Here are some of Arlington’s proposed priorities for the upcoming state legislative session

Arlington’s priorities for the upcoming state legislative session include more speed cameras, vehicle noise enforcement, virtual government meetings and preserving the local tree canopy.

That’s according the county’s proposed 2022 legislative package, which will be subject to a public hearing next month after an initial County Board vote this past weekend.

The county also appears to be seeking to prevent California-style state zoning laws, to get more state funding for police body to cameras, make it unnecessary for police to ask for a driver’s race during traffic stops, and to reduce the incentive for prosecutors to seek felony convictions over misdemeanors.

Those priorities, as worded in a county staff report, are as follows.

Land Use Policies: Support the authority of local governments to plan, zone, and enforce land use regulations, without restricting local zoning authority or the zoning process.

Speed Cameras: Grant local authority to expand the implementation of automated traffic enforcement beyond school and work zones. Automated ticket enforcement has the potential to improve safety, reduce unnecessary interactions between residents and police, and further advance confidence in equitable outcomes by reducing or eliminating the possibility of race-based disparities in speed enforcement.

Electronic Meetings for Public Bodies: Permanently allow virtual participation for public bodies to meet by electronic means under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Preserving and Expanding Tree Canopy: Support legislation to provide local governments with greater authority in the reforestation, preservation, and management of urban forests in recognition of their ability to capture and store carbon, reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, reduce energy use, and mitigate urban heat islands and their health effects.

Reimbursable Positions Related to Body Worn Cameras: Provide state funding for additional positions related to body worn cameras to increase transparency and accountability with law enforcement. Additional staff in the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Policy Department, and Sheriff’s Office are all critical to effectively implement Body Worn Camera programs.

Include Race, Gender, and Ethnicity on Driver’s Licenses: The Virginia Community Policing Act mandates that police departments collect and report data on race, gender and ethnicity of drivers encountered during traffic stops. Including this information on driver’s licenses allows for automated collection of this data, reduces the need for officers to ask intrusive personal questions, and decreases the duration of, and motorist interaction with police during, the traffic stop

Reform Prosecutor Office Funding Formula: Reimbursement to counties should include the work performed on misdemeanors instead of only felony convictions. Misdemeanor cases account for the majority of cases and this funding will encourage more evidence-based and public safety oriented solutions. The Prosecutor’s Office funding formula is currently based on felony convictions and felony sentencing events, which incentivizes the pursuit of felony convictions rather than diversion programs, deferrals, or amendments to misdemeanor convictions.

Mufflers and Noise Ordinance: Reinstate law enforcement authority to regulate noise from car mufflers without doing so by unfunded mandate. Language should include specific requirements surrounding annual vehicle inspections to thoroughly examine the exhaust systems and include parameters around permissible noise levels around digital exhaust systems.

The 2022 Virginia state legislative session is set to run from Jan. 12 to March 12.

Other highlights from the nine-page list of priorities are below.

Address Critical Workforce Shortages: Support the Virginia Community Service Board (VACSB) in securing $167.5M investment in recruitment and retention initiatives for CSBs across Virginia including quarterly recruitment and retention bonuses, funds to create a path to licensure by paying for clinical supervision hours and funds for loan repayments and scholarships.

Behavioral Health Crisis Intervention Center: As part of our Community Service Board (CSB), this location serves as an alternative site for individuals to receive emergency mental health evaluations and to wait for hospital beds when no state psychiatric beds are available. Arlington County has allotted local money to support positions for security and staffing and needs an additional $1,070,313 to support immediate operational and personnel expenses. This money is critical to standing up this service in a timely fashion to help the entire Northern Virginia region mitigate gaps in care.

Building Inspections: Grant building inspectors the authority to proactively inspect multi-level dwellings for mold, code violations and structural issues to prevent building collapse, such as the one in Surfside, Florida.

Housing Trust Fund: Support a significant increase and a sustainable source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund. Similarly support increased funding and programming to prevent evictions and to protect our most vulnerable residents.

Equal Taxing Authority: Grant counties the same taxing authority as cities to provide a level playing field among localities

Funding for Regional Transportation to Improve Mobility: Ensure the Commonwealth’s $195 million non-general fund investments for new and expanded transportation projects materialize as part of the Amazon HQ2 development. As Amazon brings more than 25,000 jobs to our region, the Commonwealth will support additional metro station entrances, improvements to U.S. Route 1 in Arlington County, a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport and a transitway expansion in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard to improve mobility for our region.

Immigration: Oppose any state mandate to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.

Civilian Oversight Boards: Establish the authority for the County Board to hire an independent auditor and other staff as necessary and support other changes to stand up the Civilian Oversight Board in Arlington County.

Marijuana: Ensure legislation regarding marijuana remains consistent with Arlington County’s local revenue, land use, and public health and safety policies.

Northern Virginia Court Fees: Restore the final $980,000 of the $2.98 million general fund dollars eliminated during the budget shortfall of 2009 that were replaced with the Technology Trust Fund (TTF). The money will support clerk’s operations to help with technology needs that have arisen during the pandemic.

Jail Per Diems: Increase per diem funding to a level that recognizes the costs of housing inmates in local jails. The Jail Cost Report of 2020 estimates the actual cost per person per day is $334.52 and the state reimbursement rate is $4 per person per day for people with local charges and $12 per person per day for people with sentences of two years or more.

Renewable Energy Purchase: Permit individual retail customers to purchase 100% renewable electricity from any licensed competitive supplier of electric energy regardless of whether the incumbent utility also offers it. Purchases can be made individually, as part of a collaborative or alliance, or through local government agencies administering aggregated commercial and residential renewable energy purchases to meet local/regional climate and equity objectives.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Incentivization: Provide sufficient funding to implement EV Rebate program passed during the 2021 General Assembly session. Require EV charging stations to be included in planning for parking in new buildings and for incentivization to occur in relationship to vehicle efficiency

Green Bank Support: Fund jurisdictions to assist in capitalizing Green Banks and accelerate their development. Furthermore, modifications to the 2021 legislation may be necessary to allow jurisdictions to partner together to create regional Green Banks.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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