Back in session

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Back in session
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By Erich Wagner (File photo)

The annual General Assembly session kicked off Wednesday, and city officials hope to get their fair share of state funding.

Alexandria’s legislative packet, approved last month, contains a wish list of projects and policy measures, including a city charter change, money for public transportation and the expansion of Medicaid.

Delegate Rob Krupicka (D-45) believes a few of the measures should pass without too much trouble. But he said others are less likely and may rely on support from Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) to make it out of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

Local officials want a provision removed from Alexandria’s charter that prohibits the school board from using city attorneys. City Councilor Justin Wilson said Alexandria City Public Schools could save money by using city attorneys to deal with issues like labor or contract disputes.

“We may not move in the full direction that the city attorney just be the full attorney for the school board, but this would at least allow them to draw on some of the resources in that office,” Wilson said. “[All] this does is … gives them the ability and removes the prohibition.”

Krupicka said small charter changes generally sail through the General Assembly. On the other hand, ensuring that the Port City gets needed transit dollars could prove an uphill battle.

“I think there’s going to be some real fights over transportation spending,” he said. “We have all this new revenue, and there’s already some explicit attempts to reduce how much goes to [public] transit. There’s a real specific effort to put more of that money into roads and less into transit.”

Another possibly contentious measure is an attempt to restore the cost-of-competing formula, which provides additional dollars to Northern Virginia school systems to help attract teachers in the expensive region.

“The way [the formula] is funded really shortchanges Northern Virginia, and every year legislators ask to restore it to the right level of expenditure to bring equity to that,” Krupicka said. “It’s a fight every year, but it’s usually one that happens mostly on the Senate side. If it gets through the Senate, it probably gets fought out in [the budget] conference committee.”

And some measures, like restoring voting rights to convicted felons after they serve their prison sentence, are probably still a few years away from passing, Krupicka said.

“I know Delegate [Charniele] Herring is putting that legislation back in every year, with a few new supporters every year,” he said. “It’s a very commonsense idea that once you’ve paid your debt to society, you should be able to vote. But we’re not there yet. … And it requires a constitutional amendment, so we probably won’t really consider it until 2015.”

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