A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) earlier this month proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Virginia. The bill, SB 1269, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, much like a traffic ticket. Another bill introduced by State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D), SB 908, would have had similar effects.
Though the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee did not approve the bills yesterday, it did promise more study on marijuana decriminalization, according to Ebbin’s office.
State lawmakers didn’t set aside every marijuana-related bill, however. The committee overwhelmingly advanced another bill, SB 1091, by a vote of 14-1. If enacted into law, that bill would make it so adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana wouldn’t automatically lose their driver’s license for six months, as is the current law.
“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”
A Senate committee also advanced two bills having to do with LGBT equality yesterday. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee gave its blessing to two bills, SB 783 and SB 822, “with strong, bipartisan support,” according to a press release from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.
The bills, introduced by Ebbin and Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), respectively, address nondiscrimination in public employment and target anti-LGBT practices in public housing.
Arlington County’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly will hold its annual public hearing to discuss with residents the legislative priorities for the new General Assembly session that begins on January 11.
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, January 5, in the Arlington County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd., #300) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Citizens can sign up on the night of the hearing to address the legislators. Each speaker will have up to three minutes.
“The direct participation of an active citizenry helps me represent the 30th District more effectively,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin. “I encourage and welcome all residents… to attend our delegation’s hearings.”
Some of the legislation on the 2017 roster that has been proposed by Arlington representatives includes:
- Paid family leave, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: Under this legislation, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry would develop an implementation plan for a paid family leave program.
- Reporting lost or stolen firearms, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: This bill would require a person who legally possesses a firearm to report its loss or theft to police within 24 hours of discovering that it’s missing.
- Same-sex marriage, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would repeal the parts of Virginia’s constitution banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.
- Governor’s term of office, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would allow Virginia’s governor to serve consecutive terms. Currently, governors cannot run again immediately after serving one four-year term, but they can run again in a future election.
- Firearm locks, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: The bill would make it illegal to sell or transfer a handgun to anyone without the person being provided with a locking device for the handgun.
- No-excuse absentee voting, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: This would make it acceptable for any registered voter to vote absentee in person without having to provide a reason.
- Required immunizations, proposed by Del. Patrick Hope: The bill would require children to receive an immunization for meningococcal disease (which causes bacterial meningitis) in order to attend school.
High School Boundary Change Petition — Matthew Herrity, the Washington-Lee student who penned a widely-shared open letter to the School Board regarding its recent high school boundary change decision, has now started an online petition. The petition, which calls for increasing diversity at Arlington’s high schools, has more than 1,000 signatures. [Change.org]
Community Center, Gymnastics Contracts Approved — At its meeting on Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a $3.9 million contract to plan and design a new four-story Lubber Run Community Center, with a gymnasium, playgrounds, offices and underground parking. In response to heavy program demand, the Board also approved a $1.7 million addition of a second gymnastics area at the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Ebbin on Trump and Other Topics — “Trump is making me nostalgic for Reagan,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) during a wide-ranging interview on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. Ebbin also discussed casino gambling, with the opening of the new MGM casino in National Harbor, and Confederate monuments in Alexandria, among other topics. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
D.C. Police Misconduct Story Has Arlington Connection — There’s an Arlington connection to one of the misconduct allegations against Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, the head of the D.C. police Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Liaison unit. Hawkins reportedly took two underage summer interns to Freddie’s, the LGBT bar in Crystal City, and laughed about one using a fake ID. She’s now facing possible disciplinary action for that and for allegedly showing the interns a homemade sex tape on her phone. [Fox 5, Fox 5]
It’s probably safe to say that “shock and horror” was the predominant reaction among local Democrats to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.
In Arlington, only 17 percent of those casting ballots voted for Trump, while 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on, as the results just started coming in, some officials we spoke to at the Democratic victory party in Clarendon refused to even concede that there was even a possibility that Trump could be elected.
Both the surprise over the result and the fear over what a Trump presidency means for Arlington and the nation was on display at Wednesday’s Arlington County Board meeting. Each Board member weighed in with their thoughts on the election. (See video, above.)
Here’s a bit of what Christian Dorsey had to say:
The outcome of this Presidential election was not what I desired, nor what I ever thought possible. This morning, my wife Rachel and I had to tell our budding feminist, 8-year-old daughter, who just a couple of weeks ago dressed as a suffragette for Halloween and explain to her that our candidate lost. That was hard. But harder still was finding answers to her very natural follow up questions, why, how? But I have to tell you that hardest of all, were finding words of reassurance to an outcome that in my opinion has dramatic consequences for our country. I hope to be proven wrong. Tens of millions of Americans, 20,000 Arlingtonians, and for all I know, perhaps some of you in this room chose Mr. Trump. I won’t try to believe it, but I will try to accept it.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said a Trump presidency will not change the nature of the Arlington community.
At this point, I know we need to not give into fear, we need to not give into anger, we need to not assume that we know why everybody voted the way they did. And we need to continue what we have been doing here. This is a beautiful, wonderful community and we will do everything we can to preserve it and I am hopeful that we can. The rule of law and the rule of our constitution must prevail.
Jay Fisette said he was trying his best to cope with the results and give the new president a chance.
Yesterday was likely the most consequential election in my lifetime, for our country, to our world, to our understanding of democracy, the economy and our environment. Earlier today, I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant and gracious concession speech and I actually took to heart her advice.
Number one, to respect the orderly transition of power that which is fundamental of our constitutional democracy. Two, to work with ourselves to open our minds and give our President Elect a chance to lead. And three, to continue to believe in our vision, in our values for the community, for the country.
In each of these, the first is easy for me. Everyone must and will come together to respect and accept the election results, as that is how we work, via the example that was set by our very first president, George Washington. So congratulations, Mr. Trump.
The second will be harder for some, like me, to open my mind and give our President Elect a chance to lead, yet we must do that. After we each finish our own grieving, those that supported Mrs. Clinton, and our assessment of what happened and why it happened, we must give the President a chance.
Independent John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, said he was disappointed by the slate of presidential candidates this year.
Regardless of our political perspective, everyone in the nation and across the globe is still processing the remarkable outcome of yesterday’s election. Many are jubilant, others are apprehensive, or even fearful, and many others no doubt are conflicted. In my view, all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for President this year fell short of what our nation deserved and needed in 2016. I voted, but did not vote for any of them. Still, the American people have spoken.
I am confident that our democratic institution will heal and endure, and I hope and pray, that people of goodwill will come together, lower our voices, and work together to find common ground to advance the human condition.
I’m reminded of the statement chiseled in stone above the main door to the state capitol of my home state of Nebraska, “the salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”
Katie Cristol said Arlington County would “navigate the coming days as we have other major economic and political events in the past” thanks to residents, county staff and prudent planning.
Cristol said the county would continue to respect the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in the face of Trump’s deportation promises.
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what has been a hallmark of Arlington County: inclusion and protection of our diversity and of our residents. I want to reaffirm that my commitment to the safety of our immigrant neighbors, emphasizing as this board did in 2016 that all residents and visitors to Arlington County have a right to public safety protection. That it is our longstanding policy that Arlington County law enforcement does not monitor, detain, interview or investigate people solely for the purpose of determining their integration status, and that the services we provide in Arlington County, including education, public transit, access to our parks and to our libraries are not restricted based on immigration status.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has again proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana for personal use in Virginia.
Ebbin, who has won the endorsement of the pro-pot group NORML, proposed a similar bill last year, but it failed in the conservative Virginia General Assembly.
The bill, SB 104, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, like a traffic ticket, rather than jail time. It would also reduce the criminal penalties for marijuana distribution and possession with the intent to distribute.
Would you like to see marijuana decriminalized in Virginia?
Ebbin has proposed three bills to the General Assembly regarding same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights — bills very similar to the three that were rejected during last year’s legislative session. They were all defeated in their respective committees.
One bill would repeal the amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that defines valid or recognized marriages as “only a union between a man and a woman.” It also prohibits the creation or recognition of other legal relationship statuses — including partnerships and unions — that are assigned the same rights and benefits as marriages. This amendment was approved by voters during the November 2006 election, but declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014.
Another Ebbin bill would repeal two pieces of state law that prohibit same-sex marriages and civil unions. The statute prohibiting marriage between individuals of the same sex and considering such marriages conducted in another state void was first enacted in 1975. The statute that does the same for civil unions was passed in 2004.
The final bill would amend the Virginia Human Rights Act by prohibiting public employers from discriminating against potential employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Furthermore, this bill would ensure pregnancy, childbirth/related medical conditions, marital status and status as a veteran are also included under the anti-discrimination section of the law. Race, color, religion, political affiliation, age, disability and national origin are already protected under this law.
These bill proposals were reintroduced to the state legislature approximately six months after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Various Arlington officials spoke out after the ruling, supporting the decision.
Ebbin — who became the first openly gay state legislator elected in Virginia in 2003 — could not be reached for comment on his proposals. All three are currently in committee for consideration.
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled to last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed a bill that would prevent the State Corporation Commission (SCC) from approving licenses for payday lending and motor vehicle title lending offices within 20 miles of a casino facility.
Payday lending offices give unsecured, small loans in the form of cash advances, and title lenders give secured loans for which the borrowers can use their car as collateral.
If passed, applicants looking to establish either kind of office would have to prove that their proposed location is not within 20 miles of a casino in any state. That 20 mile limit would start at a casino’s front door and be measured in a straight line.
The bill specifies that any payday or title lender that opens before July 1, 2016, will not have its license revoked even if it’s within 20 miles of a casino, and any such lender that opens after that date will not have its license revoked if a casino later opens within 20 miles.
Though reports earlier this fall suggested a recently-recognized Pamunkey Indian tribe wanted to open one outside Richmond, there are no casinos in the Commonwealth.
The bill would effectively ban new payday and title lenders in Arlington County after the planned MGM National Harbor casino opens. That opening is currently set for the second half of 2016.
Ebbin — who represents parts of Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County — could not be reached for comment.
The bill is currently in committee and must pass there before being considered by the Virginia General Assembly. It faces steep odds in the Republican-controlled, business-friendly state legislature. The 2016 legislative session begins in two weeks and is scheduled to last 60 days.
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.
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).
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.
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.”