State lawmakers are calling on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to raise its minimum wage in order to attract more workers.
Twenty-four Virginia lawmakers, including several who represent parts of Arlington, sent a letter on Friday (Aug. 19) to MWAA President Jack Potter asking the airport authority, which manages and operates both Reagan National and Dulles International, to raise its minimum wage from its current $14.25 per hour.
While pay is scheduled to reach $15 next year per a 2019 agreement, that “will still be well below a living wage in the D.C. area.”
“We are concerned this compensation level is too low to attract and retain adequate staff, especially given the grueling work that wheelchair assistants, cabin cleaners, and baggage handlers do every day,” the letter reads.
It also called on MWAA to provide health benefits and paid sick leave to contracted airport workers, something that lawmakers and employees have been asking about for a number of years.
The letter was signed by local General Assembly members, including state Sens. Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola, along with Dels. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez — all Democrats.
“The Airports Authority thanks the lawmakers for their letter and will respond to them appropriately,” an MWAA spokesperson wrote to ARLnow in response to a request for comment.
Local 32BL SEIU, a union that represents more than 2,500 contracted regional airport workers, supports the call for higher wages.
The letter sent by the Virginia lawmakers argues that the lack of proper compensation, sick leave, and health care for airport workers have played a large part in the staffing shortages that are plaguing airlines. These shortages are, in turn, contributing to the problems with cancellations and delays.
Reagan National is currently the 21st worst airport in the world in terms of flight cancellations and delays, according to recent data. Over a two-month period from May 27 to July 31, 5% of flights were canceled while 28% were delayed.
The letter concludes by asking MWAA to move quickly on raising wages and providing sick leave.
“We ask that you take swift action to address these issues by raising the MWAA minimum wage and passing standards to ensure that all workers at Dulles and National can count on paid sick leave and quality, affordable health insurance plans,” it says.
Hundreds of K-5 students at Oakridge Elementary School packed 200 gift boxes to seamen and Marines serving on the USS Arlington.
The boxes sent to those aboard the 684-foot-long amphibious transport ship, named after Arlington County in memory of those who lost their lives here on 9/11, included handwritten cards as well as candy, chips, crackers, chewing gum, toothbrushes, challenge coins, ear plugs and other items.
It’s part of an effort to ensure an ongoing relationship between the men and women who serve on the USS Arlington and the residents of the county for which it is named.
Spearheading that effort is the USS Arlington Community Alliance, headed by retired Arlington County Police Department captain Kevin Reardon, who is president, and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), who is vice president.
Reardon, who happened to know Lynne Wright, the Oakridge principal, brought to her the idea of the gift packages.
“It’s the little things that keep us in contact with the ship,” says Reardon. “And this is one of those things.”
Donated goods came from Arlington-based firms, including Nestlé (200 bags of candy), and were sorted and packed by students at the end of the school year and transported to the ship.
Running their hands through hundreds of pounds of temptation must have been a challenge for the children, right? Oh, you’d be wrong.
“The students have been practicing the intentionality of being kind to each other and members of our community,” Wright says. “Creating care packages for individuals on the USS Arlington was a natural extension of being kind to others.”
“We have been fortunate to have partnered with the USS Arlington for several years,” she adds. “Additionally, we have many military families in our Oakridge community, and this year we became a [Virginia Department of Education] Purple Star-designated school and have focused on better serving the military-connected child.”
Honoring Arlington goes both ways. Reardon says the ship’s main passageway, traditionally called Broadway, is named Columbia Pike. Arlington street signs and Pentagon shapes abound.
“The sailors are constantly reminded of why the ship was named ‘Arlington,'” he says. Those same sailors often visit Oakridge Elementary when they are in the area for the annual 9/11 memorial 5K race — which is now in its 20th year.
Arlington is currently renovating the Bozman Government Center at Courthouse and the new lobby of county government headquarters, when it opens, will have an exhibit of USS Arlington artifacts and video displays, as well as a sizable model of the ship.
Reardon, for one, will be happy when the pandemic-delayed renovations are complete.
“There are not too many people with a six-and-half-foot ship model sitting in their parking spot in their garage,” he says with a laugh.
And this is not the last those aboard the Arlington will hear from Oakridge kids.
“Generously building care packages for the USS Arlington was an outstanding opportunity to bring everyone together through kindness and care for our community,” Principal Wright says. “When school reopens, I know the school community will be eager to build more care packages for the USS Arlington.”
The $1.6 billion vessel, commissioned in 2013, is one of three named for locations where citizens were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, along with the USS New York and the USS Somerset.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed 25 bills this week, of which nearly half were proposed or championed by Arlington lawmakers.
The new governor signed 700 bills sent to his desk during the 2022 General Assembly session, including some from Arlington lawmakers addressing mental health treatment, medical debt and virtual meetings.
Of those he vetoed, nine were proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents part of the county, and four were filed by Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D-47).
Some lawmakers and observers in state politics have interpreted the rebuffs of Ebbin’s bills as political tit-for-tat. Ebbin was at the center of some Youngkin appointments that were blocked earlier this year and Youngkin signed identical House bills in a half-dozen of those cases, the Washington Post reports.
In a statement, Ebbin said he is “stunned” by Youngkin’s decision to veto “meaningful, non-controversial” legislation.
“It is the polar opposite of what he campaigned on,” he said in an email to supporters and on Twitter. “These vetoes, from protecting living organ donors to enhancing consumers’ data privacy to reforming the [Virginia Employment Commission], are not in the best interest of Virginians.”
Gov. Youngkin vetoed 9/10 bills that reached his desk from Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria).
— Ben Paviour (@BPaves) April 12, 2022
As for Hope’s vetoed bills, one that caused a splash was HB 669, which would have initiated a study to see if the Virginia Department of Health should regulate swimming pools and water recreational facilities.
Advocates of the legislation say unregulated pools can pose health risks and the bipartisan-supported legislation would have added safeguards for swimmers and coaches.
A thread: Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed HB 669 @HopeforVirginia's bill that would have directed the Commissioner of Health to create a group study to determine whether pools should be regulated by VDOH. As a swimmer, I have some serious concerns.
— Langston Carter (@LangstonACarter) April 12, 2022
This isn't government overreach. It's something the government should have been doing a long time ago. When a pool isn't properly maintained, it's dangerous to the public.
Thank you @HopeforVirginia for working to fix this.
— Langston Carter (@LangstonACarter) April 12, 2022
Youngkin said the goal is “commendable” but directed lawmakers to consolidate this proposed work with existing efforts, rather than create “duplicative work.”
Another that went up in smoke was HB 675, and its Senate equivalent, which would have eliminated health insurance premiums for tobacco users. He said these higher rates incentivize healthier habits and the legislation would require non-users to foot the bill for increased healthcare costs.
Hope rebutted that it would have expanded coverage and decreased premiums.
HB 675 would have DECREASED premiums by 4.5% and REDUCED the number of uninsured by 14,000. @GovernorVA vetoed the bill. Virginians can’t afford to pay higher health care costs. https://t.co/As81uIkTDX
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) April 12, 2022
These vetoes come after Youngkin vetoed Hope’s bill earlier this year that would have allowed the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor for the Community Oversight Board, which reviews complaints of alleged police misconduct.
That duty remains with County Manager Mark Schwartz. Locally, it was viewed as a procedural bill giving the Board a similar level of authority enjoyed by other local governing bodies.
Another bill with Arlington ties, HB 802, would have allowed a local governing body to force landlords to address decaying conditions at their properties if they constituted a serious threat to life, health or safety of tenants.
Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45), who represents parts of Arlington, was a chief co-patron. The text was developed with the Arlington branch of the NAACP in the wake of the discovery of mold, rodents and other health concerns at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, says NAACP Housing Chair Kellen MacBeth.
He said he was “deeply disappointed” by the veto, calling it “a troubling sign of what the next four years will be like for low-income tenant rights at the state level.”
Still, Youngkin approved or amended a number of bills from Arlington lawmakers tackling their legislative priorities.
Preservation Legislation Shuffled — “After a subcommittee approved a measure being sought to give preservation advocates an additional voice in decisions made at the local level, but simultaneously stripped out some key provisions of the bill, its sponsor made a request. Would the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, where the measure was being considered, agree to move the bill to the Committee on Courts of Justice, Del. Patrick Hope asked.” [Sun Gazette]
Don’t Drive Drunk on Super Bowl Sunday — “To keep spectators safe on the roads, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind football fans everywhere that Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk… in 2019, there were 10,142 people killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes throughout the United States.” [ACPD]
Yogurt Cup Recycling Confusion — Can you recycle small plastic yogurt cups, like those used by Activia and other brands? That’s a solid maybe, according to the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services. Previously, the county has released publications that alternately described yogurt cups as recyclable and not recyclable. [Twitter]
Injured Squirrel Returns to Fairlington — “Last week, our Animal Control team took in a badly injured squirrel who who received life-saving care at [Blue Ridge Wildlife Center]. Today, Officer Ballena released the now-healthy squirrel back into the wild, very close to where he was found. He was very ready to be back in the wild where he belongs! ” [Facebook]
Kudos for Local Crossing Guard — “Shashu Gebre, Crossing Guard at both Alice West Fleet and Long Branch Elementary Schools, has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (VA SRTS) program as one of Virginia’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guards for the 2021-22 school year. The honor is part of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week, an annual Safe Routes to School celebration recognizing Crossing Guards for the critical role they play in the safe routes to school network.’ [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]
Changes to Electoral Board — “Weinstein, who like [newly-elected Arlington Electoral Board Chair Kim] Phillip is a Democrat on the body, turned over the reins because, come December, he will depart when Republicans pick up a second seat due to the election of Glenn Youngkin as governor. State law requires electoral boards to be composed of two members of the governor’s party, one from the opposing party. Weinstein will serve as vice chair for the remainder of his term, while Republican Scott McGeary will retain his post as secretary.” [Sun Gazette]
Sunday Snow Likely to Be Light — “Our spell of springlike weather will come to a sudden halt Saturday night as a cold front barges through the region, setting the stage for a possible light snowfall early Sunday morning. Right now this doesn’t look like a big deal for several reasons.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 62 and wind gusts as high as 30 mph. Sunrise at 7:02 a.m., sunset at 5:43 a.m. Saturday will be partly sunny, with a high near 58. Sunday we’ll see snow and some rain in the morning, then partly sunny with a high near 37. [Weather.gov]
Preservation Bill Proposed After Rouse Razing — “Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has introduced legislation that, if enacted, could give preservationists more of a fighting chance to retain properties they deem worth saving. Hope’s bill makes several changes to the state’s historic-preservation laws, most notably prohibiting a local government from permitting the razing of a proposed historic property until 30 days after a final decision on the matter has been made.” [Sun Gazette]
Students Getting At-Home Covid Tests — “Last week we received a large shipment of rapid at-home Covid-19 test kits. These kits are in the process of being delivered to our schools for distribution to students, beginning toward the end of this week or early next.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Dorsey to Lead Regional Board — “Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey will chair the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for 2022.” [Sun Gazette]
Old Home Gets Rocking Aesthetic — “The white-stucco, black-shuttered exterior of this 1871 center-hall Colonial in Country Club Hills belies its rock-and-roll interior. That’s part of the fun. A century and a half ago, the stately home was likely built as a summer residence for a wealthy D.C. family. Today, it’s owned by Ben and Dina Hitch, a pair of concert-going music and art aficionados whose vast collection of original record albums and American artwork spans decades.” [Arlington Magazine]
Marymount Junior Stands Out on Court — “As a result of helping the Marymount University women’s basketball team improve to 5-0 and first place in the Atlantic East Conference, junior Symantha Shackelford recently was selected as the league’s Player of the Week in women’s college basketball.” [Sun Gazette]
Snow Incoming — “A major winter storm is set to slam parts of the Northeast on Saturday, with heavy snowfall, strong to damaging winds and coastal flooding all possible… For D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, the storm probably gets going too late to drop more than a couple inches of snow, but areas just to the east have a chance to see more substantial amounts.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 37. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:24 p.m. A low around 27 Thursday night. Friday will be cloudy, with a high near 37. Light snow possible in the morning, then probable in the afternoon, perhaps mixing with rain. Expect snow and wind gusts as high as 26 mph Friday night. [Weather.gov]
While not all candidates were present, those who were in attendance, regardless of political affiliation, voiced support for rail transit and criminal justice reform while decrying the influence of corporate money in state politics.
Arlington County encompasses parts of four Virginia House districts. Democrats currently occupy all of those seats and have a majority in the General Assembly. That could change this year, since every one of the 100 seats is up for grabs. Early voting starts on Friday (Sept. 17) and voting culminates with Election Day, Nov. 2.
Incumbents are running in three of the districts and are being challenged by Republicans in all of them, as well as an independent in the 49th District.
“I think future plans and, frankly, what’s already underway with respect to rail transit, is important to both quality of life, for our environment, and the economy,” he said.
His challenger, Edward Monroe (R), echoed that support.
“Everybody knows there are too many cars on the road,” he said. “So, any measures we can take that are effective in reducing the amount of traffic, I think, is a great idea.”
Over in the 45th district, Justin “J.D.” Maddox (R) even complimented opponent Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D) for her work to improve transit. Bennett-Parker, the Vice Mayor of Alexandria, defeated incumbent Mark Levine (D) in the June primary for the district, which covers Alexandria and parts of Arlington.
Bennett-Parker, who had a conflicting Alexandria City Council Legislation meeting, submitted a video. Maddox went after her on Alexandria’s crime rates, connecting them to an incident last year in which one of her aides was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a police officer while at a protest.
“I’ve also seen my opponent actually defund the police in the Alexandria City Public Schools,” Maddox said. “And that’s happening at a moment [when] Alexandria is experiencing a 20% increase in violent crime.”
That statistic isn’t completely accurate. So-called “part 1 crimes,” which include violent crimes but also burglary, larceny and auto theft, were up nearly 20% last year. Overall, violent crimes in Alexandria were up 3.3% in 2020.
Hope emphasized speeding up legal marijuana sales, which remain illegal until 2024 even though the state legalized marijuana possession earlier this summer.
“There are some people that are incarcerated because of marijuana,” said Hope, whose district spans from East Falls Church to Courthouse, to Barcroft and part of Columbia Pike. “I want to look at some of the sentencing for those types of crimes that people are sitting in jail for.”
It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.
In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.
A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.
Pretty much all of these (admittedly far-off) scenarios call for Metro to finally pass through Georgetown…and you may recall that the city could soon buy a very prominent Key Bridge site for a station there: https://t.co/E1DaxMAn1e https://t.co/Lp0OhMsHGX
— Alex Koma (@AlexKomaWBJ) September 7, 2021
WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.
Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.
The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.
The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.
“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”
On a quiet residential street near Arlington Blvd, cars can be heard accelerating as they turn a corner, with their aftermarket exhaust giving off a loud “roar.”
Meanwhile, near Columbia Pike, cars rev up and drag race on S. Columbus Street by Wakefield High School.
“I’m eight stories up — not at street level, so to speak — so maybe you expect the noise to dissipate,” Betsy Thomassen tells ARLnow. “It’s Wednesday, and it’s happened five to six times… it’s just incredibly loud and a nuisance. In my condo, my furniture sometimes vibrates. That’s kind of incredible really.”
According to residents who have spoken to ARLnow, and who’ve posted on social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor, there been a surge in modified cars speeding through neighborhoods. Some residents say the uptick is particularly bad along the Columbia Pike corridor and in the Clarendon area, and along the highways that crisscross the county.
“Anywhere there’s a corridor, you have high performance cars,” said Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association President David Cheek, who even compiled a video, below, of modified cars roaring through his neighborhood. “It’s really rude to accelerate in an area with a lot of people, in a loud car, but there’s a ‘do whatever you want’ mentality.”
After nearly a year of receiving more complaints than usual, the County Board is preparing to take a number of steps to mitigate noise in Arlington and enforce noise maximums on cars and motorcycles, according to Board member Takis Karantonis.
One avenue members are pursuing is via the state legislature. The Board aims to have something on their legislative agenda for the next regular session in January, Karantonis said. They’re also looking to train police officers to engage drivers in conversations and get them to change their attitudes.
“I think that the County Board as a whole is interested in a way to enforce and discourage overwhelmingly noisy motoring in Arlington, especially in neighborhoods,” he said.
Diagnosing the problem
A lot of the especially noisy cars are running aftermarket exhaust systems made for racing, Cheek said. He theorizes that with extra time on their hands during the pandemic, more folks got interested in car modifications.
There is an entire, sophisticated industry around these mufflers, but there is very little regulation, Karantonis said, adding that he understands that modified cars sell like hotcakes in motoring and touring fairs.
One reader told ARLnow that the new noise isn’t always associated with higher speeds.
“They often ‘sound’ as though they are also speeding, yet I’ve seen several that are loud, but didn’t appear to be speeding,” one said. “I suspect that those nature of the modifications.”
As a car and motorcycle enthusiast, Cheek said he understands the appeal of modifying a vehicle and wanting to enjoy it.
“I feel for them,” he said. “But they have to understand there are a lot of people who’re upset about it — on Columbia Pike and in Clarendon — and that it’s not fair to everyone else.”
He added that noise pollution “isn’t just annoying — it impacts your mental health, and it actually affects your life.”
Karantonis said there are a few paths on the table, from enacting legislation to educating drivers.
Legislative action will be somewhat tricky, in part because a new state law went into effect in March that says police officers cannot initiate a traffic stop for, among other things, loud mufflers. The code still allows drivers to be ticketed for noise if they were pulled over for a violation such as speeding.
The law, sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), was passed to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops, as some police officers historically used pretextual reasons — such as a loud car or expired tags — to pull over residents and search their cars.
APS Working With Nonprofit on ‘Cultural Competence’ — “This week, RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, began facilitating interactive workshops with Arlington Public Schools Student-Athlete Advisory Council members and coaches. This is the first in a series of interactive cultural competence workshops that APS and RISE will be providing to athletes and coaches as part of a new partnership.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Northam to Sign Bill at Marymount — “This coming Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will be visiting Marymount University to hold a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2123 and Senate Bill 1387. The legislation will make Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition in the fall of 2022, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.” [Press Release]
GOP Candidate Running Against Del. Hope — A Republican challenger has emerged to contest the re-election campaign of Del. Patrick Hope. Laura Hall said she filed paperwork last week. Hall said she would share more publicly when she hears back from the state regarding her filing. A Democratic primary for the delegate’s district did not occur, after the state Board of Elections determined challenger Matt Rogers did not meet a filing deadline. [Twitter]
Metro Changes On the Way — “Rail service will be extended to midnight, seven days a week, in July, and other bus and rail service improvements and fare changes will start being implemented in the Fall, beginning Labor Day weekend, as many in the region prepare to go back to work and school.” [WMATA, DCist]
Domino’s Is Offering a Signing Bonus — The Domino’s Pizza location on Columbia Pike has signs advertising a $500 hiring bonus for new employees, amid a national labor shortage that is hitting restaurants particularly hard. [Twitter]
Video Shows Wrong-Way Driver on I-66 — Updated at 8:20 a.m. — “Scary video footage shows a driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia on Thursday morning. Virginia State Police say the driver headed the wrong way on the Capital Beltway and I-66, hit at least one car and set off a wave of 911 calls… The driver finally pulled over in the Rosslyn area because of a flat tire. No information on an arrest or charges was immediately released.” [NBC 4]
County Board Approves Several Projects — “The Arlington County Board took action at its April meeting on a number of projects designed to invest in community development and improve infrastructure throughout the County. ‘The Board’s actions today invest in Arlington’s future through a flexible space for the arts, additional flexibility to allow for additional affordable housing, four neighborhood conservation projects, and infrastructure that improves our core utilities and provides essential services for our residents,’ County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.” [Arlington County]
Local Group’s Statement on Chauvin Verdict — Black Parents of Arlington issued a statement last night about the verdict in George Floyd’s murder: “This ‘justice’ system, while today handed down a verdict that provides accountability, cannot, and will not, ever restore justice. Justice is when a Black photographer can visit a client without being harassed by both neighbors and law enforcement. Justice is when a pregnant Black woman can deliver her baby with dignity, and not in the captivity of an Arlington County jail.” [Press Release]
More Students Taken Off In-Person Waitlists — “In response to the CDC’s 3-foot distancing update, schools have continued to accommodate more students in person, and nearly half of all APS schools have cleared their waitlists. So far in April, nearly 1,000 students have been added for in-person instruction, and we are working through the remaining students as capacity allows. Additionally, more classes at the elementary level have now transitioned into one classroom, versus the previous split classes.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Candidates Want More APS Transparency — “The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for School Board say there’s one tangible thing the county school system can do immediately in an effort to address seemingly intractable achievement disparities. Let the sunshine in. The way to address achievement gaps ‘is to know that they’re there – bring them out into the light.'” [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising Advantage for Incumbents — “Two Arlington legislators facing intra-party challenges from their left are maintaining healthy cash-on-hand totals headed toward June 8 primary showdowns. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) ended the first quarter with $120,853 in his campaign account, while challenger Matt Rogers had $13,180, according to filings with the Virginia Department of Elections… In the 49th District, Del. Alfonso Lopez ended the quarter with $131,117 on hand compared to $30,990 for educator Karishma Mehta.” [Sun Gazette]
County Board Recognizes ‘Notable’ Trees — “Arlington has more than 750,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $1 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff, and are valued at $1.41 billion total. On Tuesday, April 20, 32 of these trees will be designated as Notable Trees by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]
Local Park Volunteers Honored — “The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20. Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.” [Arlington County]
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