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
Reminder: In-Person School Resuming — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — “@APSVirginia elementary schools re-open for preK-2nd grade on Tuesday, March 2, followed by 3rd-5th + 6th (middle school) and 9th (high school) grades on March 9, then all returning students on March 16.” [Twitter, Twitter]
County Buying Fairlington Area Apartments — “A push to redevelop the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington has fallen through, prompting county officials to take the unusual step of buying part of the aging affordable community. Arlington leaders signed off on plans in late January to purchase about half of the property, located along I-395 near the county’s border with Alexandria. The county will end up paying about $27.9 million for 105 apartments on a 6.3-acre parcel should the deal close in August.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Rosslyn Apartments Start Leasing — “Today, Penzance… announced the start of leasing and the opening of their interactive leasing center for Aubrey, the first luxury apartment tower to deliver at The Highlands, a dynamic mixed-use development project along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.” [Press Release]
Amazon Donates to Wakefield HS — “As part of it’s celebration of Black History Month, Amazon presented a $15,000 donation to support Wakefield High School. This is the latest in Amazon’s ongoing work to support education and racial equality initiatives in communities across the country where its employees live and work. The donation to Wakefield High School of $15,000 will include the book Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Food Stand Operators Expand into Alpacas — “What started as just a food truck eight years ago [and later a food stand in Crystal City] has now turned into an expanded business. The Peruvian Brothers are actually selling a new product — selling alpaca poop. Yes, that’s right.” [WJLA]
Jaywalking Now No Longer a Primary Offense — “Though it didn’t garner as much attention as other police reform measures during the special legislative session that ended this fall, a provision to decriminalize jaywalking in a pretextual policing bill from Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, means that come March 1, police will no longer be able to stop folks for the act of crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk.” [Virginia Mercury, NBC 4]
Amazon Funds Affordable Housing in Falls Church — “In response to concerns about the anticipated impact of its second headquarters in Arlington on the region’s housing prices, Amazon pledged $75 million over five years to affordable housing in Northern Virginia… Falls Church will get $3.4 million for a new affordable housing homeownership program and $350,000 to extend the availability of nine committed affordable apartments at the Read Building (402 W. Broad Street).” [Tysons Reporter]
Snow Removal Ordinance in Effect — “A recent weather event has concluded and deposited snow/ice accumulations of less than 6 inches. Arlington’s sidewalk snow removal ordinance requires residents and businesses to clear adjacent public sidewalks of snow and ice by 1:00 PM on Wednesday, February 3.” [Arlington County]
More Back-to-School Dates Expected Soon — “We look forward to welcoming Level 2 Career & Technical Education students to the Arlington Career Center for hybrid/in-person instruction starting [today]. We continue to assess additional student return dates… The next group to return will be Level 2, PreK through second grade and countywide elementary special education students. Return dates for this group will be communicated at the Feb. 18 School Board meeting.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington Rent Declines Slowing — “Arlington’s COVID- and shutdown-caused drop in apartment rents appears to be hitting bottom for now, according to new data from Apartment List, but the county’s rental market is still significantly more affordable than before the pandemic. For the year ending in January, rents in Arlington were down 14 percent from a year before… the drop from December to January was just 0.5 percent, lower than in preceding months.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Ranks No. 14 in ‘Walk-Friendly’ List — “About 30 years ago, Arlington took the lead in suburban redevelopment in Virginia, creating walkable urban areas around the metro system. Now that momentum has pushed Arlington (and its most walkable neighborhoods of Clarendon-Courthouse, Ballston-Virginia Square, and Lyon Village) into the top walkable cities — something we can expect to continue when Amazon moves in.” [MSN]
Hope’s Prison Oversight Bill Dies — From Del. Patrick Hope (D): “This is not the end — only the beginning. Every agency in Va must be transparent and accountable to the public which they serve. We will regroup and come back next session with a bill that prioritizes [Virginia Dept. of Corrections] oversight.” [Twitter]
Case of the Stray Hockey Sticks — A shipment of hockey sticks destined for the Washington Capitals practice facility in Ballston, to be used by new Caps acquisition Zdeno Chara, was apparently mis-delivered to a random New Jersey man’s home. [ESPN, Barstool Sports]
Bezos Relinquishing CEO Role at Amazon — “Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that he will step down as chief executive of Amazon, leaving the helm of the company he founded 27 years ago. Bezos will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year, which starts July 1, the company said. Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, will take over as CEO of Amazon.” The company yesterday revealed designs for the second phase of its Arlington HQ2. [NBC News]
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.
Va. Adopts New Workplace Safety Rules — “Today, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board acted to protect the Commonwealth’s workers by adopting emergency temporary standards, which set forth enforceable, common-sense requirements that employers must follow to protect their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic… Key requirements, such as those for physical distancing, workplace sanitization, and information sharing, will apply to all workers.” [Commonwealth of Virginia, Legal Aid Justice Center, Twitter]
Witness Helps Apprehend Robbery Suspect — “Two employees followed the suspect outside and attempted to take back the items, at which point a physical altercation ensued. The suspect assaulted the employees and threw the items at them. During this time, a witness heard commotion outside the business and went to investigate, but was struck by the suspect as he fled on foot. Arriving officers, with the assistance of the witness, located the suspect nearby and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]
ACPD No Longer Working With Ring — “Amazon.com Inc.’s doorbell camera subsidiary Ring Inc. has partnered with more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, but it appears it won’t be making a similar arrangement with the HQ2-area police force. Despite quite a bit of interest last year, the Arlington County Police Department said it is no longer ‘actively seeking a partnership with Ring,’ which would have provided its officers access to a special police portal of the company’s Neighbors app.” [Washington Business Journal]
Amazon Delaying Return to Offices — “Amazon said it is allowing employees who can work from home to do so until Jan. 8., once again extending the timeline on a return to work for many of its employees.” [CNBC]
Local Stage Star Offers Singing Telegrams — “Her title role in ‘Porgy and Bess’ was postponed at the Kennedy Center this summer. Instead, Alyson Cambridge of Arlington, Virginia, is participating in Sing for Hope grams… The idea is to give personalized singing grams from Broadway and opera stars.” [WTOP]
ACFD Battles Falls Church House Fire — Arlington County firefighters were joined by firefighters from Fairfax County in battling a house fire on Robinson Place in the City of Falls Church yesterday. [Tysons Reporter]
Hope for Arlington Summer Camps — ” As summer is approaching, we know many families are anxiously awaiting information on Summer Camp 2020. While we hope to operate summer camp this year, the ultimate decision will be based on our ability to operate safely within national and state guidelines.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]
County Board Primary Cancelled — “The Democratic Primary for County Board, originally scheduled for June 9, 2020 and subsequently delayed until June 23, 2020, will not be held… Accordingly, Libby T. Garvey is the Democratic nominee for County Board in the General Election to be held on November 3, 2020.” [Arlington County]
Call for More Coronavirus Transparency in Va. — “Several Virginia legislators are calling for the release of information regarding specific long-term care facilities, saying the public has a right to know how many residents and staff have tested positive or died at each location… ‘In a situation like this, transparency is very important,’ said Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, of Arlington.” [NBC 4]
GGW, Blue Virginia Endorse Takis — “This week, a select group of Arlington Democratic party members will choose a nominee for the county board seat held by Erik Gutshall, who tragically died of brain cancer in April… We recommend eligible party insiders select Takis Karantonis as their first choice and then Nicole Merlene or Chanda Choun as second and/or third choices in the ranked-choice ballot.” [Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia]
Parade for McKinley Teacher — “Arlington County students and their parents held a drive-by parade to honor their third-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. Almost a dozen cars drove by the home of Amanda Herr, honking their horns and holding signs” [Patch]
Dutch Foundry Working on New Carillon Bells — “It took more than a week for the big bronze bell to cool. Over that time, a glowing crucible full of molten alloy was transformed into a 7,595-pound behemoth nearly six feet in diameter that next year will sing out across Arlington. The big Netherlands Carillon is getting bigger.” [Washington Post]
Bayou Bakery Has Provided Thousands of Free Meals — “Since the beginning of March, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington has been feeding Arlington County kids and their families for free. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery enlisted Real Food for Kids to partner with him to serve free, plant-based meals 5 days a week.” [WJLA]
The growth of new COVID-19 cases in Arlington doesn’t appear to be going down — though it doesn’t seem to be accelerating either.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 865 known coronavirus cases in Arlington and 157 reported hospitalizations. That’s up from 625 cases and 114 hospitalizations a week ago, and from 836 cases and 144 hospitalizations on Monday.
The number of new cases over the trailing 7-day period is up modestly since last week. As of today there have been 272 new cases reported over the past 7 days, compared to 235 a week ago.
The latest Virginia Dept. of Health data shows 14,339 reported COVID-19 cases, plus 2,165 hospitalizations, 492 deaths and 82,753 people testest statewide.
Some Virginia officials, meanwhile, are calling on the state to release more specific information about outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Such a move would follow the lead of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who ordered the state to reveal where such outbreaks have taken place.
Glad MD is doing this and I’ve been asking VA do the same. We need to be more transparent about what is happening in congegate living facilities. The public has the right to know. cc: @GovernorVA @VDHgov @JulieCareyNBC @bluevirginia https://t.co/QGW8TLWdZd
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) April 27, 2020
Thus far state and Arlington County health officials have refused to release such data.
“The Public Health Division does not provide information on reportable diseases on less than a county level,” and Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman previously told ARLnow. “This is due to health care privacy laws and also because we believe that all geographic areas of Arlington County currently are at risk of disease transmission.”
The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), chair of Virginia House Public Safety Committee, following Gov. Ralph Northam signing several gun violence prevention measures into law.
Knocking on doors last summer and fall, I asked Arlington voters their top legislative concerns. The largest response, by far, was for the General Assembly to take action to reduce gun violence.
That same sentiment has been growing across the commonwealth for years due to the lack of response to tragedies, such as, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and more recently, Virginia Beach. But the gun violence prevention movement is not just about the mass shootings you see and hear about in the media. It’s the daily acts of gun violence — over 100 a day — occurring in our communities and firearm suicides that you don’t hear about.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were 1,041 gun deaths in Virginia. The Virginia firearm suicide rate has increased by 15% over the last decade and the firearm homicide rate increased 45%. Of all the suicides, nearly two-thirds are by firearm. Thirty-two children die by firearm every year in Virginia. Year after year, advocates from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, Giffords, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence come to Richmond to lobby for commonsense solutions only to be rejected.
But the 2020 legislative session would be different. I could tell gun violence prevention was going to be a rallying point for voters ever since Governor Ralph Northam, who called for a July 9 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, had his call to action thwarted by Republicans who immediately adjourned the session without taking any action. Virginia Democrats made gun violence prevention a central campaign theme in the 2019 election. Legislators finally listened to the voices of voters and we delivered.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn tapped me to chair the House Public Safety Committee to oversee the passage of one of the House Democrats highest priorities: gun violence prevention. Those items that passed and recently signed by the Governor include:
- Universal background checks on all firearm sales;
- Reinstate the law allowing the purchase of only one handgun within a 30-day period;
- Requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 48 hours;
- Create an Extreme Risk Protective Order that would allow a court to order the temporary separation of firearms from an individual determined to be danger to self or others (this bill was patroned by Del. Rip Sullivan);
- Prohibiting the person the subject of a protective order from possessing a firearm (this bill was patroned by Sen. Janet Howell);
- Enhancing the penalty for recklessly allowing child access to a loaded firearm;
- Allowing localities, such as Arlington, to prohibit firearms in County buildings, parks, or recreation centers.
These laws will save lives.
Other bills that passed include the requirement for a person to receive a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate competence in-person (patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez); creation of a Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; adding child day centers to the list of schools where firearms are not allowed; prohibiting the possession/sale of bump stocks; and my bill to clarify school boards are prohibited from arming untrained personnel for school protection; and another to require family day homes to lock up firearms during operating hours.
The House passed a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines but, unfortunately, the bill was defeated in a Senate Committee. This bill was patroned by Del. Mark Levine.
Critics say the House moved too fast. It may seem that way if you are used to doing nothing or preferred we did nothing. In my view, however, we struck the right balance acting only on measures that have been proven to save lives. Many of these bills have been introduced, studied, and debated for years. It was time to be responsive to Virginia voters and act.
Why does this issue mean so much to me and so many others? Kris Brown, Arlington resident and President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, summed it up best when she recently tweeted: “There are too many children living in constant fear in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods. We owe them all a better future.” As the father of three children, I couldn’t have said it better.
The following Letter to the Editor was written by long-time Arlington resident John Seymour.
In a video panel discussion held this week with local Democratic leaders, several Northern Virginia members of the General Assembly were asked to select the piece of legislation passed this session of which they were most proud.
Del. Patrick Hope (D), six-term House of Delegates member representing much of Arlington County, did not choose one of the Democrats’ marquee accomplishments — expansion of voting rights, gun control measures, increased transportation funding, raise in the minimum wage, or even a Clean Energy Act which signaled a transformation in the energy sector. Instead, Delegate Hope picked a little known — but now seemingly prescient — bill intended solely to increase Virginia immunization rates.
Championed by Delegate Hope for years, the bill’s final vote was a close thing. In a deeply divided House and Senate, the bill passed on party lines with razor thin margins. One Republican Senator, a physician representing Henrico County, broke party ranks and voted for the bill. She reminded her GOP colleagues that “this is the 21st Century” and that the proposed legislation simply represented what the Commonwealth should be doing to protect its citizens from communicable diseases.
Delegate Hope echoed that conviction and also expressed his belief that the bill will expedite responses to the current coronavirus crisis and future pandemics, when and if vaccines become available. The bill is on the Governor Northam’s desk awaiting signature.
In earlier times, when our nation’s citizens displayed higher levels of trust in science and professional health expertise, the bill would have been viewed as unremarkable and commonsense. In a very few lines of text, the bill simply elevates science over politics. It gives the Virginia Department of Health the authority to align Virginia’s school immunization schedule with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the nation’s preeminent health authority.
Under current law, in contrast, only illnesses identified and recommended by non-physicians– the Assembly itself — can be added to the Department of Health schedule. Unsurprisingly, no disease has been added since 2008. Republicans controlling both Houses blocked periodic efforts to add vaccines recommended by the CDC.
The immediate effect of the bill is to add several additional vaccinations — for rotavirus, hepatitis A, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV) — to the Commonwealth’s vaccination schedule. Its long-term import is to introduce an evidence-based and scientifically rigorous process, free of partisan wrangling, for amending Virginia’s immunization schedule to address existing as well as new and emerging public health threats.
Although health groups overwhelmingly supported the bill, opposition to the bill was fierce. The bill was opposed by such groups as the National Vaccine Information Center, an organization criticized by national and international health organizations as a leading source of false and inflammatory anti-vaccine propaganda.
Virginia became the first Southern state to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18, thanks in part to Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D). Hope’s bill, HB 386, was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday, March 2.
Conversion therapy “is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. Virginia is the twentieth state in the country to have banned the practice.
Hope first proposed the conversion therapy ban seven years ago, and has continued to do so during each legislative session, but before this year it kept getting killed in the Republican-majority subcommittees.
Hope deems the success of the bill “very partisan,” crediting the Democratic majority in both houses of the General Assembly in getting the bill passed. This is the first time in 26 years that the Democrats have controlled the state government.
The path to the ban, however, involved some bipartisan cooperation.
The Virginia Department of Health Professions played a role in building the bill. In 2018, the Chairman of the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, Bobby Orrock (R), turned to the Dept. of Health Professions to regulate conversion therapy practices without the help of lawmakers. The department had refrained from doing so for the past seven years because officials felt that the state legislature was sending them a message by killing the conversion therapy ban in subcommittee so many times.
However, after Orrock reached out, the department created a workgroup to look into the issue and, because of Hope’s work on the bill, he was asked to take part.
“[The Dept. of Health Professions] set up a workgroup, and I was a part of that workgroup,” Hope said. “They got all the chairs of all the different health professions that touch conversion therapy — so they had social workers, they had psychiatrists, they had psychologist, they had school counselors, etc. — they had everyone who might have a hand in conversion therapy. And they all decided in at that meeting for each of them to develop their own regulations prohibiting conversion therapy.”
The meetings informed the details of the bill. In the end, however, it was the Democratic majority that gave Del. Hope the victory he had been seeking for seven years.
“It really is a defining moment,” Hope said. “To be the 20th state and the first state in the South to [ban conversion therapy] really shows how hearts and minds have changed across the country and I couldn’t be more proud.”