Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - February 28, 2017

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Mark in the News

Majority of Va.lawmakers request video of committee hearings
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A majority of Va. legislators call for recording committee meetings
Daily Press 

Governor McAuliffe Endorses
Delegate Mark Levine for Re-Election

Blue Virginia

VA Dems to challenge GOP state lawmakers in each district Clinton won
The Washington Post

Your View: We Must Convert Anti-Hate Protests into Votes
The Alexandria Times


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Or by mail and phone:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

201 N. 9th St.
Richmond, VA 23219

Session ended Saturday.
It's good to be home in Alexandria.
And now the campaign begins.

Please mark your calendars to vote for my re-election in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 13th.

Check out the press links to the left to see
how we are changing Richmond!


But first, I have big news:

More than 60% of General Assembly Members Join Our Call for
Cameras in the Committee Rooms

A Big Victory for the Virginia Transparency Caucus!

When I first ran for office, I was told how hard it was to change things in Richmond. We were in the minority party, and Republicans were "impossible to work with." Not only do they kill our progressive bills, I was told, but they do it in committee and subcommittee with no recorded votes and very little scrutiny.

So my first act as a Delegate last year -- two days after I was sworn in -- was to reach across the aisle to a tea-party Republican Senator Amanda Chase and form the Virginia Transparency Caucus to start the process of filming subcommittee and committee hearings.

If they were going to kill our bills, I was determined to make them do it in sunlight rather than in darkness. It was considered a "radical idea" to push this, particularly for a new Delegate like myself. Committees and subcommittees traditionally went unrecorded, with the vast majority of these hearings attended only by lobbyists. Many of my colleagues were skeptical, but we forged ahead, as more than 10% of the General Assembly joined our Caucus.

The process got a boost at the beginning of this year. With the help of Progress Virginia, filming and posting online became the rule and not the exception. This year, almost 75% of committee and subcommittee hearings being recorded, the most ever in the history of the Virginia General Assembly.

But today, I'm proud today announce my "radical idea" has gone completely mainstream. On the last day of session, I presented to the Clerk of the House (and Senator Chase presented to the Clerk of the Senate) a letter signed by a majority of Delegates and a majority of Senatorsurging audiovisual and vote recording equipment for committees and subcommittees to be provided in the new General Assembly Building to be constructed in 2018-21, and, if possible, our temporary housing for four years in the Pocahontas Building as well.

Click here to read the letter and see who signed it.

A gratifying 85 out of 140 members of the General Assembly, when pressed to support transparency, did just that. More than 60% of Senators and Delegates -- Republicans and Democrats together -- agreed to bring our deliberations where the vast majority of our bills are crafted (and where the majority are killed) into the light of day for public scrutiny.

It seems that the majority of lawmakers got used to us privately filming the commitee hearings and now wanted to make things official. I guess it wasn't such a "radical idea" after all.

Please Vote for Me on Tuesday, June 13th

If you like what I'm doing to serve you, please mark your calendar to vote for me on Tuesday, June 13th. That is the date of the Democratic Primary, and you will also have an opportunity to weigh in with your choices for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Another Bill Passed: a Victory for Free Speech!

Also on Saturday, the last day of session, the House and Senate unanimously passed HB 1941, a bill I crafted with Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) to punish frivolous lawsuits against protesters speaking out on matters of public concern. The bill I introduced on this matter, HB 2446, was folded into Kilgore's bill, and I became HB 1941's chief co-patron. Why did I introduce the bill?  Check out this Washington Post article, and I'll explain briefly below.

Last year, after several legislators and I discouraged a gun store from opening in a residential area near a day-care center in Arlington, the gun store actually sued us to shut us up. Even worse, this gun store sued more than fifty citizens who did nothing other than attend a protest against it in a public park two blocks away from the store.

This “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”, known as a SLAPP suit, was ridiculous. But more than fifty citizens, the entire Arlington Delegation, and other public officials all had to seek legal counsel to go into court, answer the complaint, and filed motions to dismiss it.

Knowing it had no case, the gun store never even attempted to defend its lawsuit. The day before the motion to dismiss was to be heard by the court, the gun store dismissed the case itself. After all, they had achieved their goal. They could never win an impossible lawsuit, but they could persuade ordinary citizens and lawmakers not to exercise their First Amendment rights by making it expensive to do so.

As the lawsuit had no merit, I never stopped speaking out against the store. But others fell silent. Who can blame them? They didn't want to be sued.

HB 1941 makes immune from civil liability any person speaking out on matters of public concern unless the person speaking out has actual or constructive knowledge that the statements they made are false or made with reckless disregard for whether they are false. Most importantly, any person who has such a frivolous suit against him or her dismissed by this new law may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs.

This is not a partisan issue. Liberals will want to protest gun stores, just like conservatives will want to protest affordable health care. But people should have a right to state their opinions and protest without fearing a lawsuit.

And frankly, given the current President of the United States, I plan to protest more than ever before...

Your Delegate Speaking on the House Floor

and hopefully defending your values...

Vote No on "Uncle Joe's Charter School"

Sorry, Uncle Joe. 
I believe schools should have some basic standards. 
Click above to watch the video.

On Monday, I spoke out against SB 1283, which would allow Richmond bureaucrats to establish charter schools in localities without local approval. The schools would divert money from public schools and then operate without any oversight or control by elected local school boards.

Think that's bad? It gets worse.

The bill exempts these newly-formed, unwanted charter schools from virtually every education requirement in the Virginia Code. My fictional "Uncle Joe" could teach whatever he wanted and avoid such basic requirements as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history. As I argued above, with laughter in the chamber, this may please my Uncle Joe -- who doesn't much like education -- but it shouldn't please anyone in Virginia.

My comments led all Democrats and even a dozen Republicans to oppose the bill, and while it still narrowly passed 53-46, I believe the Governor will veto the legislation. Just four more votes and we would have defeated it ourselves. Click here to view my floor speech.

Don't Hide Gun Records from Law Enforcement!

On Wednesday, I spoke in opposition to SB 1023, which would prohibit the Commonwealth of Virginia from sharing information regarding concealed handgun permits with law enforcement in states with more strict gun regulation than we have in Virginia. As I argued, this bill would make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs and make them less safe. Click here to view my comments.  After I made my argument the Republican Chair of the Courts of Justice committee stood up to say, "As much as I hate to admit, the Gentleman from Alexandria has a point." The House of Delegates then amended the bill to address one of my concerns. But because they did not address all of my concerns, I voted against the bill and I'm encouraging Governor Terry McAuliffe to veto it.

Standing with Planned Parenthood

Monday evening I visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Richmond and spoke at length with doctors, nurses, volunteers, and administrators about the critical work they do in providing women with health-care options. Tuesday morning, I joined with many of my Democratic colleagues to stand with Governor McAuliffe when he vetoed a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.

Governor McAuliffe, surrounded by House and Senate Democrats (I'm on the far left),
after vetoing the bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

On Saturday, in a party-line vote, we Democrats in the General Assembly sustained the Governor's veto of the bill. This veto is another example of why it is so critical for all of us to work hard to elect a Democratic General Assembly and a Democratic Governor this November.

Commending and Memorial Resolutions

This week, I also authored and introduced in both House and Senate two commending resolutions and two memorial resolutions that passed both chambers unanimously.

HJ983 commended Beulah Baptist Church in Old Town. Beulah Baptist was the first African-American church founded in Alexandria after the Union occupation. In 1863, Reverend Clem Robinson returned from the North to establish a school for escaped slaves, and he established Beulah Baptist to help newly freed African-Americans find work, clothing, and shelter. For 153 years, Beulah Baptist has endured and remains a strong, vibrant congregation to this day. Last year, a much deserved historical marker was placed outside the church, and it was my honor to pass a resolution commending them on this achievement. I look forward to visiting the congregation this spring and presenting them with this commending resolution.

HJ973 honors Jennifer Burgin, the 2016 Arlington Teacher of the Year. Ms. Burgin is a 2nd grade teacher at Oakridge Elementary School. Her love of education and learning are contagious, and she rightly believes that all students can succeed. Admired by colleagues, parents, and students, Ms. Burgin has an innate ability to connect with all the children in her classroom in a way that makes them feel safe, loved, and understood. Supporting our teachers is one of the most important aspects of my job, and it is my honor to pass this resolution commending her. I look forward to presenting it to Ms. Burgin and her class soon.

My first memorial resolution, HJ1009, honored Captain Rocky Versace, one of Alexandria's Medal of Award winners. Many Alexandrians who live in and around Del Ray are very familiar with Captain Rocky Versace, because the Plaza and Vietnam Veterans' Memorial at the Mount Vernon Community Center bear his name.

Captain Versace volunteered for a dangerous mission in Vietnam and was captured by the Viet Cong along with two other Army personnel. For two long years, he refused to provide his captors with any military information and attempted to escape. Fluent in French and Vietnamese, Versace even bravely attempted to encourage his captors to see his point of view. He was eventually killed by them.

Captain Versace's valor and unwavering belief in freedom resulted in his posthumous award of the USA Medal of Honor, our highest personal military decoration. In memory of Captain Versace, it was my honor and privilege to pass this Resolution. I look forward to presenting it to the Mount Vernon Recreation Center and hope some of his US Military Academy classmates will be able to join us.

Finally, with all that is going on in our nation right now, I felt it important to introduce and pass HJ1036, a Memorial Resolution to Remember and Commemorate the lives of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis slaughtered six million Jews, more than 1/3 of all Jewish People worldwide. While five million non-Jews were also killed in the Holocaust, the primary focus of the genocide was to exterminate the Jewish People, and ancient communities ceased to exist. I'm glad the Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed this measure declaring unequivocally that "anyone or any institution that rejects the Jewish component of the Holocaust or refuses to acknowledge that Jews were the primary target of the Holocaust is participating in Holocaust denial and must be condemned."  Special thanks to constituent Paul Friedman, whose email to me on this issue inspired me to draft the resolution.

Endorsements for Re-Election!

The Governor of Virginia and 37 other state and local elected officials have thus far endorsed my re-election to the House of Delegates in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, June 13. If you are an elected official and have not endorsed me yet, please contact me. I'd like to add your name to the growing list.

My Largest "Monthly Meetup" Ever

Finally, I want to thank the astonishingly large crowd of more than 130 constituents who attended "Mark's Monthly Meet-up" on Sunday. I reserved the room for the standard 50-60 people I expected, and I was astonished that more than twice that number showed up. More than 130 eager, interested Virginians supported my work and were ready to fight for a more progressive Commonwealth.

Your enthusiasm and energy was no less than inspiring, and I'm so grateful to each and every one of you. Special thanks to Elza Daniels who took so many wonderful photos she posted on Facebook.

Upcoming Events:

Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00 pm
Arlington County Democratic Legislative Panel Meeting

Unitarian-Universalist Church of Arlington, 4444 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22204

Saturday, March 4 at 8:00 pm
Mt Vernon Democratic District (MVDDC) Mardi Gras celebration

7416 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306

Monday, March 6 at 7:30 pm
Alexandria Democratic Committee Meeting

George Washington Middle School
1005 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301
This is a change from where we normally meet.

Wednesday, March 8 at 10:00 am
Ribbon Cutting for Newly Renovated

Four Mile Run DMV Customer Service Center
4150 South Four Mile Run, Arlington

Wednesday, March 8 at 7:00 pm
Del Ray Citizens Association Meeting

Del Ray United Methodist Church
100 E Windsor Ave, Alexandria, VA, 22301

Friday, March 10 at 7:30 am
Leadership Center for Excellence Legislative Breakfast

Army Navy Country Club, 1700 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.

Delegate Mark Levine

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