Legislative Lookback: What Arlington’s State Delegates Accomplished This Year

Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates say they tackled a host of important issues, from criminal justice reform to LGBT parental rights to public health, during this year’s legislative session.

The county is represented in the state House by four elected officials — Democrats Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan, and Alfonso H. Lopez — all of whom are up for re-election this year.

This year’s session began on January 9 and ended February 23. Here are what the delegates told ARLnow were their biggest legislative accomplishments in that time.

Del. Patrick Hope

Hope has represented Arlington in the House since 2010 and currently faces no Democratic challengers in his campaign for reelection. He says he introduced 12 bills during this year’s session, nine of which passed.

He told ARLnow that it’s difficult to choose his favorite because “I treat all my bills like my children,” but narrowed down his three biggest accomplishments in an email:

1) HB 2384 — making all Virginia schools 100 percent tobacco/nicotine free. This is significant because Big Tobacco has opposed such efforts in the past. It also is a sign that the tide is turning to recognize the dangers of cigarettes and vaping on children.

2) HB 1642 — requiring the Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to collect/report data on inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve been working with DOC for years to get the number of inmates in solitary down. We’ve decreased the number by more than 70 percent. This data collection effort will help us figure out who remains, why they are there, and if we can provide additional mental health resources to get them out.

3) HB 1933 — allow jails to treat people with serious mental illness who are unable to give consent. Current law requires that these individuals be sent to an inpatient hospital setting (mental health institution). This is part of a series of laws I’ve passed to allow treatment to occur in an outpatient or other appropriate setting in order to free up more inpatient psychiatric beds.

Del. Alfonso Lopez

Lopez is Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates. He has served as a delegate since 2012, but now faces a challenger in J.D. Spain for his campaign for re-election this year.

Spain is a Marine Corps veteran who leads the local NAACP chapter and has said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” between his and Lopez’s stances on housing affordability and the achievement gap.

Lopez told ARLnow about his biggest wins this year in Richmond in an email:

  1. Successfully Increased Funding for Affordable Housing. In 2013, my legislation created the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Over the years the Trust Fund has become one of the major vehicles for addressing housing instability and homelessness prevention in the Commonwealth […] This year, working with the Governor’s office, we were able to secure an additional $7 million in total revenue for the Trust Fund — increasing the biennial budget amount to $18 million (far above typical appropriations)! This is a great step forward in our efforts to help Virginia families. That being said, I believe that we must do a great deal more to address affordable housing in every corner of the Commonwealth […]
  2. Driver’s License Suspensions. After working on this issue for several years, I was very proud that the General Assembly finally ended drivers license suspensions for individuals who have served their time, but are unable to pay court fines and/or fees (over 600,000 Virginians are hurt by this outdated policy). […] When a person’s driver’s license is suspended, they may face a difficult dilemma: obey the suspension and potentially lose their ability to provide for their families, or drive anyway and face further punishment — or even imprisonment — for driving under a suspended license. I am very happy that this misguided policy has finally been overturned with bipartisan support. This ends what I’ve often referred to as a modern day debtor’s prison […]
  3. Military ID & Passport Security. Before this session, there was no provision in state law that mandated immediate notification to people whose passport or military ID numbers were stolen in an online security breach. This left the information of many Virginians (especially in our area) at significant risk. I’m proud to have introduced and passed a bill, HB 2396, that fixes this glaring hole in the law. Virginia will now require that Passport and military ID information have the same protections as bank information and social security numbers.

Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan

Sullivan has served in the House since 2014, and as House Democratic Caucus Campaign Chair since 2016. He is currently running unopposed by Democratic challengers during the June 2019 primaries.

The representative and his aid did not respond to multiple requests for information prior to publishing.

On his campaign website, Sullivan touted the passage of HB 1979, also called Jacob’s Law, which abolishes the need for same-sex couples to go through the state’s formal adoption process to claim parental rights of their children who were born via surrogacy.

Sullivan also shared the passage of HB 2242, a bill he sponsored to reduce the window of time someone may sue for legal malpractice down to three years if the defendant didn’t sign the original contract.

Del. Mark Levine

Levine has served in the House since 2016 and is running a campaign for re-election currently unopposed by Democratic challengers.

Levine is currently the Deputy Whip to the Caucus, a role he says makes him “caucus goalie.” He told ARLnow this means some of his biggest legislative accomplishments during the past year involve helping to defeat Republican bills before the House can pass them.

Examples include:

  • Senate Bill 1150, which he says would have made arresting bad police officers more difficult
  • SB 1592, which he says would have included big businesses in the definition for small businesses
  • SB 1782, which he says would have prohibited anyone who served time for a felony from becoming a notary
  • Senate and House bills 1582/2284 which he said would have taken away paid family medical leave from foster parents

His other legislative accomplishments included going around the traditional appropriations process to persuade a majority representatives to sign a letter urging the clerks of the House and Senate to stream and archive all subcommittee meetings — a move he hopes will bring more transparency to Richmond.

“Not everyone can get to Richmond at 7 a.m.,” he told ARLnow. “So this is a great way for the public to see what we do.”

Levine says he was also responsible for the Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s taking a second look at Arlington wanting to rename Jefferson Davis Highway. The AG released an opinion last month saying the County Board could pass a resolution and, with approval from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, rename the roadway.