Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - June 28, 2020

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Alexandria Office:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
571.234.8481

DelMLevine@house.virginia.gov

As I wrote in my email sent to you yesterday, the June edition of Mark's Monthly Meetup will be TODAY (Sunday, June 28) from 1-3 pm. I will be hosting it via Zoom. As always, we'll be discussing whatever issues are important to you.

Mark's Monthly Meetup 
Sunday, June 28, 1 - 3 pm

Join via Zoom
Join the conversation by clicking here.
Meeting ID: 817-1873-6278

(Join and download Zoom for FREE by clicking here.)
If you don't have access to Zoom, you can also call in to join the discussion: (929) 205-6099


STARTING WEDNESDAY, JULY 1:
Virginia Enters Phase Three of Reopening...

At his public briefing on Thursday, Governor Northam announced Virginia will enter Phase 3 of reopening on July 1. As of today, Northern Virginia is scheduled to be a part of that reopening. 

The differences will be dramatic. We will be almost completely reopen, as of July 1.

Phase 3 guidelines can be found in English here and in Spanish here. Governor Northam's presentation outlining Phase 3 can be found here. You can watch his entire briefing by clicking here

Key changes:

  • Non-essential businesses, restaurants, and beverage services may fully reopen.

  • Entertainment venues may open at 50% capacity.

  • All open facilities must continue to maintain physical distancing practices and enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices.

  • Gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed. (This concerns me the most.)

  • Teleworking is still strongly encouraged.

  • Face masks are still required in indoor public spaces.

Recent numbers have looked better in Virginia. But let's be clear: the pandemic continues. 1,700 Virginians have lost their lives so far to COVID-19, and much of the rest of the nation has shown a scary uptick in cases and deaths. While our rate of spread has slowed in the Commonwealth, cases continue to increase. Be responsible.

You are still safer at home. You still need to socially distance and wash your hands frequently. You still need to wear a face covering when you go inside a public place. You should wear one if you're in a remotely crowded outdoor area, too.

We're all in this together. Your being responsible makes it less likely you'll infect your neighbor or yourself. And your neighbors' responsibility protects your own health.


Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program

Governor Northam announced help is on the way for people who are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage as a result of the pandemic. $50 million in federal funding will be made available to assist Virginians. The details of how to apply for the program will be made available Monday.

Please don't forget: localities have relief programs available as well. 

If you need financial assistance to pay your rent or utilities:

Alexandria City residents: 
please contact the Department of Community and Human Services at 703-746-5700.

Arlington County residents:
please call 703-228-1300 for emergency rent and utility assistance

Fairfax County residents:
please call Fairfax County's Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880.

The Governor has also asked Circuit Court judges to extend the eviction moratorium, which the Virginia Supreme Court has set to expire tomorrow.


Finally: COVID Data Transparency on
Long-Term Care Facilities

The Virginia Department of Health has finally released facility-specific information about the spread of COVID in Virginia's long-term care facilities. You can see facility-specific outbreak information - including numbers of cases and deaths - by clicking here

This was a vitally important step forward for public health and accountability. And it's about time. I've been writing and calling and pressing hard for this since early May!

Governor Northam announced the new guidelines and testing requirements for reopening long-term care facilities, and he outlined how the Commonwealth will direct $246 million--primarily from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding--to support long-term care facilities in their response to COVID-19. 

We still do need to change Virginia law to make it absolutely clear that long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have the same level of confidentiality and privacy that we responsibly afford to individual patients themselves. I'm committed to changing that law at our special session expected to occur in August.


A New Tool for Virginia Workers and Job Searchers

On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam shared a new suite of technology tools to help Virginians take full advantage of the supportive services available through the Commonwealth’s workforce system. The Virginia Career Works Referral Portal is a statewide platform designed to streamline intake processes across state agencies and connect individuals with training, certification, education, and employment services to help them find a job or advance a career path. The new Virginia Career Works Dashboard is an innovative data visualization tool that makes information about Virginia’s labor market and workforce system more accessible to workers, businesses, and policymakers.


Big News!
My Two House Committees Will Hold Three Hearings
on Police and Criminal Justice Reform

Eileen Filler-Corn, Speaker of the House of Delegates, yesterday announced that the House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees will hold three (virtual) public joint hearings in July and August to prepare police and criminal justice reforms for the upcoming Special Session and the 2021 regular General Assembly Session.

I am the Chair of the Public Safety Subcommittee, which has oversight over police reform, and 

I serve on both committees that will hold these hearings. I had recommended these public discussions, because the work can't wait until Special Session actually starts. It's not just important that we do something; it is even more important that we do the right thing and listen to the communities we serve.


Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Releases
Policy Priorities for Special Session

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus recently released a statement outlining their policy priorities in the lead up to the Special Session.  I look forward to supporting this agenda. I also have ideas about what needs to be done. And if you have ideas, too, I encourage you to share them with me. This afternoon's Monthly Meetup (see above) would be a great opportunity for me to hear from you.


In Due Course: New Laws in Effect July 1

I shared with you last night many of the laws that will go into effect on Wednesday.

In Due Course is a selection of legislation passed by the 2020 Session of the General Assembly that is likely to affect the daily lives of the citizens of Virginia. The legislation in this publication has been signed by the Governor and for the most part will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

The summaries were prepared by the staff of the Division of Legislative Services. Complete information on actions of the 2020 Session is available on the Legislative Information System.


Supporting Grocery Store Workers

I recently joined seventeen of my colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly in sending letters to Giant & Safeway calling on both companies to reinstate hazard pay for workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

As we say in the letter, we know that “the danger to your employees on the front lines continues to exist” as the companies continue to rake in millions. With workers still in danger, we called on both companies to “compensate them for the additional risk they are taking” and immediately reinstate hazard pay until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

I am hopeful that they will do the right thing. Our society depends on them. They take care of us. We need to make sure they are taken of themselves.

The full Giant letter can be read here and the full Safeway letter can be read here.

Alexandria City Council Passes Local Gun Ordinance
Restricting Possession on City Property


The Old Town Farmers' Market.
Starting Wednesday, July 1, guns will no longer be welcome. 

One of the gun violence prevention measures the Democratic majority passed into law this year was HB421, allowing local firearms ordinances the ability to regulate firearms in municipal buildings, libraries, public parks, and permitted events (I co-patroned this bill and introduced an early version of this legislation back in 2018.)  Although this legislation was watered down too much for my liking, it should still be sufficient to enable localities to restrict jerks with assault weapons from being able once again to legally terrorize the Old Town Farmers Market or threaten elected officials by showing up in parks outside our homes with assault weapons. I am proud of Alexandria’s City Council for unanimously making Alexandria the first locality in Virginia to enact an ordinance to do just this, effective July 1.

See: Alexandria bans guns, ammunition in city buildings, parks, and recreation centers.  
Read details on the ordinance here.

Some of you joined me in testifying in support of the ordinance at last weekend's public hearing on the matter. Thank you to all who spoke up in support of the ordinance.

While the state law we passed allowed the Alexandria City Council to institute the ordinance, the reason the ordinance passed is because Alexandria has elected thoughtful, progressive leaders. 

One of those thoughtful, progressive leaders is Councilmember Del Pepper.


A Tribute to Alexandria Councilmember Del Pepper

Del has been serving the City of Alexandria for an impressive 35 years! We celebrated the 35th anniversary of her service earlier this week.


Delegate Mark Levine, former Mayor Allison Silberberg, Congressman Don Beyer,
and the virtually always smiling Councilmember Del Pepper

If you click on no other links today, you still won't want to miss my one-minute video tribute to Del. Just click the image below. 

Don't miss my tribute to Del Pepper!
(only a minute long)


Watch my tribute to Del Pepper by clicking here.

VOTE NO TO REPUBLICAN GERRYMANDER
Vote NO on Constitutional Gerrymandering Amendment this November

Even an occasional reader of my newsletter knows I passionately oppose the proposal on the ballot this November to amend the Virginia Constitution to give Republicans permanent control over the Virginia legislature through a judicial gerrymander by their appointees on the Virginia Supreme Court. 

The Democratic Party of Virginia and the Fairfax County Democratic Committee solidly agree with me. 

They both urge all Virginia Democrats to 
VOTE NO THIS NOVEMBER
 on the proposed constitutional amendment.

If you don't know my views on the question, here's a long list of things I've written and said about it.

IN WRITING
Primer on Gerrymandering— Best place to start. Perfect to fully understand the question from start to finish. No prior knowledge of gerrymandering or the amendment required. Has lots of detail and pictures too!

Op-ed in the Washington Post, Got limited time?  Here’s my argument presented in short enough space to fit in a Washington Post op-ed


IN SPEECHES
Want to hear rather than see?  Then one or both of these are for you:

Speech at the League of Women Voters Forum before a live and skeptical audience 
(roughly 10 minutes)

Comments on television on The Inside Scoop (roughly 10 minutes)


IN DEBATE 

Want to see me debate the lobbyist paid to defend the amendment?

Here’s me mano-a-mano with Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021, a multi-million dollar organization whose mission is to pass this thing (with Ken Cuccinelli a member of the Board). We strongly (but respectfully) disagree.

Debate with Brian Cannon 

Note: Unlike the huge lobbying effort in favor of the amendment, we are just a rag-tag group of opponents. We are fighting a well-financed well-oiled political machine and the entire Republican Party as well. We NO ON CONSTITUTIONAL GERRYMANDER folks don’t even have an organized campaign yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

While the Arlington County Democratic Committee has not yet rendered its decision on the amendment, they did host a roundtable on the subject last week featuring six panelists:  three proponents and three opponents of the amendment. I, of course, oppose it, as do 85% of the Democratic Delegates in the Virginia House.

Arlington Debate:

THE LATEST

For post-session news on the amendment, my March 16 Newsletter has  a synopsis of what the General Assembly did and did not do on redistricting this year.  (Hint: no “enabling legislation was passed.”)

That newsletter also includes links to my cross-examination of the patron of the bill (who concedes that a constitution trumps an ordinary law and that this constitutional amendment would allow for unlimited gerrymandering with no possibility of appeal).


ARLINGTON SPECIAL ELECTION
TUESDAY, JULY 7

Elect Takis Karantonis to the Arlington County Board!


Democrat Takis Karantonis for Arlington County Board

Arlington has a special election on Tuesday, July 7 to fill the seat vacated by the late Erik Gutshall on the Arlington County Board

I am proud to endorse the Democratic nominee, Takis Karantonis
You can learn more about Takis by clicking here.

I strongly encourage you to vote – absentee! – for Takis Karantonis for County Board. 

THIS TUESDAY June 30 is the LAST day to apply for an absentee ballot. 
I've made it easy to apply for an absentee ballot
by 
putting a form on my website

Click here to vote absentee.


Please Contribute if You Can

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 is the last day of the fundraising cycle which lasts six months from January 1 to June 30, 2020. The first half of 2020 is the lowest amount my campaign has ever raised over a six-month period.

It's completely understandable why. We don't ask for donations while we are in session from January to March. And then from March to June, we were all quarantined due to COVID-19. Many folks don't have the disposable income to spend on politics in these troubled times, and I completely understand that.

Plus, as I noted in my email to you yesterday, I had to cancel the two fundraisers I host every year in May and July. Honestly, it really will be lonely here the Saturday after Independence Day. I will miss having 200 raucous Democrats in my home enjoying the fireworks and the birthday of Alexandria and our nation.

So why give if you can?  Well, yesterday I gave you only a small sample of the laws I wrote or worked on that will go into effect on Wednesday, July 1. If you appreciate what we've done or the work I do in constituent service and writing these long emails, a token donation would be appreciated. I do have to pay my staff, my computer database/email client, postage, and the like.

But more importantly, funds I receive -- unless I have a campaign myself -- will all go to keeping the House of Delegates blue in 2021. In 2021, we will all run in new districts. I don't know what my district boundaries will be.  And if the constitutional amendment passes this fall, in all likelihood, Republicans and Republicans alone will design all of Virginia's districts and gerrymander us out of our seats to their hearts' content, just as they did in 2001 and 2011. (It was Delegate Mark Cole, after all, the former Republican chair of the Privileges and Elections Committee, that wrote the salient part of the constitutional amendment that's on the ballot in November:  the part that gives Republicans all power to draw district lines with the power to send the entire matter--without any guardrails, appeal, or legal prohibition against gerrymandering--to the Republican-controlled Virginia Supreme Court.)

If you appreciate the progressive agenda we put forward in the 2020 Session and we are likely to put forward again in the summer 2020 session and in the 2021 session, please recognize that if Virginia is gerrymandered again to favor Republicans, 2020 and 2021 may be the last years of Democratic control for decades to comeIn fact, that's exactly what the Republican House Leader is counting on.

After all, a good gerrymander can prevent Democrats from staying in power even when we get 55-60% of the vote. This means that it's critical in the 2021 elections that we win by a supermajority.

Even if we defeat the amendment and obtain fair districts with an independent commission (or, under my design, with a mathematical formula to ensure fairness), we are likely to have a tough time in 2021 if Joe Biden becomes President. Don't get me wrong. I am a Biden delegate to the national convention. I will work with all my heart, soul, and might to make sure Biden is elected to be our next President. Frankly, I am not sure the United States could survive four more years of Donald Trump's racist corrupt autocracy.

But once -- knock on wood -- President Biden is elected, the tradition in Virginia is that the party out of power tends to win state elections. In Virginia, for example, our best elections were in '17, '18, and '19, with Trump as President. But in the first Virginia elections after Obama became President in 2009-11, we lost in landslides.

This, plus the uncertainties of redistricting, suggest to me that maintaining our majority in the House of Delegates in the November 2021 elections will be no cakewalk, and we'd better start fundraising now if we want to have enough of the funds we will need to help our beleaguered colleagues, many of whom had very close elections in 2019.

In sum, if you can afford it; if you like what we've done or you like what I've done; and if you want to see Virginia move in a more progressive direction, your contribution is instrumental in helping us get there.

The presidential campaigns will likely raise more than a billion dollars and spend 90% of it in five to ten states. (One reason why I've led the effort to end the Electoral College is that I think all Americans' votes should count:  not just those of folks who live in swing states.)

A million dollars to a presidential campaign is chump change. But a thousand dollars in a Virginia delegate campaign is large enough to determine whether or not that Democratic campaign can afford that last mail piece. In a presidential campaign, 90+% of Americans know which candidate they will vote for months in advance. But in a Virginia delegate campaign, most Virginians have never heard of either candidate running in their home district. So money spent on a field effort to get out the vote goes a heckuva longer in local campaigns than in national ones.

In sum, if you contribute now, you will get more bang for your election buck. A war chest might just scare away anyone who would primary me. But more importantly, I can use the contributions -- as I have with more than $100,000 in the past -- to carefully dole out contributions to those candidates on the cusp of election, re-election or defeat (and only those candidates!).

"I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy:
"Dear Jack, Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary.
I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide." 

                                                                -- John F. Kennedy

I don't believe in buying votes. But otherwise, I agree with Joe Kennedy. Dollars we raise and give to a Democratic campaign should go overwhelmingly to those who have a reasonable chance to win or lose--and not to those way ahead in the polls or those way behind. I try very hard to spend your contributions wisely.

Please click here to donate whatever you can afford today. 
Let's build a Virginia where everyone can thrive.

Honestly, every bit helps. Even small donations.


Anyone who reads all of this very long newsletter deserves special commendation.

Let me know if you have. I always welcome your emails and comments.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, June 28
1:00-3:00 pm
Mark's Monthly Meetup

Join the conversation by clicking here
Meeting ID: 817-1873-6278
(THIS AFTERNOON. Don't miss it! This is your chance to speak up,
ask questions, and tell me what's on your mind.)

Tuesday, June 30
2:00-3:00 pm
Pride Month Zoom Panel

hosted by NextGen Virginia and For Our Future Virginia
Email me for details or check my social media: 
@DelegateMark or facebook.com/LevineforVirginia

Tuesday, July 7
ELECTION DAY IN ARLINGTON

(If you live in Arlington, vote for Takis!)
6:00 am-7:00 pm
Arlington County Board Special Election
https://vote.arlingtonva.us/

Click here by June 30 to get an absentee ballot.
(No election for my Alexandria or Fairfax residents.)


I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.

Delegate Mark Levine
Proudly serving Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax
      in the Virginia House of Delegates