Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) With a new Democratic majority, Arlington’s state Senators have doubled down on earlier efforts to pass gun control reform and make progress on other issues — like marijuana decriminalization — that made limited progress under a Republican majority.

Some of these proposals have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines. Democrats notched a gun control victory today, however, with the state Senate narrowly passing a “red flag” gun law that allows guns to be taken away by those judged as dangerous to themselves or others.

Nestled among the high profile issues are other items of interest for Arlingtonians, like the ability to require labor agreements as part of the zoning approval process.

Sen. Barbara Favola

Among the bills introduced by Favola in the 2019-2020 legislative session are SB 116, which would say that defendants in a capital case who have a severe mental illness are not eligible for the death penalty, and SB 179, which adds gender, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime definition. SB 116 was moved to the Judiciary committee and SB 179 was referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee.

Favola is one of the chief co-signers of SB 35, which authorizes localities to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or components thereof to government buildings, public parks, or any public right of way being used for an event. The bill was passed in the state Senate on Jan. 16.

Sen. Adam Ebbin

According to Henry Watkins, communications director for Ebbin, the bills he has proposed are:

SB 868 — Prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also includes additional protections for veterans and pregnant persons.

SB 2 — Reduces penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty.

SB 852 — Institutes a tax on e-cigarettes at 39% of the wholesale price. Also raises the Virginia cigarette tax to $1.80 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products to 39% wholesale.

SB 11 — Imposes a five-cent fee on throw-away bags to reduce litter and waste.

SB 838 — Makes construction contractors liable for their subcontractors if the subcontractor does not pay their employees, and allows employees to sue employers for nonpayment of wages.

Ebbin has also proposed SB 839, which would allow localities to require project labor agreements and worker protections on high-density development projects that go through a special exception zoning process. While approving an incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, Arlington County Board members lamented not being able to require such labor provisions.

Board member Katie Cristol lobbied for the bill in Richmond on Monday.

Sen. Janet Howell

Like many other Democratic Senators from Northern Virginia, Howell introduced gun control legislation during the current session. SB 75 would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm “in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18.” The current law makes it illegal for under the age of 14.

Other bills introduced by Howell include SB 111, which allows people to vote absentee without needing to list a reason why they can’t vote in person. SB 111 was passed in the Senate on Monday.

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Morning Notes

Changes to Stalled Ballston Development — “An Arlington homebuilder is reviving plans to redevelop a church in Ballston with a new proposal for a mix of townhomes and condos on the site… The site is currently home to the Portico Church, but the developer [BCN Homes] could someday replace it with 10 townhomes and 98 condo units.” [Washington Business Journal]

Beloved Former County Official Dies — “Ann Bisson, a long-time resident and former Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue for Arlington County, passed away peacefully on January 7, 2020… In addition to her work in the Commissioner’s office, Ann was very active in the community.” [Dignity Memorial]

History of Royal Visits to Arlington — “If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ever decided to make their home in the DC area, they’d be in good company. Many members of the royal family have made their way to Arlington over the years.” [Arlington Public Library, Twitter]

Bill Proposes Funding for Local Cemeteries — “Three Arlington cemeteries would receive state funding under a program designed to preserve burial places of African-American Virginians. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax-Arlington) has patroned legislation to add the three graveyards – at Calloway, Lomax and Mount Salvation churches – to the more than two dozen statewide that already receive support from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Incubator Leaving Crystal City — “Startup incubator 1776 plans to open its new D.C. location this year and will ultimately shut down its Crystal City location. 1776 spokesman Lucas McCanna said the company will relocate to ‘the general McPherson Square area,’ but declined to give a specific address.” [Washington Business Journal]

AAA: Worst Times for Independence Day Travel — “Holiday travelers hailing from the area will face absolute gridlock along key freeway segments starting [today], July 3. Topping the list of the worst corridors for those departing Wednesday, July 3, is Interstate 270 northbound.” [Press Release]

Arlington County Holiday Closures — All Arlington County government offices, courts, libraries and facilities will be closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday, though trash and recycling will still be collected. Also, “metered parking is not enforced but street parking near the US Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima), Long Bridge Park, and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted. Motorists should look for temporary ‘No Parking’ signs.” [Arlington County]

Memorial Bridge Closed to Pedestrians — In addition to other July 4 road closures around Arlington, Memorial Bridge will be closed to both vehicles and pedestrians throughout the day Thursday. [Twitter, National Park Service]

ART Bus Holiday Schedule — “ART will operate holiday service on Thursday, July 4, 2019, in observance of Independence Day. ART 41, 42, 45, 51, 55 and 87 will operate on Sunday schedules. All other ART routes will not operate and the ART customer call center will be closed.” [Arlington Transit]

Superintendent Search May Be Drawn Out — “Arlington’s new School Board chair, who will be focused in coming months on the selection of a new superintendent, asked for patience in the community as the process plays out. ‘Finding the right leader and the best fit for our community will take time,’ Tannia Talento said July 1 as she rotated in as chair of the School Board for the coming year.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Has the following happened to you?

You’re in a car, bus or on a bike, waiting at a traffic signal. The traffic light turns green, but a driver in front of you doesn’t budge. Other drivers honk, and you see the perpetrator hurriedly putting down a phone and mashing the gas pedal.

Anecdotally, it happened to one ARLnow employee every single day last week.

Needless to say, distracted driving (or distracted non-driving) is bad. It’s first and foremost incredibly dangerous to you and those around you. It is also infuriating, particularly at rush hour as those behind you are trying to get home and safely make it through short turn signals and green lights.

It sends a message: what’s taking place on my phone is more important than you, your time and your safety.

It is, however, not entirely illegal — Virginia’s existing texting-while-driving law applies to use of the phone in a moving vehicle, not when legally stopped. This year Virginia’s legislature failed to pass a more expansive bill, though it did pass a bill prohibiting phone use while driving through highway work zones.

We’re wondering: have you experienced what’s described above? And do you think it’s getting better or getting worse?

File photo

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Morning Notes

New State Laws Take Effect Today — A number of laws intended to improve safety on Virginia’s roads and highways take effect today, July 1. [Press Release, Press Release]

Wardian Runs Around Beltway — “Michael Wardian has sat in traffic on the Capital Beltway and thought, ‘Wow; I wish I could just park my car here and take off and run home.’ This weekend, he ran the entire loop of the iconic highway. Wardian, of Arlington, Virginia, ran the 89.9 miles of the Beltway in 17 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds.” [WTOP, WUSA 9, RunWashington]

Organ Donation Info Session Today — “The Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) and an organ donor will join us to talk about organ donation and what we, as potential donors, need to know.” [Event Calendar]

Retired ACPD K9s Pass — “With great sadness, Arlington County Police announce the passing of retired K9 Charly and K9 Koda. Both K9s loyally served the Arlington community from 2007 to 2015. We kindly ask that you keep the K9s and their handlers in your thoughts.” [Twitter]

Police Help Find Lost Dog — “While on bike patrol [Friday], Detective Adams, Detective Olson and Detective Blow encountered a citizen who had lost her dog along Four Mile Run Trail. Shortly later, Detective Adams located Lucy further up and stayed with her until she could be reunited with her owner.” [Twitter]

DePoo Makes Giant Ship on Stage — “When [Arlington’s] Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer commissioned the world premiere musical Blackbeard, he knew he wanted to push the boundaries of the Signature’s newly flexible space… Set entirely on the titular conqueror’s ship, every aspect of Paul Tate DePoo III’s set implies mystery, daring, and grandeur.” [Playbill]

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Morning Notes

District Taco Considering Franchising — “All stores are corporate-owned, but Hoil is exploring the possibility of expanding District Taco’s growth strategy to include franchise units, too. The key is to find partners who will be just as invested in and energetic about the concept as he is.” [QSR Magazine]

New Car Seat Law in Va. — “Starting July 1… a new Virginia law will require parents to keep their precious infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats until the child turns two, or reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint seat, as prescribed by its manufacturer.” [Press Release]

Ray’s Hell Burger Closes in D.C. — Following the closure of Ray’s the Steaks in Courthouse, Ray’s Hell Burger has closed in the District. [PoPville]

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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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Morning Notes

Arlington Diocese Releases List of Accused Priests — “Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released lists of clergy who officials say were deemed ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing youth… The Diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia, released a list of 16 names.” [Washington Post, Diocese of Arlington]

ACPD Restaurant Initiative Deemed a Success — “Arlington County, Virginia, is trying to fight drunken driving, and its method may prove to be a model for the nation.” [WTOP]

Cristol Quoted in the New Yorker — “‘We have an agenda that is about equity and anti-racist goals, and I don’t think he can effectively lead on it,’ [Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol] said, referring to the governor. As for Fairfax, she said, she had thought, after the first allegation, that ‘there might be a way forward for him to recognize harm done’ and stay in office. After the second, it seemed clear to her that there was an indefensible pattern of behavior.” [The New Yorker]

Arlington Man Arrested for 2016 Rape — “Alexandria Police have arrested a man who they say abducted and raped a lifeguard in broad daylight from a pool on South Pickett Street in 2016.” [Fox 5]

Hope’s Assisted-Living Bill Passes — “The derecho that came through Arlington several years ago inspired me to bring this bill and work to make sure, at a minimum, prospective residents knew whether their assisted living facility had a generator in case of loss of power.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Sheriff’s Office Helping With Scholarships — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is helping the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute raise college scholarship funds for Virginia residents majoring in criminal justice.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Longtime Election Director Retiring — “Linda Lindberg, who has served for 16 years as elections chief in Arlington, on Feb. 2 formally announced she would not seek re-appointment and would retire over the summer. The move had been expected, and Lindberg’s service drew praise from members of the Arlington Electoral Board.” [InsideNova]

Northam Signs HQ2 Bill — “Amid fallout over a racist photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation which would carry out the state’s promise to Amazon for up to $750 million in incentives if it creates almost 38,000 jobs at its new Arlington County headquarters.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Board Wants Project Labor Agreement for HQ2 — “[Arlington County Board member Katie] Cristol says that Northern Virginia is working on protecting labor during Amazon’s forthcoming development of Crystal City through what’s called a project labor agreement, which is a legal document that establishes the terms and conditions for employment on a construction project before it solicits bids.” [DCist]

Cycling Bill Advances in State Senate — A bill that would “classify cyclists as vulnerable road users deserving special protection under the law” has passed the Virginia State Senate. [Twitter, Virginia LIS]

Road Closures for 5K Race — “The annual Love the Run You’re With 5K will take place in the area of Pentagon City on Sunday, February 10, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will implement [a number of] road closures to accommodate the race.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

A Wall that Divided Arlington Still Stands — “The wall was erected in a section of Arlington County in the 1930s to separate black residents from white residents. And for decades, it did just that. It kept segregation intact by creating a physical barrier between an ‘us’ and a ‘them.'” [Washington Post]

Coming Soon: Happy Hour Advertising? — “A lawsuit filed against the state by a Northern Virginia restaurateur could be the motivation the General Assembly needs to change laws that restrict happy hour advertising.” [Virginia Mercury]

Demand for Free Pet Food Rises — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says it has seen an increase in demand for its free pet food pantry during the government shutdown. [Twitter]

Resources for Furloughed Feds — Congressman Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) office has compiled a list of resources for those affected by the federal government shutdown. [Rep. Don Beyer]

Anti-NIMBY Legislation Proposed in Va. — “[Del. Jeff] Bourne and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, are pursuing legislation in the General Assembly this year that would explicitly prohibit local governments from denying permits for housing developments because of the expected race or income levels of the residents.” [Virginia Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A new year brings a renewed focus on gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform and some local issues for Arlington’s state lawmakers.

The county’s legislative delegation is gearing up to head back to Richmond next month, as the General Assembly kicks off a new session on Jan. 9.

That means that many of three state senators and four delegates representing the county have been busy crafting legislation for the 46-day “short session” of the state legislature, and they’ve readied dozens of bills for lawmakers to mull in the coming weeks.

Legislators of both parties expect that sparring over the budget will dominate the proceedings — Gov. Ralph Northam and Republicans are already at odds over how to spend an extra $1.2 billion in revenue generated by changes to the federal tax code. The looming state elections (where all 140 lawmakers will be on the ballot) will also provide a bit of a distraction, particularly as Republicans defend narrow, one-seat majorities in both the Senate and House of Delegates.

Yet a review of the General Assembly’s online database shows that Arlington’s delegation has a raft of smaller bills already written, including a variety of efforts lawmakers have tried before and even some new creations.

Some bills look designed to address some Arlington-specific issues, while others have much wider impacts.

For instance, state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) is introducing new legislation that would specifically give Arlington officials control over the “regulation and licensing” of all childcare facilities and providers in the county. The County Board currently has the ability to issue use permits to facilities of certain sizes, but has spent months now studying potential policy changes to make all childcare more accessible and affordable in the county.

Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) is also backing a bill that would give Northern Virginia localities, like Arlington, full power to set their own school calendars. The legislation seems to be similar to a bill Favola previously contemplated carrying that would end the infamous “King’s Dominion Rule” barring most school systems from starting class before Labor Day.

Favola expressed optimism that the Republican chair of the Senate’s Education and Health committee could agree to pass such a bill, ending Arlington’s long fight over the issue. Howell, the longest serving member of the county’s legislative delegation, also sits on that committee.

Notably, none of the county’s representatives in Richmond have put forward a bill to give Arlington the power to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway, just yet. Lawmakers previously warned the Board that they’d be hesitant to back such an effort this year without more support from the business community, or perhaps Amazon’s intervention, given Route 1’s proximity to the tech giant’s future headquarters.

Instead, most of the lawmakers representing sections of Arlington have put a clear focus on one issue, perhaps above all others: gun control.

Republicans in Richmond have steadfastly refused to advance most firearms-related legislation over the years, but county lawmakers seem ready to renew many of their legislative pushes on the issue this year.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) is re-introducing a bill that would allow police or prosecutors secure a two-week ban on buying or owning a gun if they believe they present a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others.” A judge would ultimately get to decide if the ban stands, and if it should be extended for a period up to six months.

Sullivan has twice seen similar legislation left to die in committees: one bill failed in 2018, another in 2017.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) is also bringing back legislation to ban devices that increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic rifles, commonly known as “bump stocks.” Lawmakers across the country worked to ban the devices after one was used in the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert last year; Ebbin’s bill on the subject died on a party-line vote in committee last session.

Howell is also re-upping legislation that would make it a felony for anyone to leave a “loaded, unsecured” firearm in the presence of anyone under the age of 18. It’s only a misdemeanor under current state law, and Howell’s effort to make the change died on a party line vote in committee earlier this year.

She’s also reintroducing a bill to make it a felony for anyone who is subject to a “permanent protective order” over fears that they may be violent to own a gun. Howell previously succeeded in establishing a misdemeanor penalty for the practice in 2016; her push to upgrade it a felony passed one committee last year before failing on a party-line vote in another.

Other bills backed by Arlington legislators would address inequities in the criminal justice system more broadly.

For example, Ebbin is trying once more to decriminalize the possession of marijuana, imposing fines on people who are caught with small quantities of the drug in lieu of jail time. He’s seen similar efforts fail, often on party-line votes, in the last four legislative sessions.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) is also backing what appears to be new legislation to require state corrections officials to produce an annual report on how many people are held in solitary confinement in Virginia prisons, and what steps workers take to address their mental health needs. Virginia has begun moving away from the practice, as it’s increasingly been criticized nationwide, but some reports indicate that the state still holds large numbers of inmates in solitary confinement at some of its most secure facilities.

Dels. Mark Levine (D-45th District) and Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) are the lone Arlington representatives that have yet to pre-file any of their own legislation ahead of the new session, but have signed on as cosponsors of many other bills. Those include everything from the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the formal legalization of same-sex marriage.

And, on a lighter note, both Ebbin and Hope have signed on to ceremonial resolutions commending the Washington Capitals on their long-awaited Stanley Cup victory.

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