Arlington, VA

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.

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The Virginia state legislature adjourned from its 2020 session last week, but not before a lawmaker from Arlington finally succeeded in his years-long quest to ban conversion therapy.

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.”

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Morning Notes

Local Crossing Guard Honored — “Zeleke Taffesse, a crossing guard serving Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, was one of four crossing guards statewide named tops in their field as part of the Feb. 10-14 commemoration of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Inexpensive Condos Still Exist in Arlington — “There are still some bargains to be had in Arlington, particularly if you’re willing to downsize to an older condo. For example, Unit 49 in the Lorcom House Condo at 4401 Lee Hwy. in North Arlington is priced at $225,000. The monthly condo fee of $552 includes all utilities as well as trash and snow removal.” [Washington Post]

Hope’s Instant Runoff Bill Advancing — “A proposal that would allow, though not require, Arlington to elect its County Board members by ‘instant-runoff’ (also known as ‘ranked-choice’) voting has cleared its first hurdle in Richmond, but still faces an uncertain future. The measure, by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), won passage in the House of Delegates on a 68-30 vote and was forwarded across the hall for consideration by the state Senate.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Holds ‘Real ID’ Event — “Congressman Don Beyer partnered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Saturday to host a REAL ID application event for constituents of the 8th District at Wakefield High School in Arlington… Beginning October 1, 2020, U.S. residents who want to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility using their state-issued driver’s license or ID as identification must have a version of the credential that is REAL ID compliant.” [Press Release]

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Arlington’s state senators aren’t alone in pushing for gun control in Richmond this legislative session — their counterparts in the House of Delegates have also proposed a number of bills on the topic.

Other bills being reviewed by Arlington’s delegates this session range from a local civil rights fight to the recognition of some Arlington cemeteries as historic places.

The all-Democrat group of delegates have been empowered by a new Democratic majority in the state legislature. Many of the gun control measures proposed in the House of Delegates and the State Senate have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines, though a number of bills have passed at least one of the chambers.

Below are some of the bills that have been proposed by each of Arlington’s delegates.

Del. Mark Levine

Among bills introduced by Del. Mark Levine is HB 180, which would eliminate the requirement that the race of spouses be included in the marriage record filed with the state. Levine is also sponsoring HB 301, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Both bills were referred to committees, and HB 180 was recommended by a subcommittee on Tuesday.

The requirement of couples to list their race on marriage licenses is an obscure holdover from Jim Crow laws that’s gotten some pushback over the years, including a lawsuit in September by a local lawyer that ended with a judge ruling the law was unconstitutional.

Levine also introduced several gun control measures as well, including restriction of firearm ammunition, prohibitions on ownership after certain criminal convictions, and a prohibition on the sale or transport of weapons defined in the bill as “assault firearms.”

Del. Patrick Hope

Hope is also the sponsor of the House version of Favola’s bill that would eliminate the death penalty for cases involving a severe mental illness. Hope’s HB 1284 would eliminate the use of isolated confinement in state correctional facilities and juvenile correctional facilities. One bill, HB 1120, would also dramatically increase the tax on tobacco products, from the current 30 cents per pack to $1.80 per pack.

Hope’s gun control legislation, HB 1080, would prohibit school boards from authorizing or designating any person to possess a firearm on school property other than those expressly authorized by state law.

Also of note is Hope’s bill, HB 712, which would allow anyone required to post ordinances, resolutions, notices or advertisements in newspapers to publish instead in an online publication. The requirement for governments to only post notices in print newspapers is a standing rule backed by organizations like the Virginia Press Association. The requirement has gotten some pushback in recent years by local jurisdictions like Vienna, which argue that the law is costly and unfair to areas without print newspapers.

Del. Rip Sullivan

Among Rip Sullivan’s proposed legislation is HB 213, which would add out-of-state student IDs to the list of acceptable forms of voter identification, and HB 379, which adds three cemeteries in Arlington (Calloway Cemetery, Lomax Cemetery, and Mount Salvation Cemetery) to the list of organizations that may receive funds from the Department of Historic Resources.

Sullivan’s gun control legislation includes HB 674, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from someone they deem poses a substantial risk, HB 458, which would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a fugitive to purchase, possess or transport a firearm, and HB 459, which would prohibit anyone convicted of assault and battery as part of a hate crime from possessing or transporting a firearm.

Del. Alfonso Lopez

Legislation from Lopez includes HB 1184, which opens up options for distributing generated solar energy by individuals and localities, and HB 219, which would automatically register individuals at the Department of Motor Vehicles who are applying for or replacing their driver’s license.

Lopez’s gun control legislation includes HB 264, which would remove the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence electronically, and HB 260, which increases the allowed length of time for a background check from the end of the next business day to within five business days.

Crossover for legislation — when bills that pass one house are considered by the other — is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, and the last day to act on remaining bills is March 5. Gov. Ralph Northam can sign or veto legislation until April 6, and the new laws will take effect July 1.

Photo courtesy former Del. Bob Brink

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Morning Notes

Lessons Learned from Amazon in Seattle — A local real estate agent traveled to Seattle to learn what Arlington can expect from Amazon’s arrival. Among the things Arlington might see, as Seattle did: a “restaurant boom” with lots of new eateries opening, and big property price increases over the course of several years. [NBC 4]

County May Extend Signature’s Annex Lease — The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider renewing Signature Theatre’s lease for the county-owned building at 3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive through 2032. The theater uses the building “for set, costume, and prop fabrication and storage and for general office purposes in connection with Signature’s stage productions at 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Chamber Has New Logo — “Introducing the Chamber’s NEW LOGO! We updated our logo this past year to better match the mission of our organization. The new design is intended to increase the prominence of Arlington & give the logo a more modern feel.” [Twitter]

Beyer on Impeachment, Trade Deal — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the impending vote on impeaching President Donald Trump “is a sad moment for our country, and a solemn one.” Also, of the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal, Beyer said yesterday: “I will have the best interests of my constituents in mind as I evaluate the text of this agreement in days to come.” [Press Release, Press Release]

AWLA Recreates Viral Moment With Bunny — ” Days after Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s duct-taped banana artwork went viral with a whopping $120,000 sale price, a cute Arlington bunny has come along to give him a run for his money. Her latest masterpiece involves a tasty carrot duct-taped to a tiled wall.” [Patch]

Hope Named Chair of Public Safety Committee — “Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has been named chairman of the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety… Hope, the most senior member of the Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates, was the only one of the four-member Arlington delegation to be tapped for a committee chairmanship.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Pedestrian Struck on Columbia Pike — A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Columbia Pike near S. Highland Street around noon on Friday. Passersby rushed to help the victim, who remained on the ground after being struck. The crash appeared to happen prior the crosswalk in the westbound lanes of the Pike. The pedestrian reportedly suffered non-life-threatening injuries. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

ACPD Ramping Up Seat Belt Enforcement — “During the Thanksgiving holiday, 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 enforcement campaign to work toward reducing the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up. The campaign runs from November 25 – December 6, 2019.” [Arlington County]

Veteran Suicide Run Ends in Arlington — “Two Massachusetts men finished a 500-mile run from Cape Cod to Arlington National Cemetery on Friday to raise awareness of veteran suicides. Joshua Milich, 29, of Somerset, and Brian Tjersland, 52, of Dartmouth, started off on their journey from Massachusetts National Cemetery on Veterans Day.” [Cape Cod Times, NBC 4]

Hope ‘Doesn’t Know What to Expect’ with Majority — “Like his three colleagues also comprising the Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates, Patrick Hope has never served in the majority. That changes on Jan. 8, when Democrats take control of a body that has been under authority of Republicans for more than two decades – and when, for much of that time, Democrats were as much an afterthought as the groom at a wedding reception.” [InsideNova]

YHS Football Advances to Regional Final — “On Friday night, the Patriots shut the [Madison] Warhawks down, scoring a 25-10 win in the Class 6 Region D semifinals for their second victory of the postseason. The Patriots, who went on the road and never trailed, secured that third playoff game; they will face Westfield, another traditional power, in next week’s region final.” [Washington Post, InsideNova]

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The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).

For patients — including many of my Arlington constituents — accessing and affording the health care they need can be an overwhelming task. Even when they’ve found an insurance plan and physician specialist that works for them, just keeping up with all the co-pays and meeting high deductibles can prove to be a huge financial strain. When emergencies arise, as they always will, receiving an unexpected bill that you thought your insurance covered, is unfair.

The Virginia General Assembly tried to address surprise billing last session in a fair way that protected patients and didn’t unduly burden the physicians, hospitals or insurers. We were unsuccessful, but now we are seeing this issue has reached beyond Virginia to become a national issue that could benefit from a national solution. I will continue to work for a solution here in the Commonwealth, but I’m hopeful Congress will act sooner to end surprise medical billing fairly and without delay.

But just as important as passing a legislative solution is getting the job done the right way – one that’s good for patients. That means avoiding an approach that gives one side undue influence in the payment process.

There are bills pending in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that rely solely on internal, insurance company rates as the “benchmark” to settle out-of-network payment disputes between insurers and providers — and eliminating any hope of a level playing field between insurers and providers.

That is why Congress should stick to a more equitable approach that doesn’t let any side — the government, doctors, or insurers — arbitrarily dictate rates. Congress should choose an approach that mirrors what we tried to do in Virginia. Our legislation would have protected patients in numerous ways by creating a level playing field between doctors, hospitals and the insurance industry. The best solutions being offered right now on the federal level are bills which include an Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) process.

IDR would enable physicians and insurance companies to enter into an unbiased negotiation process in order to resolve payment disputes without getting the patient involved at all. The entire process takes place online and lasts no more than 30 days. Independent third-party mediators would make a final decision on payment amounts and, until that time, insurers would provide initial payments that help protect smaller, at-risk hospitals.

As evidenced in New York, IDR works — and it works well. Since establishing the IDR process to address this very issue in 2015, New York has seen network participation grow, out-of-network billing shrink, and in-network emergency costs decrease — all while patient protections and insurer transparency has increased. Meanwhile, California is struggling with its own benchmarking solution, which has led to an increase in contract terminations by insurance companies, threatening patient access to care.

I hope that Congress, led by Virginia’s Senators Warner and Kaine and Representative Bobby Scott who, as chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, has a chance to craft a House-version of an IDR bill, will work together to end surprise billing once and for all. However, if Congress is unable to act, I’m committed to Virginia passing a fair, equitable solution to protect patients in the 2020 General Assembly session.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

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The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).

The Labor Day holiday may have passed but the rights of workers remain at the forefront of my agenda.

When Democrats flip the General Assembly this year, it will be the first progressive legislature in modern history. Democrats will finally be in position to make government work for all Virginians, not just the wealthy few and big corporate donors. While Virginia may be the best state for business, it is the worst state for workers and that needs to change.

At the very top of the progressive agenda is to repeal the so-called “Right-to-Work.” Eradicating this law is both a civil rights issue and a matter of economic justice. Hopefully, it will also be at the top of Governor Ralph Northam’s list, and that of his newly established Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law. This commission is charged with reviewing the Virginia Code and administrative regulations to address the Commonwealth’s remaining policies that promote or enable racial discrimination or inequity. Its report is due to the Governor by November 15th.

A little history: the origins of Virginia’s right-to-work law is based on discrimination. Virginia passed its right-to-work law in 1947 during the tenure of Governor William Tuck, an avowed segregationist and union buster. Right-to-work spread across the south and mid-western states after World War II to block workers of all races from coming together to fight for better wages and benefits.

Dr. Martin Luther King understood the true nature of right-to-work. Dr. King said, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone… Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped.”

So why hasn’t this law been repealed sooner? A lot of right-to-work’s staying power has to do with its name, and the support received from the business community and the Republican Party.

Right-to-work may sound positive but it is far from it. People mistakenly think “right-to-work” means “right to a job,” and that they cannot be fired without cause. This is the exact opposite of what it means. Right-to-work prohibits union security agreements between companies and labor unions. It creates an unfair environment where employees cannot be compelled to join a union or pay union dues, but still may receive the benefits and protections of unions if they work in a unionized environment.

The purpose of right-to-work is to starve unions and make it harder for them to be effective advocates for things like: living wages, employer-sponsored family health insurance, vacation and sick leave, and pensions – all things Arlingtonians support. And make no mistake: while right-to-work hurts all workers, this policy has an outsized effect on people of color because they are the segment of the workforce mostly likely seeking to organize and fight for better wages and benefits.

Virginians are not fooled. When Republicans and business groups led an effort in 2016 to enshrine right-to-work in the Virginia Constitution, it was rejected by Virginia voters 54 percent to 46 percent. In Arlington, it was soundly rejected 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent.  When Virginia Democrats take the majority in 2020, it’s time to repeal Right-to-Work and put Virginia workers first.

Op-eds are written by local newsmakers on local topics of interest. The views and opinions expressed in the op-ed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.

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Morning Notes

Goldstein Fends Off Challenger — “Incumbent School Board Chair Reid Goldstein emerged as the victor Saturday night in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s [School Board endorsement] caucus… Goldstein received 1,231 votes out of 1,999 ballots counted, or 61.6%… Challenger David Priddy received 763 votes.” [Arlington Democrats]

Car Runs Off Glebe Road Into Ditch — “At 1:54pm Sunday, units were called for a car off the road in 4500 blk of N Glebe Rd. Crews were able to walk 1 patient out with minor injuries. Patient was transported to local hospital while Hazmat team worked to contain leaking fluids. Please watch your speed on the wet roads.” [Twitter]

Del. Hope Not a PAC Man — Del. Patrick Hope (D) has joined a group of Democratic state Senators in announcing “their intention to introduce legislation in the 2020 General Assembly legislative session to limit excessive campaign contributions from influencing Virginia elections.” The proposed bill is in response to a PAC contributing nearly $1 million to the commonwealth’s attorney primaries in Arlington and Fairfax. [Blue Virginia]

New Additions to Amazon HQ2 Job Page — There are now 47 open jobs listed on Amazon’s HQ2 jobs page. Among the positions Amazon is hiring for in Arlington are hardware, system and software development engineers; recruiters; and numerous Alexa-related technical positions. [Amazon]

Middle School Project Running Behind — “It might be a little cramped for the first few months as students settle in at Arlington’s Dorothy Hamm Middle School… County school officials have known for months that the expansion of the school won’t be ready for occupancy when classes begin in September… On its website, the school system now pegs completion of the expansion at next March.” [InsideNova]

Wardian Places Third in Horse Race — “Mike Wardian, 45, of Arlington, Va. did not succeed at outrunning all the horses at the 40th anniversary of Whole Earth Man v. Horse Marathon in Wales yesterday, but he did pretty well nonetheless, placing third among the humans and finishing in 2:34:03.” [Trail Running]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated on 04/25/19) Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates have made good on promises to eschew Dominion Energy money, according to recent campaign finance reports.

Arlington’s six candidates for the House of Delegates shared financial reports indicating their campaigns took in no money from the utility company this year. However, most candidates are still relying on contributions from advocacy and labor groups, political action committees, and businesses, as opposed to running campaigns based only around individual contributions.

Copies of the campaign finance reports filed in April and shared by the Virginia Public Access Project indicate longtime donors, like the Virginia Trials Lawyers Political Action Committee (PAC), continue to chip in big chunks of cash to campaigns. The PAC contributed a combined $3,500 to the four incumbent delegates between January and March this year.

So far Democrats in the House of Delegates have out-raised their Republican colleagues, as all 100 seats are up for grabs this election and the possibility of a Democratic majority in the legislature remains on the horizon.

The two candidates currently challenging Arlington’s Delegates reported fewer funds raised than the incumbents. Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr., who is challenging Alfonso Lopez, raised the most of all newcomers on the block with $18,556, largely from his own coffers.

All candidates are scheduled to file another round of finance reports on June 3, days before the June 11 primary election.

The primary will decide which of each party’s candidates for office progresses to the general election on November 5. Virginia residents must register to vote at least 30 days before the primary to be eligible to cast their vote, and can check the location of their polls here.

Below are more details from each Delegates’ April campaign finance filings.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D)

Lopez has raised by far the most money and also holds the largest war chest of any Delegate candidate in the running. He is currently being challenged by Democratic candidate J.D. Spain, Sr.

Lopez raised $50,924 between January 1 and March 31, according to reports, and spent $12,037. This leaves his campaign with $102,280 on hand after starting with $63,394 back in January.

Lopez’s biggest donor this cycle was Charlottesville investor Michael D. Bills who pledged to counter Dominion Energy with his campaign contributions this year and gave $10,000 to the sitting Delegate’s campaign.

“I believe that swearing off Dominion donations over a year ago just helped cement to my supporters that no money will ever influence me on a single piece of legislation, vote, decision, or opinion,” said Lopez today (Monday). “I have consistently voted against every Dominion Energy bill, and plan to do so as long as they continue to refuse to make renewable energy a major focus for Virginia.”

He added that he believed he had raised the most because he had “delivered real progressive results and the people of northern Virginia.”

Other notable investments to Lopez’s campaign came from the Virginia House Democrats Caucus ($5,000), and the Clean Virginia Fund ($5,000).

Lopez also accepted money from three alcohol groups: Virginia Wine Wholesalers PAC ($3,000), Virginia Beverage Association PAC ($2,000), and the Virginia Imports Ltd. ($500).

The delegate’s campaign for re-election has been endorsed by several unions, the Virginia Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education, and the Arlington Professional Firefighters & Paramedics Association — the latter of which donated $1,000 to his campaign.

Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr. (D)

Lopez’s Democratic challenger in the primary elections is J.D. Spain, Sr., a former Marine and head of the local NAACP chapter who faced him in debate last Wednesday night.

In last week’s filings, Spain reported contributing tens of thousands of his own money into the campaign: $8,200 in loans, $12,259 in cash, and $4,134 in “in-kind” contributions, which usually refers to value of things like equipment and services donated to a campaign.

“I understand that monetary support is really important for a campaign,” Spain told ARLnow. “But being a first-time candidate it’s really tough to raise money. It’s especially hard for a military veteran because we don’t have large networks with donors.”

He added that he loaned himself money to pay staff, and is “proud” of the small donations he received from individuals. His biggest was $500 from James Younger, his neighbor and Arlington’s former Deputy Police Chief.

In total, Spain reported fundraising $18,556 since January when he kicked off his campaign with zero dollars. After spending $12,192, the candidate for Delegate reportedly has $6,364 left on hand.

Spain’s campaign does not yet have any endorsements.

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Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates say they tackled a host of important issues, from criminal justice reform to LGBT parental rights to public health, during this year’s legislative session.

The county is represented in the state House by four elected officials — Democrats Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan, and Alfonso H. Lopez — all of whom are up for re-election this year.

This year’s session began on January 9 and ended February 23. Here are what the delegates told ARLnow were their biggest legislative accomplishments in that time.

Del. Patrick Hope

Hope has represented Arlington in the House since 2010 and currently faces no Democratic challengers in his campaign for reelection. He says he introduced 12 bills during this year’s session, nine of which passed.

He told ARLnow that it’s difficult to choose his favorite because “I treat all my bills like my children,” but narrowed down his three biggest accomplishments in an email:

1) HB 2384 — making all Virginia schools 100 percent tobacco/nicotine free. This is significant because Big Tobacco has opposed such efforts in the past. It also is a sign that the tide is turning to recognize the dangers of cigarettes and vaping on children.

2) HB 1642 — requiring the Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to collect/report data on inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve been working with DOC for years to get the number of inmates in solitary down. We’ve decreased the number by more than 70 percent. This data collection effort will help us figure out who remains, why they are there, and if we can provide additional mental health resources to get them out.

3) HB 1933 — allow jails to treat people with serious mental illness who are unable to give consent. Current law requires that these individuals be sent to an inpatient hospital setting (mental health institution). This is part of a series of laws I’ve passed to allow treatment to occur in an outpatient or other appropriate setting in order to free up more inpatient psychiatric beds.

Del. Alfonso Lopez

Lopez is Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates. He has served as a delegate since 2012, but now faces a challenger in J.D. Spain for his campaign for re-election this year.

Spain is a Marine Corps veteran who leads the local NAACP chapter and has said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” between his and Lopez’s stances on housing affordability and the achievement gap.

Lopez told ARLnow about his biggest wins this year in Richmond in an email:

  1. Successfully Increased Funding for Affordable Housing. In 2013, my legislation created the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Over the years the Trust Fund has become one of the major vehicles for addressing housing instability and homelessness prevention in the Commonwealth […] This year, working with the Governor’s office, we were able to secure an additional $7 million in total revenue for the Trust Fund — increasing the biennial budget amount to $18 million (far above typical appropriations)! This is a great step forward in our efforts to help Virginia families. That being said, I believe that we must do a great deal more to address affordable housing in every corner of the Commonwealth […]
  2. Driver’s License Suspensions. After working on this issue for several years, I was very proud that the General Assembly finally ended drivers license suspensions for individuals who have served their time, but are unable to pay court fines and/or fees (over 600,000 Virginians are hurt by this outdated policy). […] When a person’s driver’s license is suspended, they may face a difficult dilemma: obey the suspension and potentially lose their ability to provide for their families, or drive anyway and face further punishment — or even imprisonment — for driving under a suspended license. I am very happy that this misguided policy has finally been overturned with bipartisan support. This ends what I’ve often referred to as a modern day debtor’s prison […]
  3. Military ID & Passport Security. Before this session, there was no provision in state law that mandated immediate notification to people whose passport or military ID numbers were stolen in an online security breach. This left the information of many Virginians (especially in our area) at significant risk. I’m proud to have introduced and passed a bill, HB 2396, that fixes this glaring hole in the law. Virginia will now require that Passport and military ID information have the same protections as bank information and social security numbers.

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