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
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.
M.J. Stewart Makes Splash in Upset Win — “Former Yorktown HS standout M.J. Stewart was one of NBC’s players of the game in the Cleveland Browns’ playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight.” [Twitter]
National Award for County Naturalist — “Alonso Abugattas, natural resources manager for Arlington County, VA, received a Regional Environmental Champion award at the 2020 Natural Latinos conference.” [Bay Journal]
Cristol to Chair NVTC Again — “Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol will go another round as chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) for 2021.” [InsideNova]
McAuliffe Picks Up Local Support — “Four of the seven members of Arlington’s legislative delegation, including all three state senators, have announced their support for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s bid for governor. McAuliffe ‘has the bold vision and proven track record we need to push Virginia forward,’ said state Sen. Adam Ebbin.” [InsideNova]
Nearby: Fairfax Vaccinating Teachers — “Starting as early as Saturday, Jan. 16, the Fairfax health department has partnered with Inova to vaccinate an estimated 40,000 teachers and staff of public and private schools and childcare programs across the health district.” [InsideNova]
Crystal City Development Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved JBG Smith’s plan to develop Crystal Gateway, a nine-story office building with ground-floor retail, at 101 12th Street S. in Crystal City. Community benefits associated with the project include the developer conveying 54,500 sq. ft. of land for Gateway Park, which will connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City.” [Arlington County]
Teacher Groups Banding Together — “Representatives from teacher associations in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Manassas Park will host a news conference Monday urging a return to virtual-only learning. In a statement Sunday evening, the Fairfax Education Association said it ‘stands with our colleagues from the Northern Virginia region to ask the Governor to return the Commonwealth to a full Phase II of the reopening plan and to recommend that our schools return to a fully virtual method of instruction.'” [InsideNova]
Feedback Sought for Police Chief Search — “The County Manager has launched a search for a new leader of the Arlington County Police Department. During the first phase of the search, the County is interested in hearing from the community. ‘We value the perspective of every resident and business,’ said County Manager Mark Schwartz… You can offer feedback through December 11.” [Arlington County]
Joint Chiefs Chair’s Wife Saves the Day — “When a bystander collapsed at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, a nurse was nearby and rushed to his aid. She happened to be the wife of the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley.” [NBC News]
‘Click It or Ticket’ Starts Today — ” The Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. As the holiday approaches, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a high visibility Click It or Ticket campaign.” [Arlington County]
State Sen. Pushing Pot Legalization — “We’re continuing to build a bipartisan coalition to #legalize responsible adult use of #marijuana in Virginia. I am working hard to ensure that ending the war on drugs is a top priority.” [@AdamEbbin/Twitter, Virginia Mercury]
N. Va. Delivered State for Biden — “Updated counts from the Virginia Department of Elections show that President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump by over 520,000 votes in Northern Virginia, defined as the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park… Across the rest of Virginia, Trump, a Republican, defeated Biden by about 70,000 votes, winning 50.2% to Biden’s 47.9%.” [InsideNova]
DCA Noise Study Launched — “In a partnership that stretches across the Potomac River, Arlington and Montgomery counties have launched a joint study to mitigate aircraft noise from nearby Reagan National Airport. A team of technical experts representing the suburban Virginia and Maryland counties will study flight procedures, consult residents and propose to the Federal Aviation Administration ways to reduce noise pollution.” [WTOP]
Amazon Doubling Down on Offices — Amazon “is expanding its physical offices in six U.S. cities and adding thousands of corporate jobs in those areas, an indication the tech giant is making long-term plans around office work even as other companies embrace lasting remote employment. Amazon is preparing to add 3,500 corporate jobs across hubs in New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Detroit and Dallas.” [Wall Street Journal]
State Senators Support Redistricting Amendment — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee may have come out against the state constitutional amendment on redistricting that will be on Virginia’s Nov. 3 ballot. But the three members of Arlington’s state Senate delegation say they support it nonetheless. The amendment to create a redistricting commission represents ‘a big step forward,’ said Sen. Adam Ebbin. [InsideNova]
WWII Marker Replaced by Gun Violence Garden — “In 1952, a marker was unveiled in Arlington by the Gold Star Mothers of America… In June, a handsome new garden was dedicated in that space. It was created by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia to honor Moms Demand Action, an organization dedicated to addressing gun violence.” [Washington Post]
Local BLM Protest Organizers Profiled — “In late May, as outrage over George Floyd’s killing in police custody roiled the nation, Anika and Yolande Kwinana decided they had to do something. Anika, 49, a program manager in the Kennedy Center’s education division, and Yolande, 28, a business development associate for Salesforce… decided to organize a smaller demonstration themselves, in Arlington.” [Arlington Magazine]
Local Beer Store Pivots to Delivery — “Les Shaver tells the story of The Brew Shop, a specialty wine and beer store in Arlington, Va., that has been exceptionally resilient despite the impact of Covid-19. In the article, How One Small Beer Shop Tapped Into Online Sales in Response to COVID-19, Shaver recounts how owners Julie Drews and Beth Helle have been able to stay ahead of the curve by quickly shifting their brick and mortar format to online and delivery services.” [Craft Brewing Business]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Coronavirus Cases at Arlington Nursing Home — “Rossie Bratten, a 21-year-old Virginia resident, is calling on nursing homes to be more transparent about COVID-19, claiming an Arlington facility caring for his mother never informed the family of positive cases at the site. Bratten claims they only called to be told their mother had tested positive.” [Fox 5, YouTube]
Construction Continuing at DCA — “The coronavirus pandemic has slowed air travel to a trickle, but it has not hindered Project Journey at Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that the new 14-gate north concourse at Reagan Airport remains on schedule to open in July 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]
Bullet Hole Found in Roof of Douglas Park Home — “At approximately 2:31 p.m. on April 13, police were dispatched to the report of a missile into occupied dwelling. Upon arrival, it was determined that contractors performing maintenance on the victim’s house located a hole in her roof and recovered a bullet in the crawl space. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]
Sen. Ebbin Lauds Signing of Marijuana Bill — “The prohibition on cannabis has for too long had life long impacts on Virginians and disproportionately affected communities of color. Thank you @GovernorVA for signing my and @C_Herring’s bills to decriminalize marijuana.” [Twitter]
County Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month — “Arlington County’s Project PEACE is recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) with virtual observances and daily online opportunities. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, survivors of sexual assault need support, champions and affirmation of their stories and voices.” [Arlington County]
State Senator Adam Ebbin celebrated a win on Sunday as the Virginia legislature approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Under the new legislation, recreational marijuana will remain illegal, but the penalty is reduced to a $25 civil fine rather than the current penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The decriminalization also includes hash and oil concentrates, of which it is currently a felony to possess, according to Virginia Mercury.
It’s been a long-running fight for Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington and has frequently proposed decriminalization laws with limited success.
“This is going to make a tremendous difference in up to 30,000 Virginians lives who receive a criminal charge each year,” Ebbin told ARLnow. “They’ll no longer have the repercussions that come with a criminal charge. I think we’ll be in a much better place with a modest fine.”
Ebbin described decriminalization as a necessary step forward. Legalization is the eventual goal, and Ebbin’s legislation has faced some pushback from advocates like the ACLU who says it doesn’t go far enough.
Ebbin said a study of the impacts of decriminalization — which was also approved by the newly Democrat-controlled legislature — is necessary before the state can more broadly legalize marijuana.
“I want to make sure we get it right in terms of taxation, distribution, keeping it away from minors,” Ebbin said. “Those are all things to be considered as we come up with the structure. No state, to my knowledge, has ever legalized without decriminalizing first.”
The bill still has to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam, but if it is, Ebbin noted that decriminalization would take effect on July 1.
The move toward decriminalization was celebrated by some on Twitter, including Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who was elected last fall with a platform that included ending prosecution of some marijuana possession cases.
Great news and a good first step. Thank you @AdamEbbin for your leadership.
Virginia lawmakers vote to decriminalize marijuana, set $25 civil penalty for possession – Virginia Mercury https://t.co/SgOHNYVB4P
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) March 8, 2020
Ebbin said the next steps are to work on the study and get more information to start on the path to legalization.
“[Then] we can start to work on the structure by which we might legalize or introduce legislation to legalize, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Ebbin said. “Nothing decriminalized until July 1, but I think it would put us in a good place.”
(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Pete Buttigieg, Democratic candidate for president and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is making another appearance in Arlington — and this time it won’t be in a resident’s backyard.
Buttigieg will be holding an upcoming Northern Virginia town hall meeting in Arlington, at the Washington-Liberty High School stadium, the campaign confirmed Thursday evening.
The event is being held this coming Sunday, Feb 23, from 3:45-5:15 p.m. It’s taking place ahead of the March 3 Super Tuesday primary in Virginia, and after last week’s Elizabeth Warren campaign event at Arlington’s Wakefield High School.
Buttigieg’s last known campaign appearance in Arlington was a private fundraiser at a Waverly Hills home this past June.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin, who endorsed the mayor’s presidential candidacy early in the race, sent the following email to supporters about the event:
On Sunday, February 23rd from 3:45 to 5:15 Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be holding a town hall in Arlington, at a location to be announced.
Throughout my political career I have had the opportunity to work with only a handful of candidates who simultaneously embody pragmatic progressive reform, and possess both the strong commitment to our nation formed by service, as well as the ability to bring Americans from all walks of life together with the common purpose of ensuring that future generations will be better off than their parents.
Mayor Buttigieg embodies these qualities, and has outlined a plan to address gun violence, advance and support communities of color, and build a [resilient] path forward for America.
County Board Approves Construction Contracts — “The Arlington County Board today approved contracts for projects that will improve the streetscape on 20th Road North, upgrade several intersections along the North Pershing Drive corridor, and rehabilitate a North Glebe Road water main.” [Arlington County]
ACPD Searching for Missing Man — “ACPD continues to attempt to locate critically missing adult Paul Winfred Coleman. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact police at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Va. Could Stay Blue Without Arlington — “Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) made headlines when he suggested returning portions of Arlington and Alexandria back to the District of Columbia. Even if this idea were to gain any serious traction with other legislators, it would not help LaRock or Republicans in Virginia hold on to a majority in the legislature.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Ebbin’s Labor Bill Faces Opposition — “The bill has attracted opposition from the state’s commercial and residential development industries, in addition to state Republicans, now in the minority in the General Assembly for the first time in two decades. Even some Democrats expressed skepticism about the legislation in initial committee hearings.” [Washington Business Journal]
Map of Cyclist-Involved Crashes — “Cyclists commuting into the District over Key Bridge have to travel through one of Virginia’s worst areas for vehicle-on-bicycle crashes. Both Clarendon Blvd. and Lee Highway had numerous collisions.” [Twitter, WUSA 9]
Possible N. Va. Coronavirus Case — “The Virginia Department of Health says it is investigating three people, including one in northern Virginia, who ‘meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria’ for coronavirus.” [Fox 5, Virginia Dept. of Health]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(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.
Testifying at the Capitol this am for @AdamEbbin’s bill to allow us to require labor protection agreements in site plans. Hugely important for making Arlington’s redevelopment more economically inclusive. Committee “passed by” for a week; hopeful prospects w/ amendments… pic.twitter.com/kWyNt1LREb
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) January 20, 2020
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.