [WTOP]
Rollover Wreck on Washington Blvd — An SUV reportedly ran into two parked cars and then rolled over on Washington Blvd last night. [Twitter]
History of Glebe Road — Why is Glebe Road so named? The road, which dates back to the mid-18th century, is not, as one might think, named after a person. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Del. Patrick Hope is chief patron of HB 2308, which allows counties with the county manager form of government — namely, Arlington — to hire an auditor with the power to “make performance reviews of operations of county agencies or county-funded programs.” The auditor would ensure money is being spent wisely and evaluate the effectiveness of those agencies and programs.
The bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday.
“I believe in the case of Arlington, where we have more than a $1 billion operating budget and over 3,000 employees, localities who don’t already have this authority will be seeking it to ensure government is working as efficiently as possible,” Hope told ARLnow.com in an email today. “If this authority is exercised, I think it will give Arlington residents an added level of confidence that their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.”
Currently, the County Board only has the authority to hire a county manager, county clerk and county attorney. County Board member John Vihstadt has been pushing for the county to hire an independent auditor since his election last April. If Hope’s bill passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — which Hope expects, but “I’ve learned over the years you never know” — the Board will begin to deliberate hiring its own independent auditor.
Board member Jay Fisette serves as the five-member panel’s legislative liaision, and is a former auditor himself. He said Hope’s bill is “another tool to consider” as the county develops its budget for the next fiscal year. Fisette said the county used to have several auditing mechanisms, but many of them were cut during the economic recession.
At one point, the county had an audit committee with a $100,000 budget that evaluated performance contracts, Fisette said. A decade ago, the county had two internal auditors ensuring that money wasn’t being spent fraudulently, but budget cuts have meant those services are now contracted out.
“The manager has been working to hire an internal auditor, and we had a great candidate who backed out,” Fisette said. He added that the Board supports Hope’s legislation. “We will set up, in the next few months, the best way to support that audit function. Who would oversee the work plan if they are going to report to us.”
Hope said the state Senate will likely consider the bill within the next two weeks.
A bill co-sponsored by Arlington legislators that would require college campuses to provide survivors of sexual assaults with options for off-campus resources — like counseling and law enforcement — has passed the state Senate.
Sens. Barbara Favola (D) and Adam Ebbin (D) are co-patrons of SB 1329, which would require colleges to establish memorandums of understanding with “a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service,” refer victims to the center and encourage them to preserve physical evidence for a police investigation.
“This legislation represents a positive step in protecting our young people and making college campuses safer,” Favola said in a press release. “SB 1329 strengthens support systems for sexual assault survivors and empowers these survivors to pursue charges against their assailants.”
The bill would also allow victims to submit anonymous reports and provides “for nonretaliation by the institution against victims who fear their conduct may also be questioned or who are concerned that an official report might jeopardize their academic status.”
The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It also was referred out of two committees unanimously. It will now go before the heavily Republican House of Delegates.
The Senate also unanimously passed two companion bills, SB 1193 and SB 712. SB 1193 would require colleges and universities to prominently mark a student’s permanent transcript if the student withdraws, is expelled or is placed on probation for a sexual assualt violation. SB 712 requires higher education employees to report any student sexual assault they are aware of to the campus’ Title IX coordinator within four hours.
Rosslyn: Hub of Hillary Intrigue — Rosslyn is home to an organization devoted to helping Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects, an organization that spends much of its time trying to dig up dirt on Hillary, and a news organization that is covering the 2016 presidential race. This has created some awkward moments at Rosslyn’s few after-work watering holes. Concludes a magazine article: “The epicenter of the country’s great Hillary debate remains a small, charm-deficient enclave across the river from D.C.” [National Journal]
State Legislators Pass Uber Bill — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the Commonwealth. [Washington Business Journal]
Bachelor Contestant Is From Arlington — Jillian Anderson, a now-former contestant on this season of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” is an Arlington resident. Anderson, 25, is described as a competitive weightlifter and an “outspoken gym junkie.” [WJLA]
Crystal City: City of the Future? — Paul Singh, founder of Crystal City-based Disruption Corporation and its Crystal Tech Fund, says he wants to model a “sustainable model for an American city of the future” in Crystal City. “Our efforts in the city should be a 100-year legacy,” he said. [Technically DC]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster
But the estimated 400,000 state residents who do not have health insurance will have to continue to wait after Hope’s healthcare bill, HB 2212, was defeated by voice vote by a House of Delegates subcommittee.
“Disappointed my bill [to] expand access to 400k Virginians was defeated,” Hope tweeted yesterday. “The uninsured aren’t going away; neither am I.”
Hope has been the lead delegate in the House of Delegates’ Democratic Caucus on health care, with efforts again focused on expanding Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. The issue is one of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s priorities for this legislative session.
Speaking to ARLnow.com last week, Hope said he believed bipartisan support was possible for his bill, either in its proposed form or after amendments.
“I’m optimistic we are going to pass this bill or a version of it,” he said. “Virginia is getting closer and closer to that day. We really can’t ignore the economics of this. It’s mainly because we’re really double and triple taxing our residents every single day if we don’t do anything.”
The state’s wealthier residents are already paying taxes to fund federal Medicaid expansion, Hope said, and if Virginia doesn’t expand Medicaid, the money “goes right to Washington, not us.” In addition, Hope said, hospitals that care for uninsured patients who can’t pay their bills pass on the expenses in the forms of higher premiums and costs to those paying for insurance.
Hope said expanding Medicaid would inject $2 billion into the economy by covering holes in the budget, creating Medicaid-related jobs and lowering premiums. The state budgets $200 million for prison reform, mental illness and indigent care, Hope said, all of which would be covered by Medicaid and the federal government.
“Virginia families all over the commonwealth are one accident or one illness away from financial ruin,” Hope said. “The economics are so overwhelming, and I just don’t see how much longer we can walk away from $2 billion because people will still be getting sick.”
On the phone from Richmond this morning, Hope was defiant about expanding Medicaid, saying Republicans are putting “politics before economics” in a year every member of the General Assembly is up for re-election. Thirty states have voted to expand Medicaid, he said, 10 of which have Republican governors.
“Virginia’s just not there in an election year,” he said. “I think it’s just going to reach a point where we can no longer let our politics get in the way of what’s right. I generally have a policy of when I see $2 billion on the ground, I pick it up.”
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
With 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.
Del. 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.”
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.