City council announces legislative agenda for 2018

City council announces legislative agenda for 2018
File photo

By Alexa Epitropoulos |

City council heard Alexandria’s proposed legislative agenda for the 2018 General Assembly session at its legislative meeting on Tuesday.

City priorities include outfalls funding, as well as money for Metro and schools. It also calls for the commonwealth to fund body cameras for the Alexandria Police Department, provide money for ‘competitive’ salaries for local state employees and increase funding to the city’s opioid treatment programs in the face of growing demand.

The city’s top request is for the commonwealth to fund 20 percent of the combined sewer outfalls project, or $77 million. Gov. Terry McAuliffe in April signed into law a bill that gave Alexandria a deadline of 2025 to complete its project. The project’s total estimated cost is $385 million. The city requested approval for the $77 million in state bonds, but asked, if that isn’t feasible, for $104 million to be included in the state biennium budget.

Funding for the Metro is also requested to improve its safety and reliability. The city cited in its legislative package that Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority needs $500 million annually from the Northern Virginia region in dedicated funding, meaning, according to WMATA’s formula, Virginia would contribute 28 percent, or $140 million, annually.

Other fiscal items included increased funding for the Virginia Railway Express, which the city supports, competitive salaries for local state employees and assessment of court costs to support law libraries.

During the legislative meeting, councilors emphasized more funding for Alexandria City Public schools, especially as it continues to contend with capacity issues.

File photo

“It has been just about exactly 20 years since the commonwealth has actively participated in helping local jurisdictions with local schools construction and it was part of the compromise, if you will, with then Gov. Gilmore for the car tax reduction,” Vice Mayor Justin Wilson said at the meeting. “Given significant capacity changes that not only we in Alexandria are having, but really the entire commonwealth and throughout Northern Virginia, the time is apt for a discussion around state participation –if not through active appropriations, perhaps with different funding and financing mechanisms the state will be able to come into play.”

Body camera funding for local police is requested, which the legislative package says is in the interest of improving transparency and accountability of police. The package said the city believes more cities in Virginia would use body cameras if the General Assembly would take action to help pay for their costs. The city also requested the commonwealth clarify the law on access and retention of footage taken from body cameras.

The city is requesting appropriations for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which provides grants and loans for affordable housing throughout the commonwealth. In addition, state Housing Trust Funds are being requested for the Carpenter’s Shelter redevelopment project. That application is pending.

Funding to combat opioids was the last fiscal item mentioned within the package. The publicly funded opioid treatment program, which is under the umbrella of the city’s Community & Human Services Department, has been underfunded as more Alexandria residents have requested treatment for addiction.

The city also supports the General Assembly increasing the state minimum wage to higher than the federal $7.25 minimum wage, exempting necessities like tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers, formula and baby food from taxation and capping the interest rate payday and auto title loans.

Other city stances include supporting Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act, curbing the consumption of sugary drinks, prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone under 21 and raising the Virginia tax for a pack of cigarettes.

The city’s package also asks:

  • the General Assembly to not support any legislation that restricts and support any legislation that expands human rights for Virginia residents,
  • to incorporate an initiative that prohibits state agencies from asking employment applicants if they’ve ever been charged with or convicted of any crime, and
  • allowing Virginia residents under DACA to become eligible for in-state tuition if they live in the commonwealth for at least a year and plan to continue living here.

Miscellaneous items the city supports are the General Assembly increasing the felony dollar threshold from $200 to $500, introducing legislation that would allow an undocumented immigrant to obtain a driver’s license for identity purposes and introducing legislation to allow the city to make decisions on the potential Appomattox statue relocation, among others.

The city is scheduled to meet with the General Assembly about its 2018 legislative package on Nov. 28.