(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) A bill prohibiting school officials from stigmatizing students who can’t afford school meals or pay off their debts is likely to pass the Virginia General Assembly, said bill sponsor state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31).
The SB 840 bill, which has already passed through the Virginia Senate, will ban school board employees from identifying students who owe a meal debt by, for example, requiring students to wear bracelets or hand stamps.
The bill also prohibits school board members from making students do chores or work to pay for meal debts. It also states that any communication about a meal debt must be written in a letter to the student’s parents to bring home.
“We want students to have as positive an experience as possible while they’re in school,” Favola said. “It doesn’t send the right message to children if they’re at all identified for being different because of an income inequality.”
Favola represents Virginia’s 31st District, which includes Arlington and Fairfax County.
A Virginia social justice group, Social Action Linking Together (SALT), approached Favola to sponsor the bill. After other constituents voiced similar concerns about the treatment of students with meal debts, Favola introduced the bill to the Senate.
One Arlington parent told John Horejsi, a SALT coordinator, that their child’s elementary school puts orange stickers on students’ shirts when they owe a lunch debt. The parent discussed the matter with ARLnow.com but did not wish to identify the school or speak on the record.
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said that practice is not in place at public schools in Arlington.
“To our knowledge, this hasn’t happened in APS in a number of years,” said Frank Bellavia, via email. “Currently, staff only speak with parents directly about a student’s unpaid lunch account. Our Food Services staff is working now on a formal policy for School Board approval that will permanently address this.”
The state bill is highly likely to pass, Favola said, because a companion bill unanimously passed in the House. The bill is now being reviewed by the Committee on Education.
(Updated at 6 p.m.) A new bill is raising the statewide cap on towing charges to $150 but won’t require Northern Virginia localities to raise their towing rates as was initially proposed, according to Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-49).
HB800 initially required towing rate increases to $150 for standard-size vehicles, $250 for medium-size vehicles, and $500 for large vehicles, but only in Northern Virginia.
Lopez says he reached an agreement with the Republican patron of the bill, Del. David Yancey (R-94), to amend it to remove the large towing fee hike. It will instead raise the cap to $150 statewide, while also letting Northern Virginia localities set their own towing rates by removing a requirement — currently in law — that the rate be set at $135.
“Rather than dramatically increasing the amount that tow truck companies can charge unsuspecting Virginians, we should be working to address the practice of predatory towing in Northern Virginia,” the delegate’s office said in a press release.
Instant Runoff Bill Fails in Richmond — It appeared to be headed toward potential passage, but a bill to allow Arlington County to hold instant-runoff elections for County Board was referred to another committee on a 51-49 House of Delegates vote and is effectively dead for 2018. [InsideNova]
Arlington Denies Request for 911 Recording — “Arlington County has denied a request from the family of Bijan Ghaisar to release the 911 call made after a hit-and-run crash he was involved in, before a police chase ended with U.S. Park Police fatally shooting him.” [Covering the Corridor, WTOP]
ARLnow on Kojo — ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck will discussing the state of local news on the Kojo Nnamdi Show today. The show airs at noon on WAMU 88.5 FM. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
A-SPAN Celebrates Quarter Century — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which started as a grassroots effort to address local homelessness, recently marked its 25th anniversary with a fundraiser and celebration in Rosslyn. [InsideNova]
Email List Hits 10K — ARLnow’s email newsletter mailing list crossed the 10,000 mark on Monday. Thank you to all of our subscribers, who are receiving our headlines free of social media filters. (ARLnow’s Twitter account reached 40,000 followers in December and our newly-verified Facebook account is on the verge of 24,000.)
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Instant Runoff Bill Passes Committee — A bill that authorizes the Arlington County Board to use instant runoff voting for Board elections has passed a state committee. The legislation from Del. Patrick Hope (D) is intended to “encourage consensus candidates and eliminate the likelihood that a fringe contender could sneak through with 25 or 30 percent of the vote in a crowded field.” [InsideNova]
Foxcroft Heights Fire — Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall firefighters battled heavy fire in a townhouse near the eastern end of Columbia Pike Saturday evening. No injuries were reported but the home sustained serious damage. [Twitter, Twitter]
Fire at Willston Centre — A fire broke out Saturday night at a store in the Willston Centre shopping center in Seven Corners. TV news reports said the fire started in the Steven’s Shop tuxedo shop. Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured. [Patch]
Community Foundation Gala Set — The Arlington Community Foundation will be holding its annual gala on Saturday, April 21 at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. The theme for this year is “This Is Us.” The event will feature a performance by “Arlington’s own Amy Wilcox and her band from L.A.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
Pushback on Naming Gravelly for Nancy Reagan — The pushback to the pushback against naming Gravelly Point park for First Lady Nancy Reagan has arrived. Writes a conservative website: “Opposition to the name change is… mean-spirited, petty partisanship. Nancy Reagan deserves better.” [Daily Signal]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
APS Named Best School System in Va. — Arlington Public Schools is the best public school system in Virginia, according to a new set of state-by-state rankings. APS received an A+ rating for academics, diversity and teachers, and an A rating for health and safety. [Business Insider]
DES Scrambles to Deal With Water Main Breaks — Staff from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services had their hands full again over the holiday weekend, dealing with numerous water main breaks in various parts of the county. “A number of Arlington residents experienced low pressure/no water issues” as a result of the breaks, DES said. At least one significant break, along Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, is still being repaired as of Tuesday morning. [Facebook, Twitter]
Marymount Grad Helps Save Family — A Marymount University graduate, now a law enforcement officer in North Carolina, helped to rescue a family from a house fire last month. [The Pilot]
Bill Could Allow Instant Runoff Elections — A bill proposed by Del. Patrick Hope, currently under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly, would allow the Arlington County Board to mandate instant-runoff voting in local races. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Old Town Church Now a Basilica — “The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship declared St. Mary Church in Alexandria a minor basilica, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announced to parishioners during Mass [on] Jan. 14.” [Arlington Catholic Herald, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Pentagon Looking into Helicopter Noise Reduction — After pressure from residents who live near the Pentagon, along with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), “FOX 5 has learned the Department of Defense is researching ways to reduce helicopter noise and is ready to hear concerns from… neighboring residents.” [Fox 5]
Caiazzo is New ACDC Chair — The Arlington County Democratic Committee has elected Jill Caiazzo, a lawyer and policy advocate, as its new chair. She succeeds Kip Malinosky, who was lauded at last night’s ACDC meeting for his four years of service as chair. [Blue Virginia, Facebook]
Favola Pushes Highway Name Bill — In an effort to allow Arlington to change the name of its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and perhaps even Lee Highway, state Sen. Barbara Favola “is patroning legislation that would allow any Virginia county, city or town to change the name of any highway in its environs, so long as the original name was put in place prior to 1965.” [InsideNova]
Homeless Shelter Busy During Cold Snap — Some 80 people a night were staying at Arlington’s homeless shelter in Courthouse during the recent extended blast of frigid temperatures. The shelter, which relocated to an office building next to Arlington police headquarters in 2015, can accommodate up to 90 people during sub-freezing weather. [Arlington Connection]
History of the Sun Gazette — In his latest column, “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark recounts the history of Arlington’s Sun Gazette newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]
Printing Business Offers Free Pizza — In a unique partnership, Ballston-area printing business ASAP Screen Printing is partnering with newly-renamed pizza restaurant Alto Fumo to offer customers who spend at least $100 a free pizza. [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Harvard
Del. Mark Levine (D) will re-introduce a bill to the Virginia House of Delegates designed to give jurisdictions the ability to set an alternative minimum wage.
It would mean that jurisdictions in higher cost-of-living areas like Arlington County could impose a higher alternative minimum wage if local lawmakers vote to do so. The bill would set a maximum minimum wage, which could change every year depending on the cost of goods and services in the federal Consumer Price Index.
When Levine introduced the measure for the first time in 2016 as a freshman legislator, he told the Alexandria Times that he hoped for bipartisan support as it pushes control back to local government, rather than the state.
“My hope is that my bill is local control, a conservative value, the idea that localities would be in charge,” Levine said at the time. “It allows each locality the ability to raise the minimum wage to what their representatives want. It’s complete local control.”
The 2016 iteration was tabled on a party-line vote by a Republican-controlled subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.
Democrats made big gains in the House in the 2017 elections, which will mean committees will have a different balance between the two parties. It could also mean a power-sharing agreement between the two parties for this year’s session, depending on pending recounts.
Beyer and a fellow Virginia congressman, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), have proposed the “Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act.”
The bill “would guarantee back pay for all furloughed workers if Congress and the White House are unable to come to a funding agreement.” Currently, back pay must be approved by Congress and is not guaranteed.
“Shutting down the federal government threatens the livelihood of federal workers who carry out the nation’s vital missions,” Beyer said in a statement. “It’s inexcusable to play politics with their pay and the well-being of their households.”
While a government shutdown at the end of the week is possible, it’s looking increasingly likely that a deal will be reached to continue funding the government.
Twenty-two percent of employment in Arlington is classified as government employment.
The full press release about the bill, after the jump.
County Wary of Lifetime Dog Licenses — Virginia may soon have a new law that allows localities to issue lifetime dog licenses. However, Arlington officials say that the current 1-3 year dog licenses help remind residents to keep their rabies vaccinations up to date. [InsideNova]
Road Paving Season Begins in a Month — Arlington’s road paving season starts at the beginning of April and runs through October. Pre-paving concrete repairs have already begun. Residents whose streets are set to be paved this year can expect to receive notification letters from the county. [Arlington County]
Wait Times Improved at DMV — After a month of renovation work, the Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles office on S. Four Mile Run Drive reopened in January. Local and state officials held a ribbon-cutting for the renovated DMV location, which features “a new efficient countertop and workstation design to maximize customer flow and efficiency,” thus reducing wait times. [Facebook]
Native Plant Recommendations — Arlington County naturalist Alonso Abugattas has shared a list of his “favorite native plants for attracting and supporting wildlife.” [Mid-Atlantic Gardener]
Nearby: D.C. Issues Record Number of Tickets — The District of Columbia issued 2,760,482 traffic citations last year, an all-time high totalling $300 million in fines. That includes 1.1 million photo-enforced tickets, a 70 percent increase compared to a year prior. [WTOP]
Norovirus Outbreak at School — More than 80 students at Oakridge Elementary in south Arlington are out sick as a result of a suspected norovirus outbreak. The virus causes symptoms like “stomach aches, fever, vomiting and, in some cases, diarrhea.” [NBC Washington]
Sign Controversy at Yorktown — Some conservatives are upset that teachers at Yorktown High School are being allowed to hang “politically suggestive” signs in their classrooms. The signs read: “Patriots Know: Facts are not political. Diversity strengthens us. Science is real. Women’s rights are human rights. Justice is for all. We’re all immigrants. Kindness is everything.” [Daily Caller]
Yorktown Lacrosse Star Nears 200 Goals — Yorktown senior lacrosse star Laura Crawford is nearing the 200-goal mark for high school career. Crawford, a three-time team MVP, has committed to Penn. [Washington Post]
Female UAE Hockey Player Visits Caps — Fatima Al Ali, a hockey player and coach from United Arab Emirates, has been visiting with the Washington Capitals this week as part of the NHL’s “Hockey Is For Everyone month.” The visit has included taking the ice at the Caps practice facility in Ballston and dropping the puck at last night’s game at Verizon Center. [Fox 5, Al-Arabiya]
Levine, Favola Advance Rape Kit Bill — Updated at 9:40 a.m. — Legislation sponsored by Del. Mark Levine and state Sen. Barbara Favola, which Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol helped to craft, has passed unanimously in the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill calls for police to keep rape kits for a longer period of time even if the victim is not ready to prosecute. [WVTF]
MMA Studio Gives Parents a Night Off — A mixed martial arts gym is not a place that one would usually think of as a babysitting venue, but that’s precisely what Pentagon MMA on Columbia Pike will be Saturday night. The business is hosting a “parents’ night out” event for Valentine’s Day, letting mom or dad “enjoy a worry-free evening with your special someone this Valentine’s Day while your child enjoys a night of structured activities in a supervised environment.” [Pentagon MMA]
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) earlier this month proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Virginia. The bill, SB 1269, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, much like a traffic ticket. Another bill introduced by State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D), SB 908, would have had similar effects.
Though the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee did not approve the bills yesterday, it did promise more study on marijuana decriminalization, according to Ebbin’s office.
State lawmakers didn’t set aside every marijuana-related bill, however. The committee overwhelmingly advanced another bill, SB 1091, by a vote of 14-1. If enacted into law, that bill would make it so adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana wouldn’t automatically lose their driver’s license for six months, as is the current law.
“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”
A Senate committee also advanced two bills having to do with LGBT equality yesterday. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee gave its blessing to two bills, SB 783 and SB 822, “with strong, bipartisan support,” according to a press release from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.
The bills, introduced by Ebbin and Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), respectively, address nondiscrimination in public employment and target anti-LGBT practices in public housing.
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
County Board Work Sessions to Be Broadcast — Arlington TV, the county government’s cable channel, will begin broadcasting County Board work sessions on cable and online this month. First up: the riveting County Board work session on the FY 2017 budget, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington County]
Meal Delivery Startup Now Serving Part of Arlington — Galley, a D.C.-based meal delivery startup, says it just expanded its delivery area to include Rosslyn, Courthouse and Clarendon.
ACPD Focusing on Heroin Use and Addiction — The Arlington County Police Department is joining other law enforcement agencies around the region in an initiative to try to curb the distribution, possession and use of heroin. For those battling addiction, there are a number of treatment options in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Schneider to Lead Thrive — Former Democratic County Board candidate Andrew Schneider has been named the new Executive Director of Arlington Thrive, effective today. Thrive is a nonprofit that provides same-day financial assistance to residents in crisis.
Board Thanks Legislators for Hotel Tax Bill — The Arlington County Board is offering its thanks to the state legislators who successfully shepherded Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge reauthorization through the Virginia General Assembly. [Arlington County]
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has again proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana for personal use in Virginia.
Ebbin, who has won the endorsement of the pro-pot group NORML, proposed a similar bill last year, but it failed in the conservative Virginia General Assembly.
The bill, SB 104, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, like a traffic ticket, rather than jail time. It would also reduce the criminal penalties for marijuana distribution and possession with the intent to distribute.
Would you like to see marijuana decriminalized in Virginia?
State Lawmaker: Add Lanes to I-66 — State Sen. Chap Petersen (D), who represents part of Fairfax County, doesn’t much care for Arlington’s efforts to dissuade VDOT from adding an extra lane to I-66. “When I was a little boy, we put a man on the moon. We can figure out how to put six lanes through Arlington County,” Petersen said in an interview. [WTOP]
Del. Levine Proposes Minimum Wage Increase — For his first piece of state legislation, freshman Del. Mark Levine (D) has proposed a bill that would allow localities in Virginia to raise the minimum wage up to $10. The maximum amount would then rise every year with the consumer price index. The likelihood of the bill passing is slim. [InsideNova]
Highway Project Giving Away Grant Money — Transurban, the private company behind the newly-revived I-395 HOT lanes project, is trying to endear itself to the communities along the I-395 corridor. For one, the company recently joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It’s also giving away grants of $1,000 to $5,000 “to respond to the needs of local organizations and direct impact neighborhoods located within the I-395 corridor.” Applications for the Community Grant Program are currently being accepted. [395 Express Lanes]
AFCYRs to Host MLK Event — The Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans will “celebrate and honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recommit ourselves to living out Dr. King’s dream” at the group’s meeting on Monday. Speaking at the event will be Elroy Sailor, CEO of the J.C. Watts Companies and current senior advisor to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick