Arlington, VA

Arlington’s leaders will be pushing the state to increase its affordable housing contributions more than five-fold as Democrats head to Richmond after taking control of the House of Delegates and State Senate.

The Arlington County Board will vote this Saturday, November 16, on holding a public hearing about the legislative priorities as the General Assembly prepares to convene in Richmond for the 2020 legislative session between January 8 and March 7. The draft document lists a number of priorities Arlington leaders hope its state delegates and senators will also push during the 60-day period.

One priority is calling for Virginia to add $100 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund in the budget for fiscal years 2020-2022 in a bid to solve the area’s persistent housing squeeze. The fund offers low-interest loans to offset developer’s costs when building affordable homes — a program Arlington’s Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has pushed to increase funding to since founding it three years ago but failed when Republicans blocked the budget proposal this winter.

In addition to the public hearing, the County Board is also due to discuss legislative priorities during a work session with the county’s state representatives on Tuesday, December 3 from 3-5 p.m. in the Bozman Government Center in Courthouse (2100 Clarendon Blvd).

Increasing the state fund to $100 million would match Lopez’s recommendations. It also comes on the heels of Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol saying the county was “trying to fill a really big hole” when it came to funding local projects like the 160-unit affordable housing building on the site of the American Legion Post 139.

The Virginia Housing Trust Fund contributed $700,000 for that project — an amount dwarfed by the $13,000,000 loaned by the county’s own affordable housing fund to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

However, some experts warn that the shortage of affordable housing units could displace hundreds of thousands of D.C. area residents in the next 20 years, including some 20,000 Arlingtonians.

Lawmakers added $5.5 million in the last legislative session, upping the total amount to $9.5 million, reported the Washington Post.

Increasing the funds even more in the upcoming session would also make legislators’ incentive promise to Amazon to contribute at least $75 million towards affordable housing in Northern Virginia over the next five years a reality. Arlington and Alexandria have also pitched the Crystal City-area to Amazon by promising to spend $150 million on affordable housing over the next decade amid concerns that Amazon’s incoming workforce at its new headquarters could spike housing prices.

Amazon itself announced a $3 million donation to affordable housing in Arlington earlier this year, citing the fact the county has “fewer than 25 apartments dedicated for the lowest-income individuals and families who can live independently.”

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is scheduled to introduce his proposal for Virginia’s state budget for fiscal years 2020-2022 on December 17. The General Assembly will then deliberate on the budget during its January session.

Other proposed legislative priorities for Arlington include more state funding for Metro, more local tax authority, additional state funding for school, state funding for the Long Bridge rail project, drivers licenses for non-citizen, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and more leeway for localities to mandate tree preservation on private property.

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Last week, we asked the two candidates in the 32nd District state Senate race to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election. 

Here is the unedited response from Republican challenger Arthur Purves.

I am running to end racial inequality in Virginia public schools.  This is my eighth race in 24 years, and every time I have run on the same platform:  to end racial inequality in public schools by bringing back phonics, arithmetic drill, history, the Lord’s Prayer,  and the Ten Commandments, instead of tax hikes, busing, and police.

The minority student achievement gap that is so visible in high school actually appears in 4thgrade reading and math test scores, because reading and arithmetic are not taught successfully in early elementary school.

The most important years in anyone’s education are grades 1-3 because that’s where students are supposed to master reading and arithmetic facts.  If a student has not mastered reading and basic arithmetic by 4th grade, his academic and economic futures are ruined.  He is doomed to poverty, dependency, perhaps crime, and cannot get a good job, afford to marry, support a family, and father his children.  The resulting demand for welfare, Medicaid, and corrections drives up taxes and siphons money from transportation.

The reason for the low minority test scores in 4thgrade reading and arithmetic is the John Dewey (different from the Dewey of the Dewey decimal system used in libraries) “progressive education” that wrecked American public schools about a century ago. Dewey, a socialist and an atheist, taught at Columbia University Teachers College from 1904 to 1930.  He is considered the Aristotle of modern education.  He and his colleagues wanted America to become socialist, and to that end they developed a curriculum to dumb down the American public.

They replaced phonics with “whole word”, which expects children to memorize words without being able to sound them out.  “Whole word” has created a nation of 14 million dyslexics and an epidemic of ADD and ADHD, which are often associated with reading and learning disabilities.  They said arithmetic drill was unnecessary (“drill and kill”); now we have a STEM crisis.  They crowded out history with Social Studies, so Americans today do not know their history.

Dewey wanted the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments to be replaced by secularism, which the Supreme Court mandated the 1960s.  The absence of religious restraint on the human character has resulted in family breakdown, domestic disputes instead of domestic tranquility, 40% of births outside of marriage, and is the underlying cause of violence, including gun violence. Gun violence is prevalent where fatherlessness is prevalent.  Fathers are the best form of gun control, and the Ten Commandments are the only gun control laws that ever worked.

Affluent children, who are generally white and Asian, learn phonics and basic arithmetic from their families.  The families of low-income children, who are generally Hispanic and African American are unable to teach at home what they were counting on the schools to teach, so Hispanic and African American children fall behind.  Thus, racial inequality in America is caused by the public schools’ embrace of “progressive education,” and not by the Founding Fathers. The legacy of “progressive education” is decades of racial inequality.  However, Dewey’s real goal is happening:  Forty percent of Americans support socialism.  To see the fruits of socialism, visit West Baltimore or North Philadelphia.

“Progressive education” has persuaded the public that low-income children cannot learn.  This is false.  They would learn with phonics and arithmetic drill.

The Virginia General Assembly is responsible for public schools.  However, for the 28 years my opponent, Senator Janet Howell, has served in the Virginia Senate, she has failed to “… ensure … an educational program of high quality …” as mandated by Article VIII of the Virginia constitution. Her solution is tax hikes.  She voted to raise the sales tax, a regressive tax, from 4.5% to 6%.  During her tenure, state spending on education increased from $4 billion a year to $15 billion, which was $5 billion more than needed to keep up with population and inflation.  And what has our “investment” in education bought?  Decades of racial inequality.

For 24 years my solutions have been ignored, while racial inequality, tax hikes, and gun violence have prevailed.  It’s time to vote for Arthur Purves Nov. 5, so you can have a voice in Richmond to stop raising taxes and instead fix the school curriculum to end racial inequality in public schools.  Ending racial inequality in public schools will end it in society as a whole.  That is a progressive goal I share with the citizens of Arlington!

Editor’s note: Purves’ opponent, Democratic incumbent Sen. Janet Howell, did not submit an essay by last night’s deadline. 

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Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the State Senate race for the 31st District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.

Here is the unedited response from Nicole Merlene:

This Tuesday, June 11th, I hope you vote for a change by voting for me to represent you in the Virginia State Senate in the 31st District. A change for you to be represented by someone who prioritizes public transportation, spearhead infrastructure projects that improve our District’s parks, schools, and housing developments. With your vote, I hope to put our district on a track for continued, sustainable growth, and prioritizes an environment we should be proud to leave for future generations. A change away from representation that is representing themselves for private pay over the interests of the 31st District, and voting against our interests on transportation, development, and the environment because of donor influence. I want to help improve the schools I attended, the parks I played in as a child, the transportation system I use every day to get to work.

Transportation 

Why Me: Northern Virginia is a transient community. 2/3 of Arlington residents work outside of Arlington. We have systems in place from our buses to roads that do not prioritize regional travel causing unnecessarily long travel times. For example, we have a funding mechanism at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority that by and large has localities submitting separate proposals for roads and highways without regional vision; Arlington, Fairfax, DC, Loudoun, all have their own bus systems that rarely cross jurisdictional boundaries.

As a region must also commit to being forward thinking on projects like high speed rail to connect multiple employment hubs across the east coast. My goal will never be to get “#Back2Good“. My goal will be state of the art. I am proud to be endorsed by Greater Greater Washington, the region’s thought leader on transportation and housing policy, for my vision on how to literally move the region forward.

Why Not My Opponent: Sitting on the Transportation Committee – it is not their priority. Has introduced more bills to toll I-495, I-66, and on towing than anything related to public roads and our public transportation system – after the tolling and towing industry were some of their largest donors (1, 2, 3) – putting in place regressive policy to tax favoring private over public infrastructure.

Development & Economy

Why Me: Due to Virginia being a Dillon Rule state, issues from flexibility for affordable housing zoning laws, allowing taxing flexibility on commercial real estate that would incentivize lower rents to support small and medium sized businesses, allowing local government to negotiate with developers to support local infrastructure, to connecting our schools to employers for 21st Century Jobs — all require state level action. Having experience from the civic association to economic development level, and a professional background in investment policy, I have what it takes to be your leader on development and economic policy in Richmond.

Why Not My Opponent: Sitting on the Local Government’s Committee – it is not their priority. Voted for the 2016 Proffer Bill that cut local government’s ability to negotiate with developers to give back affordable housing and other infrastructure funds to offset overdevelopment. This past session introduced a replacement bill that barely puts a dent in reversing the detrimental effects of what was passed in 2016.

Environment

Why Me: Environmental protections need to be baked into every policy that is written, from our roads to buildings. I would prioritize increased energy efficiency standards, alternative energy and solar freedom, expanding our state parks, and preserving our watershed – as this district is gerrymandered along the Potomac River. I believe in a green economy where we can do things like take our, now un-recycled glass, and transform it into road pavement in a joint venture with Fairfax and other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. I am proud to have been endorsed by leadership of the Arlington Tree Action Group and Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks for my commitment to preserving our parks, greenspace, and watershed.

Why Not My Opponent: After pledging not to take money from Dominion Energy, the state regulated utility that has been a massive hinderance to moving environmental legislation forward, my opponent immediately broke her pledge and took money from Dominion Energy lobbyists just weeks later.

There is no Republican challenger in this race and the winner of the Primary is likely to be your next State Senator. I hope to be your choice to represent the interests of our community in Richmond. This is just the beginning of a continued two-way policy conversation between you, and I, as your representative.

I humbly ask for your vote on June 11th.

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Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the State Senate race for the 31st District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.

Here is the unedited response from Barbara Favola:

Why you should vote for me.

It is a privilege to represent you in the Virginia State Senate. I am enthusiastically running for a third term to continue to fight for our Democratic values in Richmond. I am an effective lawmaker and recognized leader on progressive issues. My colleagues frequently refer to me as a pragmatic progressive.

My fourteen years of experience as an Arlington County Board member and a three-time chair of that body instilled in me the importance of governing in a pragmatic fashion while honoring the principles of equity and opportunity. Even though the General Assembly has been controlled by Republicans during my entire time in Richmond, I have passed over 40 bills that have improved the quality of life for Virginians.

My proudest accomplishment was requiring Virginia to participate in a Federal program to assist former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 continue with their education or job training. These youths were often left homeless and vulnerable to drug dealers and human trafficking. My legislation enables them to find a pathway forward that recognizes their talents and sets them up for success.

I have worked tirelessly to increase teacher pay, create smaller class sizes and reduce the number of SOLs. My efforts have resulted in fewer standardized tests, a more comprehensive approach to assessing academic progress and recognition of the contributions project-based learning provides. Going forward, I want to build on my record of passing anti-bullying legislation and bringing mental health services into the schools. I proudly carry the endorsement of the Virginia Education Association.

This past session, I introduced a bill that would provide debt-free community college for high-need workforce tracks. This idea garnered a lot of buy-in, but more discussions are needed to iron out the details. Our friends in organized Labor applauded the debt-free opportunity as a tool for helping families achieve the equity and opportunity that is often times missing in society. I am also a big supporter of increasing the minimum wage, preventing wage theft and requiring paid family leave. Once again, I enjoy the endorsement of all the organized Labor groups that are weighing-in on the 31st Senate primary race.

Gun Safety is an issue that must be addressed. However, real progress can only happen if the Democrats gain control of both Houses. I have repeatedly introduced or supported legislation that would require background checks wherever firearms are sold, ban high capacity magazines and stop the manufacture and sale of bump stocks in Virginia. Fortunately, I was able to pass a bill that requires an individual who violates a protective order to forfeit his firearms. The NoVA chapter of the Brady Group has endorsed me because of my tireless work on gun safety issues.

I am passionate about tackling climate change, including efforts to reduce carbon emissions and diversify our energy sources. Because of my work to facilitate the capture of solar energy and enable residences or businesses to sell excess solar back to the grid, I earned the Energy Freedom award from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club in 2018. Much more progress is needed but rest assured, I will continue to fight for sensible environmental policies.

As chair of the Women’s Healthcare Caucus in the Senate, I will continue to work to codify Roe vs Wade in Virginia. It is incredibly important that women be allowed to exercise their constitutionally protected right to privacy when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

I believe Senator Kaine captured the essence of my public service in his statement endorsing me. “I know Senator Favola will serve with our shared values of fairness and justice in mind, I’m proud to endorse Senator Favola’s candidacy for a third term in the Virginia Senate.”

Given my experience, leadership and ability to work across the aisle, I am best positioned to provide a pathway forward for the change we want. I respectfully ask for your vote on June 11.

Sincerely,

Senator Barbara Favola (D 31)

Representing parts of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun

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Disagreements over campaign contributions and criminal justice reform during a debate last night revealed fault lines between some of the Democrats running for the party’s nomination.

Six candidates running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, state Senator and Delegate who sparred during the Wednesday night debate agreed on green energy and defeating Republicans. But their disagreements on other topics showed that even in an all-Democratic playing field there are shades of blue.

One area of disagreement was campaign contributions.

Sen. Barbara Favola was asked by a moderator why she continued to accept contributions from the controversial Advanced Towing company in light of complaints about employees allegedly towing a vehicle with the owner’s pet still inside.

The state senator called the story “extraordinary unfortunate” but said that the solution was for people “to go back to the landowner and complain about the contract” they have with a company.

Her challenger, Nicole Merlene hit back by referring to the 2017 NBC 4 report that Advanced Towing gave Favola $1,500 in campaign contributions after she voted to loosen towing regulations and allegedly convinced then-Governor Terry McAuliffe to do the same.

Favola said she voted “with the county” and that “what Governor McAuliffe had decided to do is Governor McAuliffe’s prerogative.”

Both candidates spoke in strong support of increasing affordable housing and paying interns.

A flash point Wednesday night was the issue of criminal justice reform.

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Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia State Senate worked on legislation addressing issues like healthcare, green energy, and teacher’s pay this year.

Three Democrats represent the county in the state Senate — Janet Howell, Barbara Favola, and Adam Ebbin. All of the senators are running for re-election this year.

Virginia’s 2019 legislative session lasted from January 9 to February 24. Here’s what each state Senator said were their biggest legislative accomplishments during that time. (We asked the same of Arlington’s House of Delegates delegation earlier this week.)

Sen. Adam Ebbin

Ebbin has served in the state senate for seven years, following eight years in the House of Delegates. He currently faces no Democratic challengers to his campaign for re-election.

The senator told ARLnow through a spokesman Wednesday he was “pleased to make progress” on legislation about “renewable energy, criminal justice reform, as well as career and technical education” during this year’s session:

SB1779 will permit localities to establish renewable energy net-metering programs. Net-metering can help counties, cities, and towns grow their local economy. Municipalities will save taxpayers’ money through developing and using green energy, generating savings that can be invested in local priorities such as schools, public safety, and infrastructure. […]

SB1612, which I have worked on for several years with Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) would have ended the suspension of driver’s licenses for court costs and fees. Though this bill died in the House, Governor Northam introduced a budget amendment to reinstate 627,000 Virginians licenses during our one-day veto session on April 3rd. Unwarranted license suspension disproportionately impacts economically-disadvantaged Virginians without making our communities safer.[…]

I was also able to pass SB1575, which allows college professors to teach dual-enrollment career and technical education courses without additional licensure. This will make it easier for school divisions to offer para-professional career preparation in cybersecurity, EMT and pharmaceutical technician certification. High school students will no longer have to travel to off-campus sites to earn credit towards education in specialized fields.

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Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol will face no Democratic challengers during this year’s primary.

No additional Democratic challengers have filed for candidacy by yesterday’s registration deadline, and staff with the county’s Office of Elections confirmed to ARLnow that there are no other pending filings.

Most of the all-Democratic cast of incumbents up for re-election this year are running an uncontested primary, including:

  • Delegates Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and Patrick Hope
  • State Senators Adam Ebbin, Janet Howell
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy

Only three of the county’s twelve races on the ballot are contested: the race for state Senator from the 31st District, delegate from the 49th District, and Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Arlington’s primary election will welcome voters to the polls on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any voters waiting in line by 7 p.m. can vote.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos is being challenged by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a former public defender who aims to usher in criminal justice reform and said of Stamos: “We can no longer hope for reform from the very same lifelong prosecutors who’ve spent their careers building this flawed machine.”

Stamos, who has served as prosecutor for the last seven years, has drawn support from 50 county attorneys and says the endorsements demonstrate her “record of competence, fairness and decency.”

Del. Alfonso H. Lopez faces challenge from J.D. Spain, Sr., a Marine Corps veteran who helms the local NAACP chapter and said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” on his and Lopez’s take on issues like housing affordability as Amazon’s arrival nears, and the achievement gap between black and white students in APS.

Lopez is the Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates and hasn’t faced a challenger since his first election in 2011.

The last contested race revolves around incumbent state Senator and former County Board member Barbara Favola.

Favola has said her “strong record of accomplishment” during her three terms in Richmond is strong enough to ward off a challenge from Nicole Merlene, who’s been active in various civc groups, including the Arlington County Civic Federation, her local North Rosslyn Civic Association, and Young Democrats. Merlene says she can take “bold action” to solve the region’s transportation and affordable housing woes.

Dorsey and Cristol will running against repeat candidate Audrey Clement in the General Election on November 5. Clement, an independent, is running on a platform of “tax relief for residents and businesses” as well as improvements to housing programs and the county’s basic services.

There are currently no Republican or independent challengers in the running other than Clement, although there has been some speculation that former independent Board Member John Vihstadt may run again, perhaps for School Board, after losing his seat to Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti last November.

Republican and independent challengers have until 7 p.m. on June 11 to register their candidacy.

Last year, Matt de Ferranti’s win for the Democratic nomination came amid low primary turnout. Just 7.7 percent of registered Arlington voters, or 11,500 people, turned up to cast their ballots last year.

Residents voting this year must register at least 30 days before the primaries and can do so online, in person at the Office of Elections at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, or by mailing this application to the Office of Elections.

Registered voters receive a precinct number for their polling number which they can check here.

This year’s primaries will also be the last for Arlington’s election chief Linda Lindberg who announced in February she would be retiring this summer after serving for 16 years as the county’s General Registrar.

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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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(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.

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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.”

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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.

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