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Sun Gazette: Legislators See Disappointments from Legislative Session Print


Created:  Friday, March 8, 2013  7:35AM



                                                    Dels. Patrick Hope (D-47th) and Bob Brink (D-48th) are shown with

                                      Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) at a meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

                                                                              (File photo by Scott McCaffrey)


It’s not much fun to be in the minority party while serving in a legislature. And the members of Arlington’s delegation to the General Assembly – bluest-of-the-blue Democrats adrift amid a sea of Republican red in Richmond – found plenty to be disappointed with in the 2013 legislative session.

Asked to expound on some of the session’s shortfalls, legislators had a varied response:

Del. Bob Brink (D-48th): Brink said his main disappointments centered on gun control and election reforms.

“Despite the Newtown tragedy, we did nothing to curb the proliferation of firearms that has fueled such tragedies, including my bill to reinstate Virginia’s common-sense ‘one handgun a month’ law,” he said.

“And after the long lines we experienced on Election Day, you’d think we would look at ways to make the voting process easier,” Brink said. “Instead, the [Republican] majority pushed through additional restrictions.”

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th): Ebbin, the lone member of the Arlington delegation who has served in both the Senate and the House of Delegates, said he was disappointed that a large number of measures easily passed the upper body, only to be stymied in the lower.

“Legislation I introduced, addressing issues like human trafficking, universal background checks and lost or stolen firearms, nondiscrimination in state employment, asbestos-worker safety and reforming our electoral process . . . all passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but were shot down in the House of Delegates,” he said.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th): Hope said he was disappointed by the failure of the legislature to move forward on the automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons, a proposal that had some support from the McDonnell administration.

“While I’m still hopeful the governor will use his executive privileges to do what the legislature refused to do, we missed an opportunity to stop feeding the perception that Virginia continues to place barriers to the most fundamental of all rights,” Hope said.

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd): As the longest serving legislator among the seven whose districts include parts of Arlington, and having served through both Democratic and Republican majorities in the upper body, Howell has seen her share of both ups and downs.

“The biggest disappointment [for 2013] was not immediately implementing Medicaid expansion,” said Howell, who served among Senate conferees who found limited common ground on the issue with the members of the House of Delegates.

Howell said that the end product, while not exactly what she wanted, “went as far as the Republican-controlled House would tolerate.”

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th): Lopez termed it more of a delay than a disappointment, but pointed to the failure of the House of Delegates to pass legislation he sponsored that would have provided in-state tuition rates for undocumented students at Virginia colleges and universities.

The measure passed the House Committee on Education on a mostly bipartisan 17-4 vote, but died after it was referred to the Committee on Appropriations, which failed to act on it before the legislative deadline.

“Although the bill has been defeated this year, I am very proud of the progress made – and will continue to fight for the Virginia DREAM Act every year until it becomes the law of the commonwealth,” Lopez said.