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.
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.
Around 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.
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
An 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.”
Senate 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.”