Members of the County Board were at odds at its Tuesday night meeting over a resolution that would support the federal government’s efforts to address responsible use of antibiotics in health care and food production.
The primary goal of the resolution is to “establish a tiebreaker preference in County procurement policies for the purchase of meat and poultry that has been raised according to responsible antibiotic use policies.”
The resolution also calls for working with Arlington Public Schools on a similar antibiotic policy, which would — other things being equal — prefer the purchase of responsibly produced meats for school lunch programs.
“Although Arlington County has few meat and poultry food contracts and does not purchase large quantities of these products, the preference created today signals to the marketplace the County’s desire to join the national effort to drive changes in food production practices that will create healthier alternatives and support public health,” the county said in a press release.
Board member John Vihstadt, however, opposed a specific paragraph of the resolution that said:
“Supports legislative efforts to prevent the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food production, such as S. 621, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2015 and H.R. 1552, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2015…”
Vihstadt made a motion to strike the citations of specific federal legislation from the resolution, citing no Virginia senators nor members of Congress who are co-sponsors of either bill.
“We haven’t been briefed on this legislation, we have not seen the bills, and we haven’t — at least I have not — had any communication with our congressional delegation on these pieces of legislation,” he said at the meeting.
The motion to strike the citations failed, though Board member Libby Garvey also voted in favor of it.
“I don’t think we as a Board should be going on record supporting two specific pieces of federal regulation at this stage,” Vihstadt added. “There may be a time when we ought to do that, but I don’t think so at this stage.”
Board member Jay Fisette, who proposed the resolution, said the measures have been under consideration at least the past six months.
“We have done this before, and it’s not breaking new ground to identify a piece of legislation that this County, with its values, stands behind,” Fisette said.
The majority of the Board agreed, saying this would be an opportunity for Arlington to be bold and show local support for federal action before state legislators or other regional governments.
“This is about our health and our kids’ health,” Fisette added. “It’s making a statement and hoping to build and establish partnerships that allow the purchasing power of our government to help address a serious public health issue.”
The resolution passed, in its entirety, with a vote of 4-0-1. Vihstadt abstained.
“I would be supporting this for all the reasons Mr. Fisette and others have said,” he said before the vote, “were it not for the endorsement of two specific pieces of federal legislation.”
The State and Local Predatory Towing Enforcement Act introduced by congressmen Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was added to an existing transportation bill as an amendment on Wednesday morning.
As it stands, federal law limits the ability of state and local governments to regulate the towing industry. The bill-turned-amendment would give them the ability to do so in an attempt to prevent predatory towing.
“State and local governments provide the best authority to regulate the towing industry and protect Virginians from unfair, predatory practices,” Rep. Beyer said in a press release. “We need more common-sense, consumer friendly solutions like this amendment to protect our constituents’ wallets.”
The predatory towing debate isn’t new to Arlington. The issue received national attention this past spring when ESPN sportscaster and WJLA alumna Britt McHenry was caught on camera losing her temper at an employee at Ballston-based Advanced Towing.
Shortly after the video of the incident was published online, Beyer’s bill was first introduced to the House.
In May, County Board Member Jay Fisette told ARLnow that under the legislation, he would support giving a towing veto to local businesses, requiring the owner’s approval before a vehicle is removed from their property.
The legislation Beyer’s bill would be amending, called the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act or STRR Act, is expected to pass in the House of Representatives by the end of the week, according to the Congressman’s office.
The bill is nearly 600 pages long and would authorize more than $300 billion for transportation across the country. Specific plans for the funds include improving infrastructure, highway safety programs and public transportation.
According to The Hill, Beyer’s and Hollen’s amendment is one of nearly 300 up for debate by the House before voting on the STRR Act.
Congressmen Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) today reintroduced The State and Local Predatory Towing Enforcement Act, a bill they say would solidify state and local governments’ ability to end predatory towing practices.
As federal law currently stands, state and local governments are prohibited from regulating local towing industries. Though a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision is considered to have given local governments the ability to regulate those industries, the reintroduced bill would codify it and reduce some legal uncertainties.
An identical bill was introduced by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), but died in the U.S. House of Representatives in February.
“Unfair and predatory towing practices take money out of our constituents’ wallets and strain their budgets,” said Rep. Beyer in a press release. “I am proud to join Rep. Van Hollen to provide our state and local governments with the authority they need to properly regulate this industry with common sense, consumer friendly towing protections.”
The predatory towing debate in Arlington has been revived as of late thanks to the national coverage of ESPN sportscaster Britt McHenry’s caught-on-camera rant against Ballston-based Advanced Towing. Despite the opportune timing, Beyer’s office says the high-profile incident did not have any impact on the congressman’s decision to introduce the bill.
Arlington County Board Member Jay Fisette has kept his eye on local predatory towing practices since 1999.
“Predatory towing is something I’ve thought about a lot,” Fisette says. “Next to cable, this has been the second-highest number of complaints [by residents].”
Fisette, who supports the bill, sees it as a way to help reinforce local governments’ ability to regulate predatory towing. “It’s always nice to have it in black and white where no one can challenge it,” he says.
For instance, Fisette says he’d like to give a towing veto to local businesses. “Have the property owner sign off on the tow before the tow company is allowed to remove the vehicle,” he says.
The end goal is to give drivers the confidence to park without fear of being towed at a moment’s notice.
“I try to create a community where people are able to park one time and go do five things,” Fisette says. “Walk to one store, walk to another, then go back to their car. I don’t want them moving five spaces down. It creates community, reduces congestion, and cuts down on pollution.”
Red Top Development Deal Struck — A potential deal to redevelop Red Top Cab’s property in Clarendon, which we first reported in September, is closer to becoming reality. The Shooshan Company has reportedly entered a purchase agreement with Red Top that would build three residential properties with 584 units on the 3.44 acre site. [Washington Business Journal]
Spring Yard Waste Collection — Arlington County’s spring yard waste collection is set to start Monday and run through April 24. For homeowners, the collection will take place the next business day after their trash collection. [Patch]
APS ‘Traveling Trolley’ Wins Award — Arlington Public Schools has won a national award for its Traveling Trolley summer reading program . The trolley helps close the student achievement gap, providing “an effective way for low income families to gain access to printed text by providing free transportation to their neighborhood branch of the Arlington Public Library,” according to APS. [Arlington Public Schools]
New Va. Breastfeeding Law — A new law signed by Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe allows mothers to legally breastfeed in public, including in privately-owned buildings and businesses. The law will take effect July 1. [WUSA 9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
APS Elementary Schools Get Top Marks — Ten of the top 11 public elementary schools in Virginia, as ranked by Niche.com, are in Arlington. “A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students and faculty, and the students are very happy with their experiences,” the website said of its 2015 list. [Niche]
‘Blue Moon’ County Board Race — The upcoming Arlington County Board election will be the first in four decades in which two seats are open at the same time. That has led one political watcher to dub the race a “blue-moon” election. [InsideNova]
Fraber House Garage Moved — The detached garage near the historic Fraber House was moved closer to the home yesterday. The Fraber House was sold to a private homeowner after being designated historic by the county in 2013. The garage was not on the land that the county sold, but it allowed the homeowner to move it to the property. [Preservation Arlington]
Lopez Small Biz Legislation Passes — Del. Alfonso Lopez’s small business bill, HB 1901, has unanimously passed the House of Delegates. The legislation updates the definition of a small business in Virginia, which would in turn affect certain state purchasing contracts intended for small businesses. Currently, 95 percent of all businesses in Virginia meet the state’s definition of a small business: having 250 or fewer employees or annual revenue up to $10 million.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rep. Jim Moran (D) spent the morning reading to first graders at Barcroft Elementary School and talking with them about autism.
After meeting with some students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moran read the first graders a story about everyone being different and how everyone’s differences should be celebrated. He explained that autism is another difference, just one that can’t be seen.
“Nobody is the same as everybody else, which is wonderful! Some children have different challenges,” Moran told the children. “Some children have autism. Autism is a challenge that affects the way our brains work. So some children have different ways their brain works.”
One of the students noted his brother has autism, to which Moran responded, “So he’s different and special and wonderful.”
Moran also talked to the students about the “AUTISM Educators Act,” a bill he is re-introducing to request funding for training educators how best to work with students with autism. Barcroft is one of the schools currently offering special services for students with autism, and training all staff members how to work with students with ASD. It is considered a model for other schools across the country.
“We’re going to try to teach other teachers around the country how to be as good of teachers as you have at Barcroft Elementary,” Moran told the students. “We’re going to use Barcroft Elementary as a model for other schools to learn from.”
The bill would establish a five-year pilot program to provide the special training for teachers and school staff. There would also be a focus on recruitment and retention of trained personnel and implementation of a program for parental support and involvement.
“I actually think this bill is going to become law. This is one that I think is going to make an enormous difference in the classrooms around the country that have children on the autistic spectrum,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is going to be groundbreaking legislation. I know it’s going to be bipartisan, I already have Republican sponsors. So I think we’re going to get it passed in the House, and I’m confident we’ll get it passed in the Senate as well. It’s going to become law all because the parents in the Arlington school system worked with the superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the teacher aides to make it happen in a way that other school systems can learn from.”
Moran is requesting up to $5 million for the pilot program and could ask for more once the program expands around the nation. We’re told the funds will come from existing teacher development accounts.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) What started with polite applause ended with jeers and shouts, as Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) hosted a panel discussion on gun violence at Washington-Lee High School Monday night.
Hundreds turned out at the school’s auditorium for the discussion, with gun supporters — wearing “Guns Save Lives” stickers — outnumbering gun control advocates about 3:2, based on the volume of completing applause points.
Among the panelists on stage with Moran were:
- David Chapman, a retired ATF Special Agent and advisor to Mayors Against Illegal Guns
- Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Earl Cook, Alexandria Police Chief
- Jonathan Lowy, of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
- Karen Marangi, of Mayors Against Illegal Guns
While expressing general support for the Second Amendment right to own firearms, Moran and the panelists made the case for additional gun control measures, including universal background checks, an renewed assault weapons ban, magazine capacity limits and mandated reporting of stolen guns. Possible changes to the treatment of those with mental illness were also discussed.
“We hope those of you in the room will really help us to move this, so we can make our communities safer,” Marangi said of some of the gun control legislation that has been proposed in Congress.
Many in the audience, however, were there to voice another opinion. After a generally polite reception for a opening statements by the panelists, the question and answer session brought a different tone.
A majority of speakers spoke strongly in support of gun rights and against additional gun laws, and some expressed fear that the government’s ultimate goal in gun legislation is to gradually ban gun ownership. Moran and the panel’s response to the audience statements and questions often drew boos and shouts.
“Congressman, I know you’re pro-choice, but why aren’t you pro-choice when it comes to self-defense for women?” said one speaker to loud applause. “Why don’t you guys listen to the young rape victims in Colorado when they said that if they had a gun it would have prevented their attacker.”
Other gun supporters called for the elimination of “gun-free zones,” particularly around schools.
“As you can see, there are a lot of people here who are legitimate, law-abiding gun owners,” said a man who asked fellow gun owners to stand, before voicing support for allowing teachers to carry guns. “We would be more than happy to defend innocent lives should a psycho… come into an area to commit an act of violence.”
“I would be opposed to teachers carrying guns in the classroom, and I would not want my children in a classroom where their teacher was carrying a gun,” Moran said in response, to applause from gun control advocates in the audience.
“I know this community well enough to know that the people standing up in this auditorium are not representative of the majority of the residents, ” he continued, to more applause as well as some jeers.
Moran and the panelists drew the most jeers when they brought up “assault weapons.”
“What does that even mean?” some audience members shouted, about the term. Some speakers — those who stood in line to speak — made the case that the term assault weapon is often used to refer to a gun that might look menacing but isn’t significantly different, functionality-wise, from a standard semiautomatic handgun.
“I don’t agree that there’s a need for individuals to have military-style assault weapons,” Moran retorted. “I don’t believe that we need guns that can hold in excess of ten bullets.”
Adding to the urgency of passing gun control laws, Moran said, is a projection that gun deaths will exceed traffic fatalities by 2015. That expected milestone is partially due to rising gun deaths, but mostly due to advances in car safety that started in the 1970s — safety improvements, he said, that came about after being mandated by law.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Moran said he expected a negative response from the crowd.
The Commonwealth was once again the butt of jokes on The Daily Show last night. But this time around, a local Virginia legislator at least got some snarky kudos from Jon Stewart.
The Comedy Central show featured a mock-segment, alternately titled “Virginia Is Not For Lovers” and “19th Century News,” about the efforts of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) to repeal the state’s long-standing law against an unmarried couple living together. Though rarely enforced, Virginia law classifies “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” as a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine.
Ebbin’s bill, SB 969, has passed the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate and is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) signature.
Same-Sex Couples Denied Marriage Licenses — In what has become a Valentine’s Day tradition in Arlington, three same-sex couples applied for and were denied marriage licenses at the Arlington County courthouse yesterday. Arlington Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson reluctantly turned down the applications and spoke outside the courthouse in support of same-sex marriage. A similar demonstration, organized by another gay rights group, took place outside the courthouse last month. [Sun Gazette]
‘Dooring’ Bill Fails in Va. House — Legislation that would outlaw the “dooring” of bicyclists has failed in the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill had passed the state Senate but failed to pass a House committee earlier this week. The bill would have made it illegal to open a car door in the immediate path of a cyclist. Virginia is one of ten states in the country that do not have such a law on the books. [Washington Post]
Questioning the ‘Female-Friendly’ Sports Bar — Is Bracket Room, the new “female-friendly” sports bar that’s coming to Clarendon, insulting to women? One Washington City Paper writer says the answer is yes. She writes of Bracket Room partner and former reality TV star Chris Bukowski: “…his 2012 appearance on Bachelor Pad, in which former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants live in a house together and compete for $250,000, suggests he may not be the most in touch with women’s preferences. Over the course of the season, the chiseled-abs, blue-eyed Bukowski became the show’s villain, hooking up with and then ditching two of the female contestants.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has suggested that he’s open to a discussion about imposing a local income tax and using it to fund transportation projects, the Washington Post reports.
A bill that would allow Arlington and other Virginia localities to impose a 1 percent income tax without a voter referendum passed the Virginia state Senate last week. It’s now under consideration in the House of Delegates, although most tax bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-majority body.
(Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and other jurisdictions are currently authorized to impose a 0.25 to 1 percent income tax, but must first have it approved by voters.)
Tejada told the Post’s Tom Jackman that the Board is following the bill “intently.”
“We’re always trying to find ways to fund transportation projects, and considering we were ranked number one in gridlock, any resources would be helpful,” Tejada said. “We’ve been trying different things, and traffic’s not going anywhere.”
At last month’s meeting, County Board members said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation plan might not raise enough new revenue to meet Northern Virginia’s transportation needs. McDonnell and state lawmakers are currently working to hash out a compromise version of the governor’s proposal.
Two state lawmakers who represent parts of Arlington have proposed a gun safety legislation package in the Virginia General Assembly.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. Patrick Hope, both Democrats, introduced bills that would close the so-called “gun show loophole,” require universal background checks on gun purchases, require gun owners to report stolen firearms, and restrict weapon sales to the mentally ill. To drive home the point, the lawmakers recorded two videos (above and below, after the jump) showing them buying a handgun without a background check and buying a high-capacity magazine at a recent gun show in Chantilly, Va.
The legislation was introduced Wednesday, a day before President Obama proposed legislation to require universal background checks, ban high capacity magazines, and ban assault-style weapons.
The gun control bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-controled state legislature; Hope and Ebbin called on Virginia residents to contact their legislators in support of the legislation.
From a press release:
Virginia State Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) have introduced a package of gun safety legislation to require universal background checks on prospective firearms purchasers (SB 1232 / HB 2025), close the gun show loophole, and tighten restrictions on the sale of weapons to the mentally ill (SB 1109 / HB 2221).
SB 1109 and HB 2221 would make it a Class 6 felony to sell firearms to persons found mentally incapacitated or who have been involuntarily admitted.
Ebbin also introduced legislation to require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms (SB 965) and to outlaw firearms in legislative buildings (SB 1012).
“We easily purchased a handgun at a Virginia gun show, without undergoing a background check. Sadly, nearly 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check. In the interest of community safety, it’s not too much to ask for responsible gun purchasers to undergo a background check to screen for criminal history or history of serious mental illness,” the two wrote in a joint statement.
The lawmakers discussed their visit to a gun show in a January 15th news conference at the Virginia Capitol. Hope showed the High Standard Sentinel Revolver he bought for $175; because he purchased the gun from a private dealer, he did not have to undergo a background check to screen for a criminal record. “Today, a felon with a violent past can walk into a gun show or go on the Internet and buy any gun with no questions asked,” Hope said. “A law we could pass today, requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, would have an almost immediate impact on gun safety. No responsible gun owner is afraid of a background check.”
Displaying a 30-round ammunition magazine he purchased for $20, Ebbin said, “Buying a 30-round magazine should not be as easy as buying a candy bar.” He noted that a 30-round magazine was used in the recent Newtown, Connecticut tragedy that left 26 dead.
Citing the need to pass SB 965, Ebbin said, “When a gun is stolen, a deadly weapon is in criminal hands—a combination we all want to avoid. Reporting lost or stolen guns can help police avert a tragedy.”
Hope and Ebbin called on Virginians to contact their legislators in support of the gun safety legislation.
The House voted (257 to 167) to send the plan to President Obama, less than 24 hours after the Senate passed it. But Moran spoke on the House floor last night in opposition of the legislation, contending it doesn’t create a permanent solution.
“We set up three more fiscal cliffs. We’re going to have to deal with the debt ceiling, we’re going to have to deal with the continuing resolution expiration and we’re going to have to deal with the sequester,” Moran said on the House floor. “We’re going to look back on this night and regret it, notwithstanding the fact that 95 percent of us apparently will vote for it.”
Moran released the following explanation in a statement:
Throughout negotiations aimed at staving off the economic damage of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ I have been hoping to cast a vote for a balanced deal which addressed both long run fiscal issues and the artificial short term crisis created by the Budget Control Act.
Unfortunately the bill before us today is wholly inadequate. It leaves our country with three more ‘fiscal cliffs’ to negotiate over the next three months. There’s no clarity as to how we preserve the full faith and credit of the U.S. by raising the statutory debt limit, the economically devastating sequester is delayed two months but remains in full effect, and there’s no direction as to how we will fund the government for the remainder of the year when the continuing resolution runs out in March. Each of these deadlines represents a major political battle in which nearly 40 percent of Northern Virginia’s economy in terms of federal contracts and federal employees will be on the chopping block. Our leverage to strike a balanced deal will only be weaker in those coming battles following passage of this bill.
Furthermore, I question the wisdom of permanently locking in revenue levels which are far too low. This includes an estate tax structure which provides a massive tax cut for a small minority of the richest Americans at the cost $369 billion dollars, in exchange for only a temporary extension of important programs that help low and middle class Americans.
“I am deeply concerned by the long term consequences of this hastily crafted agreement, both in terms of our ability to invest in our priorities, such as educating and training future generations, and in terms of the way we govern this country. For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience support this legislation.
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congressman Jim Moran is proposing a bill called the “NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act.”
The bill will “implement five commonsense gun safety reforms that polling shows are supported by at least 63 percent of NRA members,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).
The National Rifle Association is holding a “major news conference” tomorrow (Friday). In its first public statement since the Sandy Hook massacre, the organization has said that it’s prepared to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Details about the NRA’s proposals have yet to be released.
Moran’s bill would require background checks for every gun purchase and for gun shop employees, prohibit individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns, require gun owners to report to police when their guns are lost or stolen, and establish a set of minimum standards for concealed carry permits.
On Wednesday, President Obama called on Congress to act on gun control legislation. He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to draft policies intended to reduce gun violence.
The County Board has approved a revised list of legislative priorities for the 2013 General Assembly session. As anticipated, the focus is to reverse some of the funding cuts Arlington has experienced in recent years.
Board members first presented a draft of the priorities at November’s Board meeting, noting that balancing the state budget will prove to be a major issue. Board members requested that the state restore at least some of the $7.2 million that was cut between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2013 to balance the state budget.
One of the major areas the members hope to receive funding is for transportation. The Board wishes to secure funding for new projects as well as some for maintenance of existing modes of transit.
Arlington is also seeking the power to collect local transient occupancy (hotel) taxes from online travel companies like Expedia and Orbitz, and asking that state legislators “oppose any state mandates to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.”
Other priorities include housing, human services and the environment.
Since November’s meeting, county staff members have been collecting public recommendations for changes or additions to the draft. Based on those suggestions, those of Board members and a work session with the Arlington General Assembly delegation, eight changes were made. Among those legislative requests:
- Requesting that Virginia pass a law in order to join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Program, which allows the collection of local sales tax on internet and mail order sales.
- Requesting that transportation funding formulas not be adjusted in a way that reduces revenue to Northern Virginia
- Requiring nursing homes and long-time care facilities to have auxiliary power generators and adequate emergency sheltering and evacuation plans
The Board unanimously approved the legislative priorities.
This year’s General Assembly session begins on January 9, 2013 and is scheduled to last for 45 days.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) says lines to vote in last month’s election were “prohibitively long,” and is proposing legislation designed to reduce wait times at the polls.
Moran introduced a bill called the Voting Line Reduction and Online Registration Act yesterday (Tuesday). The bill comes a month after Arlington set a new voter turnout record, while residents reported waiting in 3+ hour lines to vote.
“Voters in many states, including Virginia, faced waits of up to four hours to vote, due in large part to insufficient or faulty voting equipment,” the congressman’s office said in a press release. “Moran’s bill addresses these problems by directing the Election Assistance Commission to set a minimum number of voting systems, poll workers, and other election resources at each voting site for all Federal elections.”
The 51-page bill also “establishes a system where individuals can both register and update their voting information” online, and mandates at least a week of early voting. Virginia currently allows in-person absentee voting, but voters must have a valid reason to be voting early.