Lane Closure on Maple Avenue Starts Today — “Starting [Monday], the right lane on the westbound side of Maple Avenue will be closed between Courthouse Road and Pleasant Street to enable work crews to construct right-of-way improvements. Lane closure will run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
McLean Author Helps Afghan Refugee — “Since arriving at his sponsor Toby Harnden’s home in McLean, Rohullah Sadat has had a quality of living he could only dream about when he was trapped in Afghanistan as a regime was collapsing. But he is kept up at night knowing that even if his dreams come true here, some of them are left unfinished as long as his family remains in Afghanistan.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Metro to Slightly Trim Train Wait Times — “Starting Monday, weekday waits on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines will be reduced from a half-hour to 20 minutes, on average, matching the frequency of the Green and Yellow lines, Metro said. Trains on the Red line, Metro’s busiest, will continue to arrive about every 12 minutes.” [The Washington Post]
Tysons Corner Center Theft Leads to Arrest in Carjacking — Fairfax County police arrested three men at 5:55 p.m. on Feb. 8 after getting called about a man stealing property from a store in the mall. Officers determined the man’s car had been stolen during a carjacking in a nearby jurisdiction, and a stolen, loaded handgun was also found on one of the men. [FCPD]
Petersen Predicts Masks to Become Optional in Schools Soon — Gov. Glenn Youngkin will likely use an emergency clause to make a bill letting parents opt out of school mask requirements take effect on March 1, state Sen. Chap Petersen said at a town hall on Saturday (Feb. 12). FCPS announced last week that it will make masks optional when community COVID-19 transmission drops to “moderate” levels for seven consecutive days. [Patch]
FCPS Can Keep Enforcing Mask Mandate — An Arlington County judge ruled yesterday (Tuesday) that Fairfax County Public Schools and the six other districts engaged in a lawsuit against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order can enforce their requirements until the legal challenge is resolved. The ruling came as the state Senate, led by Sen. Chap Petersen, approved a measure to let parents opt out of school mask mandates. [The Washington Post]
I-495 Pedestrian Bridge Under Construction — “Check out the progress on this bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-495 and the connecting shared-use path in Tysons! This link from Tysons One Pl/Fashion Blvd to Old Meadow Rd and Provincial Dr is scheduled for completion this summer.” [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]
Keam’s Roundabout Funding Bill Dies — A House of Delegates subcommittee voted to table legislation proposed by Del. Mark Keam, who represents Vienna and much of Tysons, that would’ve given more funding to sidewalk and roundabout projects. Virginia currently requires regional transportation funds to be prioritized based on congestion relief. [Sun Gazette]
Valentine’s Day Market Coming to Tysons — “Need a gift for your Valentine? @CelebrateFFX has you covered! Stop by the Loving Shop Local Market, this Saturday, Feb. 12 from 12-5 PM at The PARC for all of your Valentine’s Day essentials!” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]
Petersen Asks Youngkin to Support Dominion Bill — Chap Petersen, who represents Vienna as the state senator for the 34th District, called on new Gov. Glenn Youngkin to join an effort to limit Dominion Energy’s influence in the General Assembly. He has introduced a bill that would prohibit political candidates and committees from accepting campaign contributions from public utilities. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Fire Department Sees Uptick in Calls — “It was a busy year for your Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FCFRD) firefighters and paramedics! An increase of over 11,000 calls from the 96,934 total calls in 2020. 298 responses to medical calls, fires, rescues, car crashes, etc., on average each day during 2021!” [FCFRD]
Route 7 Traffic Changes Start Today — “Drivers on eastbound Route 7 will experience a lane shift to the north (towards the median) between Lyons Street and Lewinsville Road. Temporary traffic changes on side streets will be in place while crews continue the construction along Route 7.” [VDOT]
MCC Calls for New Board Candidates — The McLean Community Center is seeking candidates for three adult and two youth positions that will open up on its board of governors for the June 2022 to May 2023 term. Candidate petition packets will be available at 1234 Ingleside Avenue starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 19), and early voting will begin in March. [MCC]
Fairfax County Redistricting Plan Certified — “The Virginia attorney general recently certified that there is no objection to Fairfax County’s redistricting plan that the Board of Supervisors adopted on Dec. 7, 2021. The attorney general’s ‘certification of no objection’ means that the county may now implement its new local election districts as adopted.” [Fairfax County Government]
Petersen Says School Reopening Bill Doesn’t Support Mask Mandate — State Sens. Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-12th) and Chap Petersen (D-34th), whose district includes Vienna, sent a letter to local superintendents and school boards on Aug. 18 that suggested they aren’t obligated to comply with Virginia’s mask mandate for schools. The senators took issue with Gov. Ralph Northam citing their bill that required schools to provide in-person learning this fall to justify the mask requirement. [The Washington Post]
Bird Feeding Can Resume — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says people can start putting out bird feeders again with some precautionary measures in place after reports of a mysterious illness sickening and sometimes killing birds have declined. The state agency started documenting the issue in late May and later released a map that shows Fairfax and Arlington counties were most affected. [Patch]
Disabled McLean Artist Dies — “Wendi ‘Paige’ Crouch, a McLean resident who overcame a devastating car crash and became an accomplished artist by learning how to paint with a brush in her mouth, died Aug. 19 at age 61…Crouch prided herself on brush control and tried to achieve photo-realism in her works. She worked at a drafting table with sufficient room below to accommodate her motorized wheelchair.” [Sun Gazette]
Credit Union CEO Reflects on Choice of Tysons for HQ — “In 2016, PenFed announced that it selected Tysons — the largest commercial district in Fairfax County — for its new headquarters after a regional search. [James] Schenck said he could not be happier with the location decision for managing PenFed’s worldwide credit union operations and for engaging in charitable initiatives to help veterans through the PenFed Foundation.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
The Virginia General Assembly has wrapped up its first fully in-person session since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Convened on Aug. 2, the special session concluded on Tuesday (Aug. 10) after the House of Delegates and state Senate appointed eight new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals and passed a plan to spend $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.
The eight-day session marked the first time in 17 months that the State Capitol in Richmond hosted the entire legislature. While the Senate continued meeting in person throughout the pandemic, the House conducted most of its business remotely, with the exception of a one-day veto session in April 2020 and the initial days of a special session in August 2020.
“It was just really nice to see people again getting together,” Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) said by phone while driving back from Richmond on Tuesday.
The special session still required some adjustments in response to the continued threat of the coronavirus.
Plexiglas shields were erected around each legislator’s desk in both chambers, and Keam says all of the Democrats at least were fully vaccinated with masks donned throughout the session, though there was less consensus about the etiquette for greeting people.
“Some people shook hands. Some people just bumped their elbows,” Keam said. “…I can’t speak to what the Republicans are doing, but for the Democrats, we went out of our way to not only practice safe protocols, but also to show to the public that, you know, you’ve got to take this seriously still.”
For Keam, whose district includes Vienna and part of Tysons, highlights of the adopted American Rescue Plan Act budget bill include the $700 million to expand broadband with the goal of achieving universal access by 2024.
That kind of major investment would’ve taken much longer to put together without the federal funds, which were approved by Congress in March, Keam says, noting that while the need for broadband is most acute in Virginia’s rural areas, Fairfax County also has gaps in coverage.
“As a one-time expense, we’re finally able to catch up on the broadband infrastructure that we need,” he said.
As chair of House’s higher education subcommittee, Keam cited subsidizing financial aid for college students as another top priority. The General Assembly allocated $111 million to that, along with $250 million to upgrade ventilation systems in K-12 public schools.
Other ARPA funds were allocated to small business recovery, unemployment benefits, water and sewer infrastructure, and bonuses for some law enforcement officers. The bill also requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles resume walk-in services.
Keam and the rest of the recently formed Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus had hoped to see more money devoted to making government services — particularly the Virginia Employment Commission, which will receive more than $800 million — more accessible for people who are not fluent in English.
The budget includes $500,000 to help state agencies expand language access, according to a news release from the AAPI Caucus.
“Things like language [assistance] and other things that take more time to develop and hire more people, they didn’t think that we could use the money right away for that,” Keam said. “But that’s something that they want to work with us into the next year.” Read More
(Updated 2:35 p.m.) It’s been a month of meetings and votes for the state legislature, but it hasn’t brought much in the way of success for Tysons’ representatives in Richmond.
Most of the local legislative delegation’s high profile bills, like a plastic bag tax and new gun control legislation, were killed in committees.
Sen. Barbara Favola’s (D-31st District) bill prohibiting prospective employers from requiring employees disclose their wage or salary history, or attempting to obtain wage and salary histories, was defeated on Jan. 14 in the Commerce and Labor committee on a 4-10 vote.
Another bill from Favola authorized people licensed to practice medicine to provide care to patients inside Virginia via telemedicine services. The bill was incorporated on Jan. 24 into a separate bill, which cleared the Finance committee yesterday (Tuesday).
Sen. Chap Petersen’s (D-34th District) bill that would have imposed a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan was defeated in the Finance committee on a 5-11 vote.
But Petersen’s bill requiring public higher education institutions to gather public comments before raising tuition or imposing mandatory fees is doing well. The bill was unanimously approved in the Education and Health committee and incorporated five other bills before being referred to the Finance committee.
Petersen’s bill prohibiting any political candidates from soliciting or accepting contributions from public service corporations and a bill prohibiting individuals from making contributions over $10,000 to any state election were both killed in the Privileges and Elections committee.
Sen. Janet Howell’s (D-32nd District) bill authorizing evidence of prior statements that are inconsistent with later court testimony was passed by indefinitely — which almost always means it was killed — in the Courts of Justice committee on Jan. 23.
So far, three of Del. Mark Keam’s (D-35th District) bills of 15 drafted have passed the House and are awaiting Senate action. One would prohibit auto insurance companies from refusing to issue or renew a policy based on the foster care status of the policyholder or their family.
Little progress was made on gun control measures by local legislators.
Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) had introduced a bill allowing police or prosecutors to request a two-week ban on buying or owning a gun if they believe there is a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others.” The bill was passed by indefinitely by a Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee on a 4-2, party line vote.
Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd District) had proposed a bill that would have made it a Class 5 felony to manufacture, import, tell, transfer or possess a firearm not detectable by devices like X-ray machines. This bill was also passed by indefinitely in the same subcommittee.
Photo via Town of Vienna
If you’ve been one of the local policy wonks closely following the new legislation put forward by your state representatives, next Saturday is your chance to have your voice heard.
A town hall meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. to discuss the latest news out of Richmond. State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th District) and Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) are scheduled to host the meeting and share their insight into what to expect from this year’s General Assembly session.
The candidates will also be available to address questions and concerns from residents.
Keam recently made waves for taking an active role in the fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Virginia’s Legislative Information System says Petersen’s bill requiring governing boards of public institutions of higher learning to permit public comment on tuition increases was assigned to the higher education subcommittee earlier this week. Another major bill, imposing a new 5-cent per bag tax to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, died earlier this week.
If you want to make things awkward at the meeting, bring up that Petersen opposed a two-term governorship that Keam had championed in the House of Delegates.
Photo via Facebook