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.”
Ebbin Bill to Return Checks As Tax Refund Option — State Sen. Adam Ebbin has proposed a bill that would force the state to start using paper checks again for tax refunds. In 2012 Virginia budget eliminated paper check refunds, allowing residents to get their refund either via electronic transfer or pre-paid debit card. Ebbin unsuccessfully proposed a similar bill last year. [InsideNova]
Favola Hate Crime Bill Fails — A bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of hate crimes in Virginia has failed. The bill was proposed by state Senator and former Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola. [Associated Press]
MLK Books for Kids at Library — The Arlington Public Library blog has some recommendations for books that can introduce the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to children. [Library Blog]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he was almost carjacked near the Potomac Yard Harris Teeter store, in Arlington.
Ebbin tweeted about the incident at 12:55 p.m. this afternoon.
A potential carjacker tried twice to get in my car when stopped at light: Harris Teeter at S Glebe Rd & Rte 1. Police on way
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) January 8, 2015
He seemed unarmed. I had just visited childcare center for demo on their innovative security features .
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) January 8, 2015
Police say Ebbin was stopped at a red light when a man tried to open a back door of the vehicle, then went around and tried to open a front door. The light turned green and Ebbin drove off. He called police and officers took a report.
It’s unclear why the man tried to get in Ebbin’s car, though police are not calling it a carjacking attempt just yet.
“Right now it’s technically going to be termed a tampering,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Officers searched the area but couldn’t find anyone matching the suspect’s description.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who represents part of Arlington, has proposed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana for personal use.
Ebbin’s bill, SB686, is similar to the marijuana decriminalization statute that went into effect in the District earlier this year. (D.C. has since voted to legalize marijuana.) SB686 changes simple marijuana possession from a crime punishable by a $500 fine, and/or up to 30 days in jail, to a civil infraction — a ticket — with a maximum $100 penalty, payable to the state’s Literary Fund.
The distribution of marijuana would remain a crime, but would be reduced to a lesser misdemeanor for all marijuana quantities less than a pound. Growing up to up to six marijuana plants would be considered personal use and not an intent to distribute.
“I don’t think marijuana decriminalization has ever been introduced in the Virginia Senate,” Ebbin told the TV station. “I think criminalizing marijuana, disrupting careers and families, does more harm than the drug itself does.”
The bill has a co-patron in Del. Kaye Kory, the Falls Church Democrat.
“Marijuana decriminalization is trending across the country and this bill will get us talking about it in Virginia,” Kory told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “The conversation will go back and forth over what steps we want to take and when to take them. There’s no telling how long the process will take, but the important thing is that we’re having the conversation.”
There’s some history of support for marijuana-related reforms among local politicians and politically-active groups. In 2012, then-Del. David Englin (D) proposed studying whether Virginia ABC stores should some day sell marijuana. In April, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans hosted a forum to discuss marijuana sentencing reform.
Ebbin’s bill will be considered once the Virginia General Assembly convenes in January. With both the House of the Delegates and the state Senate now controlled by Republicans, the bill seemingly faces long odds of passage.
The three state senators and four delegates that represent Arlington in the Virginia General Assembly have sent a letter to state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in support of the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
The letter calls out County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt for their continued opposition to the project. On Friday, Garvey laid out alternative uses for the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local transportation funding that are being directed toward the streetcar.
“We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project,” the letter states.
The letter also cites the return on investment study the county funded that predicted more than $3 billion in economic impact in the first 30 years of the streetcar system. It refers to the support the streetcar has already received from state officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
The letter was signed by state Sens. Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola and Dels. Alfonso Lopez, Patrick Hope, Rob Krupicka and Rip Sullivan.
The full letter is posted, after the jump. (more…)
The court decided not to review decisions that struck down gay marriage bans in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana. The action immediately ends delays on same-sex marriages, which took effect in Virginia in August when the court issued a stay.
According to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has supported reversing the state’s gay marriage ban, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a mandate at 1:00 p.m. and same-sex marriages can begin at that time. Virginia also will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Herring, who will be speaking at a 12:30 p.m. news conference at the Arlington County Courthouse, issued the following statement.
A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through.
All Virginians have the constitutional right to be treated fairly and equally, to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life. We should all be proud that our fellow Virginians helped lead us forward.
This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history. We will continue to fight discrimination wherever we find it, but today, we celebrate a moment when we move closer to fulfilling the promise of equality ignited centuries ago in Virginia, and so central to the American experience.
State Senator Adam Ebbin also took to Twitter, saying same-sex marriages in Virginia now are “imminent.”
SCOTUS declines to review marriage equality cases. Same-sex marriage now imminent in Virginia & at least 4 other states! #Equality
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) October 6, 2014
Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court decision:
This is a historic and long overdue moment for our Commonwealth and our country. On issues ranging from recognizing same-sex marriages to extending health care benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees, Virginia is already well-prepared to implement this historic decision. Going forward we will act quickly to continue to bring all of our policies and practices into compliance so that we can give marriages between same-sex partners the full faith and credit they deserve.
I applaud all of the Virginians who gave so much time and effort in the fight for equality, and congratulate my friend Attorney General Mark Herring on this important victory for justice and equal treatment under the law.
Equality for all men and women regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual orientation is intrinsic to the values that make us Virginians, and now it is officially inscribed in our laws as well.
The Supreme Court did not offer an explanation for its decision and did not issue a ruling about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage nationwide.
Rep. Jim Moran addressed the court’s lack of a nationwide decision in a statement.
This is a momentous day for Virginia and for all who believe in equality under the law. This decision affirms the right of all people to pursue happiness, the most basic example of which is the ability to marry and share your life with the person you love.
Still, it is disappointing that the Court has delayed a final decision on a federal right to marriage equality. Legalized discrimination anywhere is wrong. The Court was right to affirmatively strike down DOMA a year ago, and now it is time to end the uncertainty so many couples are forced to live with and guarantee marriage equality throughout the country.
The bill addresses “the growing problem of notaries who practice law without a license” in immigrant communities. It does so by prohibiting notaries who are not attorneys or otherwise accredited from offering legal and immigration advice.
“In many Latin American countries ‘notario publicos’ (notary publics) provide legal advice, but U.S. notaries who are not also attorneys are not authorized to share this role,” explains a media advisory about the bill signing. “In Virginia, there have been cases of notaries fraudulently charging thousands of dollars for misleading advice.”
Two of the chief sponsors of the legislation, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) are expected to join McAuliffe at the bill signing ceremony, to be held Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).
Last week, we asked the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 8th District congressional race to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the June 10 primary.
Here is state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s unedited response:
“How do I choose between so many candidates? What makes you different from the rest of the candidates?” These are the most common questions I hear on the campaign trail. Frankly, they are the right questions to ask. In a race where our platforms are similar, how can you differentiate?
I am proud to have devoted the last 10+ years passing progressive legislation in Richmond and serving my constituents right here in Arlington as well as neighboring communities.
There are many things that set me apart from the field.
- the only candidate to have represented Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax for more than 10 years,
- the only candidate in this race to have expanded Medicaid to cover prenatal care for immigrant mothers,
- the only candidate to have increased insurance access for LGBT Virginians,
- the only candidate to expand access to solar energy, and
- the only candidate who wrote a bill to combat Ken Cuccinelli and his radical agenda,
- the only candidate to establish an Arlington/Falls Church Public Defender Office,
- the only candidate to secure major funding for the Doorways Shelter for women and children.
I am also the only candidate in this race who calls himself a LIBERAL without apology.
I am not the flashiest candidate in this race, nor am I the loudest. And throughout this campaign, I am certainly not the candidate that has made the loftiest promises. But my record speaks for itself — I know how to get things done. That is why I have been endorsed by more elected officials than any other candidate, by two major unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), by the Gay Lesbian Victory Fund and Congressman Keith Ellison, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
I have always stood up for Arlington’s needs and values in the General Assembly and will do so in the U.S. Congress. If you support me on June 10th, I will work for you in Congress and there is no telling what we can accomplish together.
County Releases Development Report — Arlington County has issued its Development Tracking Report for the first quarter of 2014. In Q1, the County Board approved 170,834 square feet of office space, 4,280 square feet of retail, 387 apartment units, and 161 hotel rooms. [Arlington County]
Library Honors Outstanding Volunteers — Arlington Public Library has presented its annual Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards. The awards went to Deborah Jones, who helps to manage nine book clubs, and to the Talking Books and Homebound Services team. [Arlington Public Library]
Pot Group Releases Video for Ebbin — NORML PAC, which is working to legalize marijuana in the U.S., has released a video in support of state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s run for Congress. Ebbin is one of seven candidates campaigning for the Democratic primary on June 10. In addition to marijuana advocates, Ebbin has received endorsements from County Board Chair Jay Fisette, three Arlington School Board members, and the local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Laborers’ International Union of North America. [YouTube]
Board to Consider $6.6 Million Homeless Shelter Contract — County staff is recommending that the Arlington County Board approve a $6.6 million contract for construction of the new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse. The contract includes a $1.1 million construction contingency to cover overages. The contract is “within budget,” a county spokeswoman said. The new Homeless Services Center will include 50 year-round beds, 5 medical respite beds and an additional 25 beds for winter months. [Arlington County]
Hike in ART, STAR Fees Proposed — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a hike in fees for the county’s ART and STAR transportation systems. The base fare for ART buses would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under Donnellan’s proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Ebbin Reflects on Va. Marriage Ruling — State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first and only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had mixed emotions after last week’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. “I always thought if you were gay, you could never get married, you’d never be able to have children,” he told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know you could be gay and be happy.” [Washington Post]
Belly Dancing in Shirlington — Aladdin’s Eatery (4044 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington will be hosting regular belly dancing shows, starting on Thursday. The shows will be performed by faculty from Saffron Dance, which is based in Virginia Square. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Noise Complaint Targets Church — Even God is not safe from noise complaints in Arlington. Police were called to the 2400 block of Shirlington Road in Nauck on Monday night for “a loud church service in the area.” No word on whether officers found an actual violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
Flickr pool photo by Robpc
Update at 2:50 p.m. — Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille also announced today that he’s running for Rep. Moran’s seat in Congress, according to the Washington Post.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he intends to run for the congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran.
Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, joins an increasingly crowded field of candidates for the Democratic nomination. Announced candidates for the June primary include state Democratic party chair Charniele Herring, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Mark Sickles, former Lieutenant Gov. Don Beyer and Bruce Shuttleworth. More are expected to enter the race soon.
Ebbin’s campaign issued the following press release this afternoon.
State Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) announced today that he would seek election to the U.S. House seat of retiring Congressman Jim Moran (D-8). Ebbin has filed the paperwork needed to launch his campaign committee for the June 10 Democratic Primary.
“For twenty-three years, Jim Moran has stood for the progressive values of the people of Northern Virginia. I am proud to have been represented by him in Congress, and to have represented him in Richmond,” Ebbin said.
Since 2004, Ebbin has represented voters from Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County in the Virginia General Assembly, first as a member of the House of Delegates, and since 2012 as State Senator. Ebbin is the only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.
“Today, I am excited to announce that I will be running to succeed Congressman Moran,” said Senator Ebbin. “For over a decade in Richmond, I’ve been a strong voice for progressive values who’s gotten results. I’ve fought to end human trafficking, to strengthen protections for seniors and the disabled, to ensure LGBT equality and to expand Medicaid in Virginia.”
During his time in Richmond, Ebbin has been recognized as a proven progressive leader by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Equality Virginia, the Virginia AFL-CIO, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, and other key progressive organizations. In 2011, Ebbin authored a bill to reign in the abuses of then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
“Now, more than ever, we need effective leaders in Congress who know how to reach across the aisle to accomplish important goals while never abandoning our shared progressive values. In Congress, I will work with President Obama to protect the Affordable Care Act and ensure access to quality health care. I will protect federal workers from mean-spirited attacks. I will work alongside representatives from every state and political party to raise the minimum wage, fight climate change, and ensure that we never abandon the promise of Social Security and Medicare,” Ebbin said.
Prior to serving in the General Assembly, Ebbin served as Governor Mark Warner’s Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. He has lived in Alexandria for more than 20 years, and served on the 8th District Democratic Committee and the Virginia Democratic Party’s State Steering Committee.
Ebbin has launched a campaign website at www.AdamEbbin.com.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), passed the state Senate Jan. 20 by a unanimous 38-0 vote — the Senate is missing two votes until new Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General’s Mark Herring’s seats are filled via special election — and is waiting to be considered by the House of Delegates Finance Committee.
As of January 2013, the state started only doling out tax rebates via direct deposit or a debit card, which comes with associated costs, like ATM and transaction fees. The Senate Finance Committee voted to abolish the debit card option altogether if the bill is signed into law.
“Taxpayers deserve the convenience of receiving their refunds in the form they prefer,” Ebbin said in a press release after the bill passed the Senate. “By contrast, the debit card system was fraught with fees and was not consumer-friendly. Taxpayers were even charged for withdrawing funds from an in-network ATM. I’m glad the Senate recognizes the need for reform.”
The bill states that, if the taxpayer doesn’t indicate which payment method he prefers between direct deposit and a mailed check, a check will be mailed to the provided address. If the bill passes, it would go into effect for taxes collected this year, meaning taxes filed by April 15, 2015.
Such talk suggests that he’s taking a futile stand to make a point. Instead, Ebbin insists that he’s in it to win it.
Ebbin has introduced legislation for the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session to try to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 1, is a long-shot by any measure: it would require passage in 2014 and 2016 in order to repeal the gay marriage ban.
Ebbin’s bill will be the first time the Senate will hear a same-sex marriage proposal — the only challenge to the Marshall-Newman Amendment previously came in the House of Delegates and never made it out of committee, Ebbin said.
“I’ve waited to introduce this bill until we’ve come to the point where I think it is a bill that Virginians are ready to pass,” he told ARLnow.com. “I have had discussions with Republicans and Democrats, including with people who supported the Marshall-Newman Amendment. There are supportive Republicans in the General Assembly.”
Ebbin will put the bill before the Senate Privileges and Elections committee, which he said will allow him and his allies to identify who the bill’s supporters are, even if it fails this year. Ebbin, however, has no plans to see the bill fail. Despite the amendment passing by a significant margin in 2006, he believes the time is right to take decisive action.
“We’re working to win,” he said. “If we don’t win one year, we’re working towards winning. It’s not tilting at windmills, it’s making things happen, whether quickly or over a multi-year effort.”
Public opinion around the country has shifted drastically in recent years over same-sex marriage. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage, including seven in 2013, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June.
Ebbin is encouraged by several Republicans both in and out of the General Assembly whose opinions “have evolved” in recent years on the subject. At least as of last week, he was confident that he has secured at least one GOP vote. When asked the reasons they’ve given him for the changes in their opinions, he said, “It’s not really complicated. People say it’s the right thing to do, or they know it’s the right thing to do.”
“It wouldn’t have been seen as a winnable fight five years ago,” he said. “The Supreme Court has spoken and people across the country, and including Virginia, are supportive of marriage equality.”
First Night of Hanukkah — Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. [Chabad]
Ebbin Introduces Repeal of Va. Gay Marriage Ban — State Sen. Adam Ebbin has introduced legislation that would repeal Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In order to repeal the amendment, which was approved by voters in 2006, Ebbin’s legislation would need to pass the General Assembly in 2014 and 2016, and be approved in a statewide referendum. [Sun Gazette]
No Tenants for New Rosslyn Skyscraper — So far, no tenants have signed on to lease office space in 1812 North Moore, the new skyscraper in Rosslyn that holds the title of the region’s tallest building (with the exception of the Washington Monument). The lack of tenants is being blamed on weakness in the local office market. The office vacancy rate inside the Beltway has risen from 10 percent in 2010 to 17.5 percent this quarter. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder