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Progressive Voice: A Progressive Agenda – Part 1

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Lawrence Roberts

In the aftermath of the November 2016 election, Democrats in Arlington were stunned by an outcome few anticipated.

Once reality of the defeat was absorbed, it was time to assess signals President-Elect Donald Trump would send about his agenda.

Even before Inauguration Day, it became clear to local Democrats that the Trump agenda would run counter to their values and that the new President would seek to dismantle key Obama Administration accomplishments.

Thus began the resistance – the Women’s March; the March for Action on Climate Change; impromptu protests at airports around the nation to push back against detention of immigrants returning to the country; the March for Science; and the formation of groups such as Indivisible dedicated to resistance at the grass roots level.

Democrats and previously unaffiliated independents began showing up in droves to local Democratic events and committee meetings – in numbers not seen before.

The resistance has led to efforts to defeat Republicans around the country in special elections.

It has also led to efforts to define a progressive agenda that is more than opposing the actions of President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.

It is no surprise that Arlington progressives are deeply involved in the efforts to resist and to define a progressive agenda.

One reflection of a progressive agenda was defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention held on May 23. The 8th Congressional District – represented by Rep. Don Beyer – includes all of Arlington County as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County.

Like Arlington, the 8th District voted overwhelmingly for President Obama and for Hillary Clinton.

It is not a stretch to say that the 8th District’s resolutions are a reflection of an agenda that Arlington County progressives would view as a blueprint for moving beyond resistance toward rising up and mounting a progressive comeback.

Presented here and in future columns without editorial comment is a summary of the resolutions adopted by the 8th District convention.

$15 Dollar State and Federal Minimum Wage. The state and federal minimum wage should be increased from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020 for all workers. Tipped workers in Virginia should be paid a $10 minimum wage instead of the $2.13 per hour they are currently guaranteed. Both the state and Federal minimum wage should increase annually as the cost of living increases.

Creation of Appalachian Power Administration District. Virginia state government and its universities should conduct a study of the feasibility of an Appalachian Power Administration District based on renewable resources. The study needs to determine the applicability of mountain-based renewables in Appalachia including wind, load sharing, and pump storage methods. The study should provide an actionable plan within four years.

Cannabis Reform. We support bi-partisan efforts to allow states to establish their own regulatory scheme for cannabis distribution and use. Virginia cooperative extension should conduct outreach programs on industrial hemp cultivation. Medical use of cannabidiol should be expanded beyond epilepsy and obstacles should be cleared from both the state and federal levels.

College Affordability and Student Debt. We support the Commonwealth’s investment in higher education through initiatives such as the Affordable Pathways grants. We also call on Virginia lawmakers to study and implement initiatives that would allow students to reduce debt after employment in public service and to explore similar opportunities for students to reduce debt after completing approved unpaid civil and/or community service.

Congressional Review Act. In response to the Trump Administration’s hasty partisan action that ignores the basic rights of citizens and the responsibilities of government, we call for the repeal of the Congressional Review Act and in the absence of complete repeal, call for the Congressional Review Act to be amended to provide that a 2/3 vote be required in the House and Senate House to adopt a resolution of disapproval.

Criminal Justice Reform. Virginia should: increase the threshold for felony larceny to $1000; increase payments to court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants to the national average hourly rate among states for such services; provide for payment of experts and translators as appropriate and approved by the court; permit a convicted defendant who obtains DNA evidence of his innocence to petition to have his conviction overturned even after a guilty plea; and cease suspending the driver’s license of a defendant who lacks resources to pay outstanding court fees for offenses unrelated to driving.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired two successful statewide political campaigns.

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