Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - April 9, 2017

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Mark in the News

Disputed timeline for Alexandria sewer fix gets General Assembly vote Wednesday
Inside NOVA

Potomac River Cleanup Extension Rejected by Legislature
Del Ray Patch

State Senate Says "No"
Alexandria Times

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Or by mail and phone:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
571-234-8481

In Mammoth 8+ Hour-Long Post-Veto Session,
Virginia Democrats Sustained Every Single One!

After carefully reading the vetoes and Governor's amendments all weekend, I was delighted to see I supported every single one. The Republicans had passed bills that would have allowed discrimination against the LGBT community, made it easier for more people to carry more guns in more places, given millions of dollars of your taxpayer money to big coal companies, endangered refugees, limited workers' rights and wages, restricted voting rights even further, vilified undocumented immigrants, taken funding and control away from our local school boards, kicked our most vulnerable residents off of public assistance, and repealed the Virginia portions of the Affordable Care Act.

During session, I had strongly opposed each and every one of these bills already. So it was such a pleasure to see that the Governor and I were 100% sympatico. And it reminded me again how essential it is that we elect a Democratic Governor this November to remain as a brick wall against these awful ideas that would otherwise become law. It was necessary for Governor McAuliffe to veto 111 bills during his four years as our Governor. We Democrats in the General Assembly sustained every single one. Now that the Constitution prohibits him from running for another term, we need to make sure a Democrat stays in the Governor's Mansion, lest these bad bills become law next year.


I arrived in Richmond on Tuesday, just in time for the pre-veto session at the Governor's Mansion, where he gave us a pep talk to encourage our support. I was an easy sell. That morning, I got up at 6 am and was at the Capitol by 8 for a Caucus breakfast and 10 am strategy session, with one last pep talk by Governor McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.

That was the just the beginning of a long day. Armed with the Calendar for the day, my House-issued iPad, the rules of procedure, the Governor's priorities, two chocolate chip cookies, and a Diet Dr. Pepper, I was ready to go!

We worked all day casting votes from Noon until after 8:30 pm on more than 100 bills.

Candid picture from the Visitors' Gallery, as I keep an eye on the Calendar, my notes, and text of the bills on my iPad.

Below are some of the bills I stood up to address on the House Floor:

Defending Immigrants

In these times, with Trump's dangerous rhetoric instilling fear in so many of our communities, it is more important than ever that we stand against the anti-immigrant sentiment we've seen out of Washington. Unfortunately, Republicans were all too quick to attack these same communities, proposing a bill HB 2000 that would have enlisted localities in Trump's ICE roundups and force local police to participate. I was pleased to see the Governor veto this bill, and I was determined to make sure that his veto was sustained. After some House Republicans disingenuously insisted that the bill would do nothing but make clear that localities can't override federal law, I pulled out my pocket Constitution to show that if that's truly all their law would do, it would be completely unnecessary and duplicative. Sometimes the shortest speeches can be the most effective. Click the 20-second video below to watch.

Fortunately, we were able to sustain the Governor's veto and ensure the defeat of this awful bill.

Defending Alexandria (CSO)

More than 800 old cities up and down the East Coast operate on a "combined sewer overflow system" (CSO) that combines sewage with storm water in one pipe. Alexandria is one of these old cities. Even though the vast majority of Alexandria today has the modern dual-pipe system, a little under a square mile of Old Town Alexandria still dumps raw sewage mixed with stormwater into the Potomac River when it rains and the sewer overflows. Yuck.

Alexandria's Combined Sewer Overflows may have the finest 19th-century plumbing technology, but they are woefully out of date today. That's why, even though there has been no violation of law or regulation, Alexandria's Mayor and City Council have still decided to repair this almost two-centuries-old system and stop dumping this waste into the river.

Unfortunately, the fix is neither simple nor cheap. Making sure the CSO dumps sewage dramatically less often involves constructing several massive underground tunnels and chambers containing more than ten million gallons of the rain water/sewage mixture (most of which is rain water) to be stored during storm events until it can be sanitized by our 21st-century Alexandria Renew water-treatment facility. The process will take more than ten years to complete and cost almost $400 million. Your sewer fees are expected to go up six-fold.

Richmond, Lynchburg, Washington DC, and other older cities up and down the East Coast have also struggled with their CSOs and taken decades to do the same thing Alexandria has been tasked with doing by its local Government. Every city finds that repairing the sewers takes a lot of time, disruption, and cost. Even then, while the problem is greatly diminished, it never goes away. In massive rain storms, some amount of raw sewage will always be deposited in the river. In fact, Washington DC after it completes its repairs will still dump more sewage in the Potomac than Alexandria does today. Fortunately, as bad as it sounds, raw sewage actually causes less environmental damage to the river than other pollutants currently dumped in it. Manure is a natural fertilizer while coal ash (which contains toxic poisons like arsenic) and industrial waste contain much larger health risks to our environment.

Republicans in the General Assembly have insisted for many years that these greater pollutants be dumped into Virginia's waterways with little or nor regulation. But unlike the toxic coal ash and industrial waste that often is dumped in our waterways from jurisdictions they represent, raw sewage comes only from these old CSOs. This gave Republicans (and a few Democrats) a chance to ignore the environmental damage their jurisdictions have been causing and attack Alexandria with gusto. They supported a punitive measure giving Alexandria an impossible deadline. Alexandria would be asked to repair its CSO under a timeframe that no city in Virginia -- or likely the country -- had ever been able to meet.

Fortunately, the Governor came up with reasonable amendments that still required Alexandria to fix the problem but gave us time to do so based on engineering science and the likelihood of finding historical artifacts beneath our almost 170-year-old city. I stood up on the Floor to explain why the Governor's Amendments were necessary, which you can see by clicking on the video below.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly rejected these reasonable amendments, and given the Governor's expected veto, there will probably be no 2017 law at all on the issue.

Of course, bill or no bill, we must fix the problem. But we must do so in a responsible way.

I will be urging with equal vigor that Alexandria proceed with the necessary repairs as soon as practically possibleand that the Governor veto the original punitive legislation that will be returned to him after the Republicans defeated his reasonable amendments. After the Governor makes his decision, I have invited the other four members of Alexandria's legislative delegation, along with the Mayor and the City Council to join me at a town hall in early May to give all of you the details on what you may expect on this issue and to answer any questions -- technical, engineering, budgetary, political, or otherwise -- that you may have. Stay tuned to this newsletter for details on this town hall as we plan it. (It is currently tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, May 10.)

Defending Arlington (Predatory Towing)

Since being elected, I've regularly heard complaints from my constituents about predatory towing. That's why I introduced a bill this year to give localities the flexibility they need to give more representation to the public and to the business community on towing advisory boards. Sadly, this bill was rejected by the House Republicans.

Then the Republicans went further. They tried to prevent all of Northern Virginia from regulating towing in the exact same manner that localities they represent do today.

Virginia law currently allows localities to impose certain rules on towing companies in their jurisdictions, such as requiring a business to actually authorize towing a specific car rather than permitting blanket agreements to allow any towing operator to tow any car at any time from these businesses without seeking further permission. Some businesses don't mind people parking after hours or people walking to ATMs before patronizing their facilities. And that's why cities like Virginia Beach and Arlington require a business to actually agree to a specific tow, rather than allowing the towing of every car at all times without asking the business at the time if it's ok.

The Republicans proposed a bill that would continue to allow Virginia Beach the leeway it needed to prohibit predatory towing but would bar Arlington from having the exact same law. Get it? Republicans trust local control only to Republican-controlled cities but want to punish Arlington which, like Alexandria, tends to vote for Democrats.

Apparently, local control and equality under the law just aren't principles Republicans can support. The bill was even introduced by Northern Virginia Republican Delegate Tim Hugo, who would punish the very constituents he represents in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties!

The Governor offered an amendment that would have restored equal towing-regulation authority statewide, and I stood up on the floor to challenge the bill's patron. I asked Hugo if it was true that the Governor's Amendments would make this towing standard apply to all of Virginia equally. Hugo replied inaccurately that the Governor wanted to only affect Planning District 8 (i.e Northern Virginia, including Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William). Actually it was Hugo's bill that only affected Planning District 8 and the Governor's Amendment that would have applied the same towing standard to both Virginia Beach and Arlington. Frankly, I was astonished that Hugo repeatedly dodged the question. You can watch our exchange by clicking on the video below.

When I attempted to explain the issue, the Speaker cut me off and said that he was "getting tired of this." Well, I know that my constituents are getting tired of our region being singled out by House Republicans. How petty that Republicans would try to pass a law overruling a predatory towing local ordinance in Democratic Northern Virginia while allowing the exact same predatory-towing ordinance in Republican Virginia Beach. And how ironic that a Northern Virginia Republican would be the one trying to discriminate against his own constituents! I hope that we will elect Democrat Donte Tanner to replace Tim Hugo in his Fairfax/Loudoun district. I'm confident Donte Tanner, unlike Tim Hugo, will put his constituents first.

And I promise that I will keep fighting for you, and I will never get tired of it.


We worked into the night, with only a brief 20-minute recess where I brought some good friends of mine to meet the Governor who was waiting at the Governor's Mansion for us to finish.

And then it was finally over. At 8:32 pm, the House of Delegates moved to adjourn for the year sine die.

We returned to the Governor's Mansion and said goodbye to some retiring legislators, including the House Speaker and my friend and colleague Daun Hester.

As night descended on the Capitol, I could finally turn to leave, secure in the knowledge that we Democrats had stood up for the principles that the great majority of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax residents in the 45th District elected me to uphold.

Final Result: 111-0!


Defending LGBT Kids in Alexandria

As your delegate, I don't see my role as solely limited to defending children in Richmond. Sometimes it's important to defend children at home as well. That's why I've been proud to support Safe Spaces, the new non-profit dedicated to helping some of our most at-risk youth in Alexandria, LGBT teens. Click here to hear my remarks.

Click the picture above to watch my remarks in support of Safe Space.


Please stand with us.

We need to elect more Democrats this November. If you support the work I'm doing, could you please help me raise more funds for the House Democratic Caucus?  

Simply put, the more funds we get the more campaigns we can fund and the better chance we have to get a Democratic majority.

Donate

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Back on Radio/TV

My radio show is back on the air. You can catch it from 3-4pm every Monday and Wednesday onMarkLevineTalk.com and on Facebook Live. I'm occasionally on television as well. Check my radio/TV website for details.

Upcoming Events I Will Be Attending:
(Please join me)

Tuesday, April 11 at 10:30 am
Sexual and Domestic Violence Committee

House Room 2, State Capitol, Richmond

Wednesday, April 12 at 7:00 pm
Delegate Alfonso Lopez's Democratic Straw Poll

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington

Sunday, April 15 at 11:30 am
Senator Barbara Favola's Take Action Brunch with Ralph Northam

2319 18th St N, Arlington

Tuesday, April 25 at Noon
Alexandria Holocaust Remembrance

Market Square, Alexandria

Thursday, April 27 at 6:00 pm
Rally Against Rape

Gateway Park, Arlington

Sunday, April 30 2 - 4 pm
Mark's Monthly Meetup

Los Tios Restaurant in Del Ray
2615 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.


Delegate Mark Levine

Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax
     in Virginia's 45th District

P.S. With session over, I expect my future newsletters will be dramatically shorter. But if you've read all the way through and appreciate the hard work I've done, please consider a small donation. :-)