Alexandria’s state delegation and City Council are pushing legislation for school investment, voting reform, and gun restrictions, among other initiatives, at the state’s 2019 General Assembly, which convened this week.
The General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, Jan 9 and will conclude on Saturday, Feb. 23. Legislators will decide on Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) proposed amendments to the FY 2019-2020 biennial budget. Northam’s proposed adjustments include numerous that are “of interest” to Alexandria, according to a memo from City Manager Mark Jinks. For instance: $25 million in state bonds for Alexandria’s sewer upgrades; a 2 percent pay bump for public school teachers; about $160 million for various education investments; $19 million in one-time money to the state’s Housing Trust Fund.
The assembly will also decide on some 500 bills and resolutions submitted so far by state senators and house delegates. The three senators and two delegates whose districts include parts of Alexandria have together so far introduced 44 bills or resolutions, and have signed onto many others as well. For instance:
- Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) introduced, and Del. Mark Levine (D-45) signed onto, legislation that would decriminalize simple marijuana possession (SB 997); prohibit discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (SB 998); repeal prohibitions against same-sex marriage in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (SB 1007, SJ 251); and prohibit the manufacture, sale and possession of devices, including “bump stocks,” designed to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle.
- Sen. George Barker (D-39) introduced legislation that would nearly double the minimum instructional hours in a school year for kindergarten students (SB 1278); double the number of auxiliary grants (income supplements) for persons with disabilities in assisted living or adult foster care facilities (SB 1286); and prohibit health insurance discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status (SB 1287).
- Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-35) introduced legislation that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress in 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, but never ratified by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures (SJ 270); require background checks for the purchase and transfer of firearms (SB 1162); increase the minimum age that a juvenile can be tried as an adult in circuit court for a felony from 14 to 16 (SB 1263); and restrict high-interest lending practices, especially motor vehicle title lending (SB 1266).
- Del. Charniele Herring (D-46) introduced legislation that would remove current restrictions on voting by absentee ballot (HB 1641); and ease restrictions on public health practitioners to provide antibiotic therapy to the sexual partner of a patient diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.
City Council also weighs in, especially through Sarah Taylor, the city government’s legislative director. Taylor engages state legislators, staff and committees throughout the year, especially during the General Assembly, to support or oppose legislation in accordance with council’s interests. Council articulated those interests in its 2019 Legislative Package, adopted in November, and subsequently in positions on 79 specific bills, approved on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Council is keeping its eye on several initiatives related to school construction and modernization, though hasn’t yet endorsed any. In addition to the governor’s proposed budget amendments, options include a subcommittee’s proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Bill Stanley’s (R-20), to use Internet sales tax revenue to back bonds for schools; and legislation introduced by Del. James Edmunds (R-60) that would allow additional local sales and use tax for schools.
Here’s a sampling of legislation that council supports:
- HB 1763: enable certain judges or magistrates to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm;
- HB 1646: permits any local school board to offer surplus Virginia Preschool Initiative slots to children who aren’t at risk, but for a fee;
- SJ 261 / SJ 262: removes from current state constitutional qualifications to vote not having been convicted of a felony and not having been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent;
- SB 1070 / HB 1669: authorizes localities to impose tax on certain disposable paper bags and disposable plastic bags provided to consumers by certain retailers;
- SB 1017 / HB 1850: increases the minimum wage;
- HB 1629: removes the requirement for newspaper publication of Requests for Proposals for professional services;
- SJ 265: initiates a study on reducing the minimum recycling rate for municipal solid waste
Here’s a sampling of legislation that council opposes:
- SB 1033 / 1052: establishes that police body-worn camera recordings are not part of the public record;
- SB 1038: requires the general registrars to verify that the name, date of birth, and social security number provided by an applicant on the voter registration application before registering such applicant;
- HB 1667: imposes a statute of limitations for a public body to bring action on a construction contract, including any warranty or guarantee, or a performance bond.
Learn more at virginiageneralassembly.gov; watch video of House and Senate floor and committee proceedings by following the “Members and Session” link to the left. Track bills through Virginia’s Legislative Information System, lis.virginia.gov.