From the ongoing debate over Confederate statues to the cutting edge of body-camera technology, Alexandria’s City Council considered a series of local and statewide topics to be addressed in the upcoming state legislative session.
At its Oct. 25 meeting, the City Council received Alexandria’s 2017 legislative package. The package is a list of requests and recommendations made by the City of Alexandria to the Virginia State Legislature.
Several of the items are local efforts to weigh in on controversial statewide decisions. Item A-5 reaffirms the city’s annual request for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to include all individuals with incomes up to and including 133 percent of the federal poverty index. The current federal poverty index for an individual is roughly $11,000 a year or $19,000 for a family of three. According to the legislative package, the expanded coverage will be paid for entirely by the federal government for the first three years of the program; after which the federal government will cover 90 percent of the cost, and the state is responsible for 10 percent of the coverage. The expansion has been blocked in previous years by the legislature’s Republican majority over concerns that the state would gradually become responsible for more and more of the expanded Medicaid coverage.
“The governor is likely to propose [the expanded coverage] this year,” said Bernard Caton, the legislative director for the city, “but I don’t think it will be successful.”
Caton expressed similar views on efforts for the state to provide funding to localities to cover the cost of body worn cameras for the police. The legislative package does not recommend any legislation on body worn cameras, but states that the city will review any bills that arise and will make recommendations to the local delegation.
“There still is a need for a legal framework around body worn cameras in the Commonwealth,” said Vice Mayor Justin Wilson. “Some jurisdictions piloting them are findings gaps. I think additional clarity from the state as far as standards and, frankly, financial assistance are all desired things with body worn cameras. Anything the state can help us do to pave that road is positive.”
Caton said bills had been proposed in previous years to apply legal standards on issues surrounding body worn cameras, but they came from localities across the state and weren’t widely applicable.
“It would be better for legislation to come out of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police rather than out of one locality, but we will look at anything that comes forward,” said Caton. “And last year there was a bill that would have provided funding [to localities for body worn cameras], but don’t hold your breath.”
The legislative package also includes recommendations supporting undocumented immigrants being allowed to obtain driver's’ licenses and supporting the restoration of votings rights for felons.
Locally, the question of moving the Appomattox statue is raised again in the legislative package. Legislation passed by the state in 1890 requires the statue to remain in its current location. As part of the city’s review of Confederate iconography in Alexandria, the City Council voted on Sept. 17 to seek authorization from the General Assembly to move the Appomattox statue to the nearby corner of the Lyceum. At the time, both Wilson and members of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials expressed doubts that the legislature would approve the move. Silberberg had proposed at the time that the city reach out to statue’s owners, the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, to support the move. At the Oct. 25 meeting, Silberberg said that despite cordial discussions between herself and members of the local members of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the city did not get their support on the proposal to move the statue.