Press Club
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (file photo by Jay Westcott)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed 25 bills this week, of which nearly half were proposed or championed by Arlington lawmakers.

The new governor signed 700 bills sent to his desk during the 2022 General Assembly session, including some from Arlington lawmakers addressing mental health treatment, medical debt and virtual meetings.

Of those he vetoed, nine were proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents part of the county, and four were filed by Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D-47).

Some lawmakers and observers in state politics have interpreted the rebuffs of Ebbin’s bills as political tit-for-tat. Ebbin was at the center of some Youngkin appointments that were blocked earlier this year and Youngkin signed identical House bills in a half-dozen of those cases, the Washington Post reports.

In a statement, Ebbin said he is “stunned” by Youngkin’s decision to veto “meaningful, non-controversial” legislation.

“It is the polar opposite of what he campaigned on,” he said in an email to supporters and on Twitter. “These vetoes, from protecting living organ donors to enhancing consumers’ data privacy to reforming the [Virginia Employment Commission], are not in the best interest of Virginians.”

As for Hope’s vetoed bills, one that caused a splash was HB 669, which would have initiated a study to see if the Virginia Department of Health should regulate swimming pools and water recreational facilities.

Advocates of the legislation say unregulated pools can pose health risks and the bipartisan-supported legislation would have added safeguards for swimmers and coaches.

Youngkin said the goal is “commendable” but directed lawmakers to consolidate this proposed work with existing efforts, rather than create “duplicative work.”

Another that went up in smoke was HB 675, and its Senate equivalent, which would have eliminated health insurance premiums for tobacco users. He said these higher rates incentivize healthier habits and the legislation would require non-users to foot the bill for increased healthcare costs.

Hope rebutted that it would have expanded coverage and decreased premiums.

These vetoes come after Youngkin vetoed Hope’s bill earlier this year that would have allowed the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor for the Community Oversight Board, which reviews complaints of alleged police misconduct.

That duty remains with County Manager Mark Schwartz. Locally, it was viewed as a procedural bill giving the Board a similar level of authority enjoyed by other local governing bodies.

Another bill with Arlington ties, HB 802, would have allowed a local governing body to force landlords to address decaying conditions at their properties if they constituted a serious threat to life, health or safety of tenants.

Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45), who represents parts of Arlington, was a chief co-patron. The text was developed with the Arlington branch of the NAACP in the wake of the discovery of mold, rodents and other health concerns at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, says NAACP Housing Chair Kellen MacBeth.

He said he was “deeply disappointed” by the veto, calling it “a troubling sign of what the next four years will be like for low-income tenant rights at the state level.”

Still, Youngkin approved or amended a number of bills from Arlington lawmakers tackling their legislative priorities.

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The final vote in the Virginia State Senate for S.B. 739 (photo courtesy of screenshot/Virginia General Assembly)

A bipartisan bill that will allow parents to opt their kids out of masking rules at schools has passed the Democrat-controlled Virginia State Senate, despite opposition from Arlington’s senators.

The bill would take effect on July 1. If it were also to pass the House of Delegates and be signed into law by the governor, it would essentially make the local school boards’ recent, tentative court victory over Gov. Glenn Younkin’s executive order on masks in schools moot.

The legislation took shape yesterday when Sen. Chap Petersen, a Fairfax County Democrat, proposed an amendment on the Senate floor to a Republican-proposed bill that continues a requirement from last year to keep schools open five days a week for in-person instruction. Chapman’s amendment effectively sunsets mask mandates in time for the next school year.

The amendment “permits a parental option in regard to wearing a mask on school property,” Petersen told ARLnow. “We need to return to normal for the benefit of our children, and this legislation helps us get there.”

The amendment received significant Democratic support on Tuesday, passing the Senate with 29 votes in favor, including ten Democrats, and only nine votes opposed. Among local legislators, Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) voted in favor of the amendment while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) voted against it.

All three voted against the final bill, which passed by a 21-17 vote today.

Youngkin declared victory after the vote today. It’s likely to pass the Republican-controlled house.

“Kids across the Commonwealth win with this bipartisan vote today,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Parents are now empowered to decide whether their children should wear a mask in schools. I promised that as governor, Virginia would move forward with an agenda that empowers parents on the upbringing, education, and care of their own children. I am proud to continue to deliver on that promise.”

“This vote also shows that school boards who are attacking their own students are stunningly detached from reality,” the statement continued. “It’s time to put kids first and get back to normal.”

Petersen told ARLnow’s sister site FFXnow that he proposed the amendment because he’s frustrated that no deadline had been set by Fairfax County Public Schools for lifting mask requirements or “shown scientific proof” that it has made difference in limiting Covid’s spread.

He agreed with Youngkin that masks should be optional in schools, but said decision needs to be made by the Virginia General Assembly as opposed to the governor.

That was the basis for the decision made by the Arlington Circuit Court last week to issue an injunction on banning mask mandates. In its lawsuit against the governor’s order, Arlington Public Schools cited a Virginia law passed during the pandemic that requires schools to take necessary, federally-recommended safety measures to combat the spread of the virus.

With the new bill overriding that clause, the court victory could be short-lived for APS and other Northern Virginia school districts that opposed the governor’s order. The bill’s implementation could even potentially be moved up after it reaches the governor’s desk, the Washington Post reported

When the bill gets to Youngkin’s desk, the aide said, the governor could add an emergency clause that would require the law to be implemented immediately. That would have to go back to the General Assembly for approval. Most bills with emergency clauses require 80 percent approval from the legislature, but a governor’s request for emergency needs only a simple majority vote. If that’s granted, the mask law could go into effect as soon as the end of February, the aide said.

Sen. Ebbin wrote to ARLnow in an email after the amendment passed that, while he isn’t opposed to lifting mask mandates soon, he wants the decision to be based on data.

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Sign outside of Virginia Hospital Center (photo courtesy Adam Dunham)

A pair of bills proposed by an Arlington lawmaker in the General Assembly could help bolster the ranks of health care workers and teachers stretched thin during the pandemic.

The bills introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) expedite the licensure process in both industries, allowing workers with licenses in other states to begin work upon being hired. The bills passed the Virginia Senate uncontested and will be considered in the House after the crossover deadline on Feb. 15.

Health care and education industries have dealt with staffing shortages during the pandemic as Covid patients filled hospital beds and teachers have dealt with cases in schools.

If Senate Bill 317 becomes law, hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis facilities would be able to hire workers who have licenses in other states as they await a Virginia license.

“Our facilities right now are having a very hard time staffing up, it is a quality of care issue when you don’t have enough nurses on your floor, our patients are not getting the attention they need,” Favola said to the Education and Health Subcommittee on Health Professions.

Similarly, Senate Bill 68 would allow teachers who are licensed to teach outside the United States to begin working under a provisional license for up to three years. The Department of Education would review the application and the individual could then start in classrooms, Favola told the Education and Health Subcommittee on Education.

“This is an effort to enable those who really have the ability and the interest and the talent to teach in an area that we right now are suffering incredible shortages,” she said. “Our school systems are struggling to keep teachers.”

Several educational associations spoke in favor of the bill, as well as someone who worked with refugee resettlement.

“We did have some concerns in the beginning but [Favola] addressed all those concerns, specifically with verifying those credentials… so we are in support of it,” said Shane Riddle, with the Virginia Education Association.

Favola confirmed there would be confirmation of licensure before they would be hired.

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, chair of the subcommittee, said she hopes SB 68 will be a step toward addressing the shortage but also “be able to take professionals who come in with the skills and the knowledge, the credentials and be able to participate readily within our own school system.”

The health care licensure bill would put into state law what existed under emergency orders former Gov. Ralph Northam put in place last year. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has since also issued an emergency order, set to expire Feb. 21, that also allows a health care practitioner with a license and in good standing in another state to practice in Virginia.

Under the bill, the health care worker would work on a provisional license and within 90 days the Bureau of Health Professions would issue a Virginia license, Favola said. If the license is not issued within 90 days, there can be an extension of 60 days.

It would also allow for professionals practicing in states surrounding Virginia to get expedited requests for state licensure if their state enters a reciprocal agreement. The bill would take effect as soon as it becomes law.

Hospitals are in a staffing crisis and it isn’t going away anytime soon, said R. Brent Rawlings, Senior Vice President of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, in testimony before the subcommittee.

“We’ve had people leave the workforce and we need to have every tool in our toolbox to try to get folks at the bedside as quickly as possible and this would allow that to happen,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Four Mile Run and trail in the snow (Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri)

New Restaurant Coming to Arlington Ridge — “Chef Seng Luangrath, the Laotian chef who has been recognized by Michelin and the James Beard Foundation, plans to open a new restaurant at a grocery-anchored retail center in South Arlington. Luangrath, whose restaurants include Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, has signed a lease with Edens for a roughly 3,500-square-foot space at the Arlington Ridge shopping center, according to marketing material and a source familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

De Ferranti Looks Back at 2021 — “[Arlington County Board Chair Matt] de Ferranti’s year as chair began in early January 2021, and the surprises started early. ‘I did not expect to need to impose a curfew on my second full day as chair due to the rioting and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,’ he noted. But addressing COVID and its myriad implications was the issue that was at the top of the to-do list for much of the year.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Temporarily Reducing Bus Service — “Metro’s Pandemic Taskforce is taking swift actions to protect the health and safety of its customers and employees against the recent surge in COVID-19 variants. Due to growing absenteeism rates across service areas related to COVID illness and exposures, Metro is reducing service schedules and implementing new workforce actions effective Monday, January 10.” [WMATA, Twitter]

Ebbin, Favola Unscathed from Redistricting — “Forget hand-knitted sweaters, gift cards or stale fruit-based confections: Two state senators whose districts include Arlington may have gotten the best holiday gifts of them all. State Sens. Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin have emerged from the redistricting sausage-making process with districts that they likely are pleased with.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Bus Changes Today — “On Wednesday, January 5, ART will operate *Severe* service on *Saturday* schedules due to unsafe road conditions. Routes 41, 45, 51, 55, 77, and 87 will operate with detours and possible delays. Route 87 will terminate at Pentagon City Metro, not at Pentagon. All other ART routes, including 42, will not operate. In addition to the ‘Severe’ detour, there will be no 77 service between Walter Reed/Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse/2nd St S due to unsafe road conditions.” [Arlington Transit]

Hope for History Museum Boosters — “The new year will not bring the beginning of the end of renovation of the Arlington Historical Museum. It won’t even bring the end of the beginning. But, Arlington Historical Society leaders fervently hope, 2022 will go down as the beginning of the beginning. Historical Society officials for the past year have been taking a two-pronged approach to renovating and possibly expanding the museum, located in the former Hume School in Arlington Ridge.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today there is a chance of rain or freezing rain before 8 a.m., then a chance of rain between 8-11 a.m. Mostly cloudy otherwise, with a high near 44 and a low of 26. South wind 8 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 5 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 41 and a low of 30. Snow developing Thursday night into Friday. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri

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Newly proposed House of Delegates District 2 (via Supreme Court of Virginia)

Newly proposed redistricting maps would create a new Virginia House district in Arlington while potentially pitting long-time Senate incumbents against each other.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia unveiled draft maps for the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The maps were drawn up by one Democrat and one Republican appointed by the court, after a non-partisan committee failed to complete the task earlier in the year.

The maps are based on 2020 census numbers and are not final. As mandated by federal and state law, districts are redrawn every decade based on new census data.

In the proposed maps, both the borders and numbering system of all the Virginia House districts are altered. The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has a tool that allows residents to see which House, Senate or Congressional district they’d be in if these maps were approved.

While the proposed maps have those who follow state politics considering the Commonwealth’s future political alignment, in Arlington the potential redistricting does not alter the Democratic stronghold.

But the draft maps do take into account Arlington’s recent population growth, as 15% more people live in the county now compared to a decade ago.

The maps propose an entirely new House district that essentially encompasses Arlington’s Metro corridors, including Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston, Crystal City and parts of Pentagon City.

Currently, those neighborhoods are either part of House District 49 (represented by Del. Alfonso Lopez), House District 48 (represented by Del. Rip Sullivan), or House District 47 (represented by Del. Patrick Hope).

None of these incumbents reside in the proposed newly-created House District 2, a VPAP analysis says, meaning there’s an empty seat that could be filled by a political newcomer.

“They redrew maps by shrinking the borders of the current districts,” said David Ramadan, professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and a former Virginia House delegate for Loudoun County. “Because [the law] requires them to have a close to equal population. That’s why there’s a new district.”

The population of Arlington’s Metro corridors, purposefully, have grown tremendously in size over the last decade. In fact, a census tract within Ballston now has the highest density of population in the entire D.C. area.

Local officials are already taking notice of this potential new district in Arlington, which would likely add another Democrat to the Virginia House of Delegates.

Senate maps, meanwhile, do not propose a new district, but they could pit two long-standing local Democrat incumbents against each other in the next primary election.

Janet Howell, first elected in 1991, currently represents Senate District 32, which covers Dominion Hills, East Falls Church and Westover as well as parts of Fairfax County. The new maps would see those Arlington neighborhoods moved to District 40.

A big chunk of the current Senate District 31, which includes Rosslyn, Ballston, Cherrydale, Columbia Pike, Pentagon City, Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge, will also become part of District 40. District 31 has been represented by Barbara Favola for a decade.

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The Virginia General Assembly official adjourned on Monday (March 1), wrapping up a significant legislative session.

After years in the legislative minority, Democrats currently hold all the House of Delegates, the state Senate, and the governorship.

This has allowed for a number of progressive-minded bills that have garnered both regional and national attention to pass , including abolishing the death penalty and legalizing recreational marijuana.

The General Assembly also passed a budget.

Bills that have moved through both the House of Delegates and the Senate will now go to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.

It’s expected he will sign most — if not all — of the legislation by March 31, 11:59 p.m deadline.

All of Arlington’s lawmakers are Democrats, which led to high hopes that a number of proposed pieces of legislation would pass. This proved to be true.

Here are a few notables:

  • HB 2131 — Introduced by Del. Alfonso Lopez, representing the 49th District, the bill allows greater input from localities about what businesses are granted liquor licenses by the Virginia ABC. It also expands the definition of “criminal blight,” making it easier for a license to be denied in cases of criminal activity. The bill was inspired by the former Columbia Pike business Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.
  • HB 2123 — Also from Del. Lopez, this bill allows students access to state financial aid and grants no matter their citizenship or immigration status as long as Virginia is their permanent home. While it passed the House relatively easily, it barely passed the Senate with only a two vote margin.
  • HB 1854 — Passed last month, this legislation first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) allows Arlington County to rename the portion of U.S. Route 29, otherwise known as “Lee Highway,” within its boundaries. While a work group initially recommended the road to be renamed “Loving Avenue,” this is unlikely to happen due to objections from the family.
  • SB 1220 — The bill repeals requirements that state mental health facilities to report the immigration status of patients when admitted. If the person is an undocumented, the United States immigration office had to be notified. This requirement discouraged some to seek mental health care. It was introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31).
  • HB 1911 — This bill from Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) removes the requirement for a corroborating witness for a no-fault divorce to be granted.
  • HB 2081 — Introduced by Del. Mark Levine (D-45), the bill bans guns from being within 40 feet of a polling place or meeting place of a local electoral board. The only exceptions are law enforcement, a licensed armed security officer, or if a person’s private property lies within 40 feet of these locations. It passed the Senate by a relatively thin margin of only three votes.
  • SJ 270 — This Constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) repeals the prohibition on same-sex marriage in Virginia. While the ban was technically not enforceable because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling allowing same-sex marriage, it remained a goal of the Ebbin to have it amended. This legislation received national attention, particularly due to Ebbin’s status as Virginia’s first openly LGBTQ legislator.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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The Virginia General Assembly, America’s oldest continuous law-making body, is currently convening and local lawmakers are introducing a slew of new legislation.

While a number of these bills will eventually fail, unable to pass committees or the full General Assembly, a few of these proposals may ultimately become state law. And the odds are much greater than prior years.

Every one of Arlington’s state lawmakers are Democrats, and after years in the legislative minority Democrats currently hold the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia State Senate, and the Governorship.

Here are a few of the notable bills being proposed by Arlington lawmakers:

  • HB 2164: Introduced by Del. Patrick Hope (47th District), the bill would reinforce the July 2019 law that no one under the age of 21 can purchase tobacco products by further defining them as nicotine vapor products or alternative nicotine products. It would also take away the expectation that those in active duty military but under 21 can purchase tobacco, and would disallow the selling of tobacco products from vending machines. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the General Laws Committee.
  • HB 1854: Proposed by Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan (48th District), this bill would grant Arlington County the ability to rename the section of Route 29 — currently called “Lee Highway” — that lies within the county’s boundaries. In December, a local task force recommended renaming the road to “Loving Avenue.” The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the Transportation Committee.
  • SB 1159: Proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola (District 31), the bill would allow sick leave to be used to care for an immediate family member. The law would apply for all employers that have a sick leave program and have 25 or more employees. It also only applies to those employees who work more than 30 hours and leave is limited to five days per calendar year. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Commerce and Labor Committee.
  • SB 1382: Also introduced by Sen. Favola, this bill would prohibit the purchase, possession, or transportation of a firearm by anyone who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.
  • HJ 557: The proposal from Del. Alfonso Lopez (49th District) would repeal the 2006 Virginia constitutional amendment that defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” It would also no longer prohibit the Commonwealth from recognizing the legal status of “relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate… marriage.” In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, so essentially this proposal would codify and bring the Virginia Constitution up to date. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Privileges and Elections Committee.

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Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) are not the only ones to have mistakenly posted photos of the late Elijah Cummings while trying to honor John Lewis, who died on Friday.

Local state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) posted a photo on Facebook over the weekend that she said was Lewis, the civil rights leader and Georgia congressman, at her house four years ago.

“I had the honor of hosting John Lewis for a fundraiser at my home in 2016,” wrote Favola, who represents a portion of Arlington in the state Senate. “Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act and each of us must uphold John Lewis’ legacy each and every election by casting a ballot.”

The problem: the photo actually showed Cummings, the former Maryland congressman who died in October.

The mistake was pointed out in a comment by Julius Spain, Sr., the head of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP. The post was subsequently taken down.

Spain said he spoke to Favola about the error Saturday night.

“She apologized stating it was a mistake,” he told ARLnow.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) With a new Democratic majority, Arlington’s state Senators have doubled down on earlier efforts to pass gun control reform and make progress on other issues — like marijuana decriminalization — that made limited progress under a Republican majority.

Some of these proposals have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines. Democrats notched a gun control victory today, however, with the state Senate narrowly passing a “red flag” gun law that allows guns to be taken away by those judged as dangerous to themselves or others.

Nestled among the high profile issues are other items of interest for Arlingtonians, like the ability to require labor agreements as part of the zoning approval process.

Sen. Barbara Favola

Among the bills introduced by Favola in the 2019-2020 legislative session are SB 116, which would say that defendants in a capital case who have a severe mental illness are not eligible for the death penalty, and SB 179, which adds gender, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime definition. SB 116 was moved to the Judiciary committee and SB 179 was referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee.

Favola is one of the chief co-signers of SB 35, which authorizes localities to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or components thereof to government buildings, public parks, or any public right of way being used for an event. The bill was passed in the state Senate on Jan. 16.

Sen. Adam Ebbin

According to Henry Watkins, communications director for Ebbin, the bills he has proposed are:

SB 868 — Prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also includes additional protections for veterans and pregnant persons.

SB 2 — Reduces penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty.

SB 852 — Institutes a tax on e-cigarettes at 39% of the wholesale price. Also raises the Virginia cigarette tax to $1.80 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products to 39% wholesale.

SB 11 — Imposes a five-cent fee on throw-away bags to reduce litter and waste.

SB 838 — Makes construction contractors liable for their subcontractors if the subcontractor does not pay their employees, and allows employees to sue employers for nonpayment of wages.

Ebbin has also proposed SB 839, which would allow localities to require project labor agreements and worker protections on high-density development projects that go through a special exception zoning process. While approving an incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, Arlington County Board members lamented not being able to require such labor provisions.

Board member Katie Cristol lobbied for the bill in Richmond on Monday.

Sen. Janet Howell

Like many other Democratic Senators from Northern Virginia, Howell introduced gun control legislation during the current session. SB 75 would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm “in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18.” The current law makes it illegal for under the age of 14.

Other bills introduced by Howell include SB 111, which allows people to vote absentee without needing to list a reason why they can’t vote in person. SB 111 was passed in the Senate on Monday.

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Morning Notes

Developer May Give Parking Lot to County — “Arlington County planners and the owner of the Crystal House apartments have struck a deal to turn one of the four proposed buildings in its 798-unit expansion over to the county for affordable housing and public parking. It’s a change that has brought some hope to owners and operators along Crystal City’s restaurant row of 23rd Street, who, for the last few weeks, have criticized [the development] because it could have reduced access to parking spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving — “While Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday, we want to remind you of all the great ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving week in Arlington. Whether you’re traveling or staying locally, these tips will help ensure you have an enjoyable — and safe — Thanksgiving holiday.” [Arlington County]

Dozen Arrested at DCA Protest — “On one of the busiest travel days of the year, American Airlines catering workers held sit-in protests at Reagan National Airport demanding higher pay and better access to healthcare. According to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), 12 individuals were arrested and released on summons… the issue occurred when protesters entered the street and blocked traffic outside the B/C terminal.” [WUSA 9]

TSA Confiscates Loaded Gun at DCAUpdated at 8:20 a.m. — “A Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Monday, November 25.” [Transportation Security Administration]

Local Lawmakers Become Committee Chairs — “Two of the three state senators in Arlington’s legislative delegation will chair committees in the 2020 session, which opens Jan. 8. State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) has been tapped to chair the Senate Committee on Finance, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) will chair the Committee on Rehabilitation & Social Services.” [InsideNova]

Impact of a Casino in N. Va. — “With Virginia’s General Assembly expected to debate casinos and gambling in the upcoming legislative session, its research agency issued a report Monday examining fiscal impacts on the state — including what a casino in Northern Virginia might mean. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study, a Northern Virginia casino would produce $595 million in gaming revenue annually.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Officials say a new statewide renewable energy commitment could help Arlington achieve its own green goals.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced today (Friday) that Virginia has struck an agreement with Dominion Energy to purchase 30% of the all energy used by the state government’s buildings from renewable sources. Local officials says the agreement to sustainability agreement also helps their own goals.

“It means that we’re kind of being aggressive but the state is pulling in this direction so it does make it easier for us,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, who is running for re-election and who said the governor’s morning press conference at George Mason University’s Arlington campus meant the county was no longer “swimming upstream” when it came to leading in sustainability.

“When you consider the state government, when you consider Amazon’s commitment to even exceed their originally ambitious goals — this is all good stuff for us,” Dorsey said, referring to Amazon going from Gold to Platinum LEED certification goals for its new headquarters. “This means we have a better likelihood of achieving all of our the goals in the timeframe set forth.”

“Arlington recently committed to its own, ambitious energy targets and we hope to see more cities follow its lead,” the governor said during the press conference.

Northam’s announcement comes two months after Arlington committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 for all buildings — public or private. The goal was part of the county’s updated Energy Plan, a planning document which envisions a future for Arlington where “all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.”

Since passing the plan in August, Dorsey said Arlington has been contacted by “three or four” other Northern Virginia jurisdictions for advice on enacting similar carbon-cutting goals themselves.

“Sometimes all jurisdictions need to see is one shining example,” said state Sen. Barbara Favola, who is also running for re-election. “Somebody gets out there and takes the lead and something good happens and they go, ‘I can do that, too’.”

She told ARLnow that when the state government takes a stance on sustainability, it also paves the way for local jurisdictions to do the same.

“Richmond is not known all the time for being a trailblazer but in this area but seem to be trailblazing so I’m delighted,” Favola said.

Renewable energy for state government buildings and universities will be sourced from Dominion Energy’s Belcher Solar project in Louisa County and its offshore wind farm near Virginia Beach, among others.

“Under the partnership, Dominion Energy will supply the Commonwealth with 420 megawatts of renewable energy,” the utility company wrote in a statement. “When combined with previously announced solar projects, the power produced is enough to meet the equivalent of 45% of the state government’s annual energy use.”

“That’s the equivalent of powering more than 100,000 homes,” noted Northam.

Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of the governor’s earlier promise to power the state using 100% carbon free resources by 2050 — a mission aided by agreements with Dominion Energy and planned initiatives like replacing traditional diesel school buses with electric buses and investing in electric cars.

The governor said collaboration is key to tackle climate change and “move this state in the right direction.

“We can leave our children and our grandchildren a world that’s cleaner and more sustainable,” Northam said.

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