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by Chris Teale January 22, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

Update at 9:30 p.m. — The shutdown is over after legislation passed Congress and was signed by President Trump.

Federal workers will receive back pay for any time lost during the shutdown.

More via a press release from Rep. Don Beyer’s office:

Legislative language mirroring a bill offered by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to protect the pay of federal workers during the government shutdown was passed by Congress today as part of a larger temporary funding bill. The inclusion of text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act will guarantee that the entire federal workforce receives back pay for the time during which appropriations lapsed.

“It is deeply disappointing that Congress was unable to prevent a government shutdown, but the passage of the our bill’s language should at least minimize the damage to rank-and-file civil servants,” said Rep. Beyer. “I thank my colleague Rep. Wittman for standing up for the federal workforce again, and hope that this will be the last time that this bill is necessary.”

Text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act was included in HR 195, which passed both chambers of Congress today. The bill had nearly 100 bipartisan cosponsors.

Earlier: The federal government could re-open as early as tomorrow after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a short-term spending plan today (Monday).

Senators voted 81-18 to end debate — a procedural move — on a three-week bill that would fund the government through February 8. The bill would give Congress more time to negotiate a long-term spending package.

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the plan today, if it passes the Senate.

The government partially shut down at midnight on Saturday (January 20).

But the impasse appears to have ended in the Senate after Republicans committed to holding a vote on the future of those who were brought to the country illegally as children and protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump announced he would end the program in March.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) blamed Republicans for the shutdown and said they were “deeply disappointed” that it could not stay open. But they said they are “heartened” by discussions that could help resolve many long-standing issues.

“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military,” they said. “Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.”

Warner and Kaine’s joint statement is after the jump.

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by Chris Teale January 19, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A bill by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) banning so-called “bump stocks” in Virginia has made progress in the early days of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly legislative session.

Ebbin’s bill — S.B. 1 — passed the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee on Monday, January 15 and then was referred to the Finance Committee.

The legislation was filed after investigators found that Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had modified some of the semi-automatic rifles in his hotel room with “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows the guns to fire faster.

Companion legislation by in the House of Delegates by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45) is still awaiting a hearing at the committee level.

Ebbin was a co-patron on S.B. 252, a bill to “ban the box” that passed the state Senate on Friday by a 23-16 vote.

It would prevent state and local governments from asking about potential employees’ criminal histories during an initial application. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed an executive order banning the box for state government in 2015.

“This bill is important simply because it gives everyone a fair chance at employment,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Those people who have paid their debts to society should be given a second chance. Providing every Virginian the chance to work builds our workforce and puts us on a great path towards economic security. The only way to ensure that we build stronger communities is if we have a strong workforce and banning the box is a step in the right direction of achieving that goal.”

But other gun safety bills by state Sen. Barbara Favola were defeated in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee earlier this week. A bill allowing local governments to prohibit the open carry of firearms in protests or demonstrations was among those killed.

Favola introduced it after the armed white supremacist protests in Charlottesville last year.

“Regarding [the bill], it was my hope that lawmakers would better understand the need for people to feel safe and be safe when they assemble,” Favola said in a statement.

And while other legislation introduced by Levine, including a bill allowing localities to set their own minimum wage and another to repeal “the crime of fornication, i.e., voluntary sexual intercourse by an unmarried person,” is still awaiting debate, he celebrated a win early in the session for his Virginia Transparency Caucus.

The caucus, co-created by Levine as a first-term Delegate alongside state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-11) in 2016, pushed for recorded votes in General Assembly committees and subcommittees and received them in the legislature’s new rules. All committee hearings will now also be live streamed and archived online for the first time.

“This is a big victory for transparency in Virginia,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters. “For four hundred years, Virginia legislators killed bills in secret behind closed doors. Not anymore. Now residents will be able to know exactly who deep-sixed a bill and who wanted to move it forward.”

But Del. Patrick Hope has run into opposition from the ACLU’s Virginia chapter for sponsoring a bill that would expand the use of “strip searches” to those under arrest for traffic crimes and suspected of carrying drugs. Currently, searches are only permitted for those carrying weapons. The bill was discussed by a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Courts of Justice committee on Friday.

“We really oppose any expansion of a strip search,” Charlie Schmidt, public policy counsel for ACLU Virginia, said in a video. “It’s invasive; it should only be used in situations where we’re dealing with serious crimes, not petty traffic stops.”

The ACLU of Virginia has offered support for another of Hope’s bills, which would end conversion therapy for children under 18.

by Chris Teale December 21, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Months after the mass shootings in Las Vegas, several legislators representing Arlington County have filed bills in the Virginia General Assembly to outlaw “bump stocks.”

After the October 1 shooting, which left 58 people dead and 546 injured, investigators found that gunman Stephen Paddock had modified some of the semi-automatic rifles in his hotel room with “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows the guns to fire faster.

And after Congress failed to act to ban them, local lawmakers will try to do so at the state level.

Del. Mark Levine and state Sens. Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola (all D) each introduced legislation to ban any device “used to increase the rate of fire of any semi-automatic firearm beyond the capability of an unaided person to operate the trigger mechanism of that firearm.”

Anyone found to own, be making or selling such a device would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The City of Columbia, S.C., recently passed an ordinance banning them.

At a work session with the Arlington County Board earlier this month, Levine expressed cautious optimism at getting “bump stocks” banned in Virginia.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do at the federal level, but we certainly shouldn’t have them in Virginia,” he said. “That, I would hope would be an easy lift, although of course, nothing is an easy lift when it comes to guns.”

by Chris Teale December 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Two state Senators who represent sections of Arlington County have proposed bills that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana and reduce penalties for its distribution.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has re-introduced a bill, SB-111, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and make it a civil offense, rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor, which it is now in Virginia.

Under Ebbin’s bill, violators would be fined no more than $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation.

It is not the first time that Ebbin has tried to decriminalize marijuana possession. Last year, his bill stalled in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee ahead of a study this year into decriminalization by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported earlier this month that the commission did not vote on a decriminalization proposal, as it was “not yet adequately drafted for consideration.” It heard testimony on a decriminalization plan in October.

“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement last year. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”

Another bill, SB-40 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) would reduce the penalties for those who distribute marijuana or intend to distribute it. It also raises the minimum amount of marijuana subject to the offense of distribution or “possession with intent to distribute” from one-half ounce to one ounce.

Both bills have been referred to the Senate’s Committee for Courts of Justice.

by Chris Teale December 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

A bill in the Virginia State Senate would require that drivers come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians crossing the street.

The bill, SB 46 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D), adds language to state law telling motorists what constitutes yielding to a pedestrian: “by stopping and remaining stopped until such pedestrian has safely crossed,” per the bill text.

Favola’s bill would require drivers to stop and remain stopped at the following places:

  • Clearly marked crosswalks, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block.
  • Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block.
  • Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

Language on when drivers must yield to pedestrians is included in the Virginia Criminal and Traffic Manual, but does not include the line to have drivers stop.

“Under this bill, a car would have to stop. Right now all you have to do is yield,” Favola told ARLnow.com. “So if a pedestrian is crossing and is on one half of the crosswalk, a car can go through the other half. This would make them stop completely.”

Favola’s district includes sections of Arlington County. The new legislation comes on the heels of a recent enforcement effort by the Arlington County Police Department, during which officers cited more than 30 motorists at several intersections for failing to yield.

The bill would not change the fines for violations: $100-$500 when street signs require drivers to yield and no more than $100 at crossings with shared-use paths like trails.

by ARLnow.com March 30, 2017 at 8:45 am 0

Senators Tour Proposed Cemetery Expansion — The Army gave a group of U.S. senators a tour of a proposed expansion area for Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The expansion, around the Air Force Memorial, would create space for 40,000 to 60,000 gravesites while requiring a realignment of Columbia Pike. Military officials are hoping to open the expansion by 2023 but a land swap with Arlington County and Virginia has still not been completed. [Stars and Stripes]

Arlington Man Killed in D.C. — An Arlington resident, 31-year-old Antwan Jones, was shot to death Tuesday afternoon while sitting in an BMW in Southeast D.C. A second man was injured in the shooting. [Washington Post]

History of Fairlington — Eighteen years ago yesterday Fairlington was added to the National Register of Historic Places. George Washington once owned land in the neighborhood, in the southwest corner of Arlington. It was also home to Civil War fortifications and a horse farm before being cleared to make way for 3,449 units of government housing for defense workers during World War II. [Facebook]

Midwestern Gothic Trailer — Signature Theater has released a cinematic trailer for its new “world premiere thriller with a musical twist,” Midwestern Gothic. The production runs through April 30. [YouTube]

HireEd Conference Coming to GMU — Sponsored — Graham Holdings Chair Donald Graham will be the keynote speaker at an event that will bring together entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators and nonprofits to discuss strategies to place students and graduates in jobs at all levels and solutions for businesses recruiting talent. It’s taking place Wednesday, April 5, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at George Mason University Founders Hall, 3351 Fairfax Drive. Registration is free for students and $25 for general admission. [Arlington Economic Development]

Photo courtesy Fred Cochard

by Tim Regan January 24, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

MarijuanaThe latest push to decriminalize marijuana in the state of Virginia has been delayed, at least for now.

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.

by Ethan Rothstein October 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm 0

Ed Gillespie in RosslynEd Gillespie is the Republican challenger for Sen. Mark Warner’s (D) seat in the Nov. 4 election, and he knows he has an uphill battle to claim votes in deeply Democratic Arlington.

Gillespie is behind by double-digits in statewide polls, but he sees an opportunity in Arlington to connect with young voters frustrated by the lagging economic recovery.

“We enjoy a lot of strong support here from a lot of young professionals,” he said. “There’s big numbers here, and we have to get our numbers up. It’s an important part of the Commonwealth. I want to be a servant leader for all Virginians, that means taking your message everywhere, including places that I know historically, in the voting patterns, aren’t Republican strongholds. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think it’s important to take your message everywhere.”

Gillespie served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee and counsel to President George W. Bush, and started his own lobbying and consulting firms. His consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, closed in Old Town Alexandria earlier this year to allow Gillespie to focus on his campaign.

Gillespie is against same-sex marriage, but said he prefers to let the states legislate their own marriage laws.

Gillespie lives in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, and said “there was a time when I used to play golf,” but he spend most of his time on the campaign trail or with family nowadays. The time he spends in Arlington, he said, is either campaigning or making the occasional trip to the Pentagon City mall. Gillespie visited Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices last week and sat down with ARLnow.com for an interview.

Ed Gillespie in RosslynAround his favorite Arlington hangout, office vacancies have skyrocketed in the years since the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure plan that moved thousands of defense jobs out of Arlington. Gillespie said he doesn’t think the BRAC process needs to be changed, but admitted “it has made mistakes.”

“We’ve cut about $986 billion from our military and our defense since Sen. Warner took office, $500 billion through the sequester, which is a random, arbitrary and deep cut,” he said. “I would work to restore those cuts because I think our military does need to be a higher priority than it is under this administration. ”

Gillespie wants to replace the Affordable Care Act and “supports oil, coal and natural gas production, including deep sea drilling.” He also said he advocates widening I-66, both inside and outside the Beltway.

Gillespie said he realizes Arlington “has got a set of priorities” — county leaders have repeatedly opposed proposals to widen the Arlington stretch of I-66 — but thinks the highway should be widened regardless.

by Katie Pyzyk January 22, 2013 at 9:05 am 1,333 17 Comments

The troll's view (photo by wolfkann)

Absentee Voting Bill Passes State Senate — The state Senate passed legislation that would allow residents age 65 and older to vote by absentee ballot without having to give an excuse. Currently, Virginians can only vote absentee if they meet one or more of the requirements on a list of reasons for not being able to make it to the polls on election day. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) introduced similar legislation that failed in the House of Delegates. [Washington Post]

Water Main Issues Continue — Repairs on the broken 30 inch water main at Arlington Blvd and S. Irving Street are expected to take several more days. While draining the pipe on Sunday, a significant pressure drop occurred. Customers may experience low water pressure during peak times (6:00-9:00 a.m and 5:00-9:00 p.m.) and are asked to minimize water use during those times.

Landrum Extends Ray’s Free Burger Special — Owner Michael Landrum has decided to extend the Inauguration special he had been offering at Ray’s to the Third (1650 Wilson Blvd) after closing Ray’s Hell Burger across the street. Customers can get one free “Li’l Devils” burger from 11:30 a.m. until the last burger is given away. “We realized that our office neighbors didn’t get a chance to participate, so we wanted to extend it another day to give them a chance,” Landrum told ARLnow.com. It is suggested that customers receiving a free burger donate $5, which will go to local Boys and Girls Clubs.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by Katie Pyzyk January 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm 4,353 21 Comments

Senate page Jarrod Nagurka and President ObamaAn Arlington teen is doing a lot of storytelling about what he did on New Year’s Eve. He wasn’t out partying with friends, but instead spent Monday working as a page while the Senate scrambled to pass fiscal cliff legislation.

Jarrod Nagurka said he had a short break as the clock struck midnight, so he watched the New York City ball drop on a television in the Senate Democratic cloakroom.

“Nothing could be cooler than spending New Year’s in the Senate,” said Nagurka. “I was joking around with one of the senators that hopefully I’ll have quite a few more New Year’s Eves, but my days spending New Year’s Eve in the Senate are probably numbered.”

The last time the Senate worked on New Year’s Eve was in 1995, so this week’s occurrence is rather rare. The vote happened around 2:00 a.m. on January 1, after a series of long days. Nagurka said he put in around 80 hours of work in the eight days he served as a page over the past couple of weeks.

Nagurka, who just celebrated his 19th birthday yesterday, is originally from Arlington and is in his freshman year at the University of Virginia. He was one of 30 students chosen from across the country to participate in the page program in the fall of 2010. Knowing that Nagurka is local and would be on break from school, he was asked to return as a page during the recent fiscal cliff session. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even took a moment on the Senate floor to thank Nagurka and the few other pages who were able to help out.

“We have 18-year-old Jarrod Nagurka, of Arlington. He gave up his winter break to be here,” Reid said. “I want the record to reflect our deep appreciation for [the pages], and I wish them the very best in their future endeavors.”

Back in 2010, Reid gave a lengthy speech thanking Nagurka and a page from Maryland, calling them “legislative heroes.” Reid said they took on the work of 30 legislative pages, and that pages are hard to come by for legislative sessions suddenly occurring around the holidays. Nagurka said due to the serious nature of the fiscal cliff situation, he didn’t expect accolades this time around and was honored that Reid still recognized him.

“When he thanked me on early Tuesday morning, it was really short and that’s understandable because it was right before the vote,” said Nagurka. “Back in 2010, it was longer, but look, he doesn’t have to do any of that. I certainly appreciate that he and others recognize we were there.”

Nagurka acknowledged many Americans’ frustrations with how the fiscal cliff situation played out, but he urged citizens to look at things from a different perspective.

“I think a lot off people have a tendency to say [senators are] not doing their job and they’re putting their work off,” said Nagurka. “I think people need to realize it’s not just one senator running the country. It’s like you have 100 CEOs trying to run one company. You have people who are ideologically on different ends of the spectrum, so I think that’s where the gridlock occurs. There are certainly parts of the bill that are tough to swallow, but it’s the first time in 20 years that they voted in the Senate for tax increases.”

Jarrod Nagurka and the other 2010 Senate Pages with John Kerry and Hillary ClintonSenate page duties typically include taking care of odd jobs that allow senators to remain on the floor. For instance, Nagurka said he has been asked to do everything from providing a glass of water to delivering legislative paperwork.

“As small of a role as a page plays, it’s kind of cool to contribute to making the Senate run and observe the workings,” he said. “What’s kind of cool for me is I almost felt like a fly on the wall. You really hear the conversations and the inner workings of the Senate, which is really not an experience too many people are fortunate enough to have.”

Although he’s currently majoring in economics, Nagurka isn’t ruling out a career in politics at some time in the future.

“I think politics is definitely something I’ll keep open,” he said. “Political process is so rare, and sometimes people take it for granted in this country.”

Nagurka also is not ruling out another opportunity to work as a Senate page.

“If the Senate was brought back at some unusual time again, I’d expect to go back and help out.”

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