Overall, it’s been a disappointing season for Alexandria’s legislators. At the City Council meeting on March 21, national and state elected officials returned home to testify to the council about the results from Richmond and Washington D.C.
The one crowning success for Alexandria in the state legislature was a push for state funding to the Metro system. State Sen. George Barker, who had helped draft the legislation, told the council that the state legislature will give the Metro system the full $154 million per year requested.
“This is something that hasn’t been done before,” said Barker. “This is three different state entities coming together on our own to put this together. It’s needed and critical. The Metro is important to the economy of the Washington Metropolitan Area. It’s vitally and critically important to the economy of Virginia. If we don’t fix this now, it will be doing damage to the economy of Virginia.”
However, Barker said the legislature is still bitterly divided over Medicaid expansion issues. While many Republicans in the House of Delegates have come out in favor of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, Republicans in the Senate remain deeply entrenched against expansion, warning that it’s reliant on unstable funding from the federal government.
“The Medicaid expansion is why we don’t have a budget right now,” said Barker. “The House and Senate disagree. Senate Republicans have taken the position that they don’t want any vote on it until they have a caucus.”
Del. Charniele Herring said that 2018 has been an unusually cooperative session on the House of Delegates side. The one stumbling block she said the bipartisanship faced, she said, was on gun control.
“Our one bad day was, of course, for gun violence,” said Herring. “I’m trying to have faith that everyone wants the same result, it’s just how we get there.”
Sen. Adam Ebbin lamented that even what he saw as his most palatable gun control reform, a bill criminalizing loaded open carry for people who are intoxicated in public, failed.
Del. Mark Levine likewise noted that his five bills adding to the total 69 bills related to gun control were all rejected. These were bills that ranged from banning bump stocks to universal background checks and banning firearms from protests.
“We were very successful on a lot of things, but on gun violence there is a very clear partisan divide,” said Levine.
Of local interest, Levine noted that a bill authorizing the relocation of the Appomattox statue on Prince Street failed, as it has for years.
Ebbin noted that there was a budget proposal to give funding to Alexandria for its multi-year, state-mandated overhaul of its stormwater sewer system. Richmond and Lynchburg has received state funding for similar projects, but the legislature rejected the proposal for Alexandria, though the prospect remains open in years to come to fund it.
“Regardless of that, we have to get this done and we are committed to doing it,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “Other cities had help. It will be $380 million for all four outfalls. It’s a huge lift for us.”
“I heard ‘sometime we might get it’, but when is that?” asked Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper. “Is that the last year? Is that in the next year or two? This is a big lift.”
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer also spoke about progress in Congress, noting that an omnibus spending bill is due later this week, but that Democrat leadership had pulled back from demanding provisions for the protection of Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.