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Today (Friday) marks the last day lawmakers can file legislation to be considered in the 2022 session.

Several of the bills Arlington County legislators introduced align with County Board priorities — from making permanent electronic participation in public meetings to increasing state funding for affordable housing and including race and ethnicity on driver’s licenses.

They’ve also introduced legislation to address issues that came up in the community last year.

After residents exposed poor living conditions at the Serrano Apartments to ARLnow, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) pre-filed a handful of bills aimed at strengthening tenant protections. Lopez also appears to have taken inspiration from the Advanced Towing saga with a bill that would make tow truck driver violations subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Here’s a roundup of some other bills Arlington’s lawmakers put forward.

Policing

  • Independent policing auditor: This bill, House Bill 670, would allow Arlington County to appoint an independent policing auditor who will support the law enforcement Community Oversight Board that was created out of the Police Practices Group recommendations. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) is chief patron of the bill.
  • Law-enforcement officers; conduct of investigation: HB 870, which Lopez introduced, would require an officer who was involved in a shooting to be interviewed within 24 hours of the incident.

Environmental issues

  • Beverage container deposit and redemption program: HB 826, introduced by Hope, would establish a beverage container deposit, refund and redemption program involving distributors, retailers and consumers. There would be an advisory committee, required reporting and civil and criminal penalties for violations.
  • Packaging Stewardship Program and Fund: The bill, HB 918, would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to charge sellers in the commonwealth a fee for the amount of packaging their products use and if they’re easily recyclable. Those fees would be paid into a fund and used to reimburse participating localities for expenses related to recycling, invest in recycling infrastructure and education and pay the program’s administrative costs. Lopez introduced the bill.
  • Parking of vehicles; electric vehicle charging spots; civil penalties: Senate Bill 278 prohibits a person from parking non-electric vehicles in electric vehicle charging spots. It sets a civil penalty between $100 and $250 with the possibility the vehicle is towed or impounded. Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) introduced the bill.
  • Driving Decarbonization Program and Fund. This legislation, HB 351, would establish a program and a fund that would assist developers with non-utility costs associated with installation of electric vehicle charging stations. It was introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48).

Health

  • Insurance; paid family leave: SB 15, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), would establish paid family leave as a class of insurance that would pay for the income an employee loses after the birth of a child or because the employee is caring for a child or family member.
  • Hospitals; financial assistance for uninsured patient, payment plans: This bill, SB 201, requires hospitals to screen every uninsured patient, determine if they’re eligible for financial assistance under the hospital’s plan and create a payment plan. The bill also prohibits certain collection actions. Favola introduced the bill.

Rights

  • Constitutional amendment; marriage; fundamental right to marry, same-sex marriage prohibition: This constitutional amendment, SJ 5, would repeal the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015. Ebbin introduced the amendment.
  • Absentee voting; verification by social security or driver’s license number: SB 273, introduced by Ebbin, would make optional the current absentee ballot witness signature requirement. It would give the voter the option to provide either the last four digits of their social security number or the voter’s valid Virginia driver’s license number instead.
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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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Christian Dorsey at Arlington County Board meetingUndocumented immigrants looking for driver’s licenses have found advocates in the Arlington County Board.

The Board yesterday voted 4-0, with one abstention, in favor of a resolution to include its support for undocumented immigrant driver’s licenses among the county’s slate of state legislative priorities next year. Virginia doesn’t allow licenses for undocumented immigrants, but D.C. and Maryland do.

Board Member Christian Dorsey, who supported the legislation, said he doesn’t see any advantage in not allowing all immigrants to obtain a license. He noted that license-holding undocumented immigrants could secure car insurance and commute to jobs more easily, among other benefits.

“We do have a broken federal immigration system that needs to be fixed,” Dorsey said. “But you know what? We also have people who are a byproduct of that system, who are living in Arlington and who want to do the right thing and fully engage in our community.”

Board Member John Vihstadt, who abstained from voting, said he joins his colleagues in supporting immigrants. But Vihstadt said he couldn’t vote in favor of the resolution.

“There may be countervailing concerns, including national security and administrative issues,” Vihstadt said.

Lizzette Arias, interim president for immigrant advocacy group Dreamers of Virginia, said in a statement after the vote that the Board took a “responsible stand” on the matter.

“The undocumented community in Virginia desperately needs access to driver’s licenses,” she said. “For many driving is not a luxurious privilege but a necessity.”

Meanwhile, citing fears among the local immigrant community, the County Board also acted to reassure immigrants of “its commitment as a welcoming community that recognizes, respects and supports the contributions of all of its members.”

From an Arlington County press release:

The Board reaffirmed the long-standing County law enforcement “policy against racial profiling which prohibits our deputies and officers from taking action based solely on that individual’s race, ethnicity or national origin.” And noted that “a person’s right to file a police report, participate in police-community activities, or otherwise benefit from police services is not contingent upon citizenship or immigration status.”

In a statement read by Board Member Katie Cristol, the Board said it was responding to “increased anxiety, fear and panic among our region’s immigrant community,” which the Board attributed to “a number of factors, including federal immigration enforcement actions currently being conducted around the country, as well as the more recent national debate sparked by the 2016 Presidential Election cycle and the United States Supreme Court’s review of the Obama Administration’s Executive Actions on immigration.”

“Arlington County always has and always will be a caring and inclusive community that strives to provide a safe and secure environment where all of our residents have the ability to achieve their potential and live out their dreams,” Cristol said.  “I was disheartened to hear of the concerns in our immigrant community and my colleagues and I wanted to make certain we restated our strong and unequivocal commitment to all of our residents.”

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Sample Virginia driver's licenseThe Arlington County Board is expected to pass a resolution supporting driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants at its Tuesday meeting next week.

The resolution, below, states that there is a safety and economic benefit to issuing provisional driver’s licenses to non-citizens.

The resolution directs the County Manager to include support for such a policy in the county’s slate of state legislative priorities next year. Virginia doesn’t have any such law but D.C. and Maryland do.

WHEREAS, Arlington is an exceptionally diverse county with a substantial immigrant population and strives to be a “diverse and inclusive” community; and

WHEREAS, immigrants without driver’s licenses experience a diminished quality of life affecting their ability to hold a stable job, take care of their families, and fully participate in the county they call home; and

WHEREAS, in recent years, new laws have passed that now offer a driver’s license or a provisional license to immigrant residents of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Washington, D.C., and

WHEREAS, these laws reflect a national and collective understanding that offering driver’s licenses to undocumented residents provides an overall economic benefit to states and improves public safety by enabling authorities to know who is on the roads and to ensure that all drivers are properly insured.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Arlington County Board believes that offering driver’s licenses to the undocumented residents of Virginia would benefit Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia and encourages the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to pass a bill and send it to the Governor for consideration.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Arlington County Board directs the County Manager, or his designee, to include this policy in Arlington County’s proposed 2017 General Assembly Legislative Priorities.

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It’s not every day you hear someone complementing the way things are done at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s also fairly rare these days to hear a progressive Huffington Post blogger saying nice things about the Commonwealth of Virginia, land of the Confederate History Month and the anti-anti-discrimination directive.

But blogger Tamar Abrams was so delighted with her teen daughter’s experience with Virginia’s unique “juvenile licensing ceremony” that she felt compelled to tell the world.

There is one shining beacon of brilliance that I witnessed yesterday in the Arlington County Courthouse and which makes me want, for a moment, to brag about the state in which I’ve resided for 18 years.

Instead of just being handed a shiny new driver’s license at the DMV counter, new drivers under the age of 18 are summoned to appear in family court with a parent. There they watch a driving safety video (narrated by Arlington-born newswoman Katie Couric), hear a talk about teen driving laws, and are finally handed their license by a stern-looking judge.

Abrams wrote that the ceremony left a lasting impression.

It feels good to be proud of my home state, even for a moment. I can’t find any statistics proving that the juvenile licensing ceremony has reduced teen accidents in Virginia, but I know for one teen and her mom it reminded us of the gravity of earning a right to drive.

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