Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Before I begin with my weekly session update, I wanted to share a few personal thoughts addressing the events of this past weekend.
To say that the last few days have been painful and truly heartbreaking would be an understatement.
Governor Northam has given years of service to his community, his country, and to the Commonwealth of Virginia and I am grateful for all that he has accomplished.
However, the symbols of bigotry and racial oppression should never be treated lightly—especially considering Virginia’s long and painful history of slavery, violence, and discrimination against African-Americans.
With that in mind, I stand with my colleagues in the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the House Democratic Caucus in urging Governor Northam to resign and help us restore the public trust.
Our work in the General Assembly has only gotten busier as we move closer to the “crossover” deadline on February 6th—the date by which the House of Delegates must wrap up consideration of its own bills and begin consideration of bills passed by the Virginia Senate.
Two of my bills were passed this morning by the House of Delegates and will now be considered by the Virginia Senate. These bills are:
➤ HB 2395: Creating a Hazardous Waste Site Inventory
Virginia currently does not have a one-stop list of all the sites in the Commonwealth that pose a hazard to human health or the environment from toxic substances. The public has a Right-to-Know if one of these sites is in their community and poses a hazard to public health.
This bill consolidates existing lists of hazardous waste sites maintained by the state and federal government and puts that information in a format that the public can easily access. This inventory will collect the location of contaminated sites, the nature of which wastes are disposed of at each site, and the status of any undertaken or planned actions to remediate the site.
This represents an important first step for the Commonwealth as we take further steps to properly address these sites in Virginia.
➤ HB 2396: Requiring Notification after Breach of Passport & Military ID Information
In 2017, one in five Americans became the victims of identity fraud. As the internet becomes further integrated into our daily lives, it has become all too common for companies to face massive security breaches, putting the information of millions at risk.
In Virginia, companies are required to notify someone when their Social Security number, driver's license number, or bank account information has been stolen in a security breach. However, there is no provision that mandates immediate notification to people whose passport numbers or military ID numbers are stolen in a security breach.
In a Commonwealth with over 115,000 residents who are active duty or reserve military personnel, it is unacceptable that we would not guarantee the same protections to their identifiable information that we provide for others. This bill would fix that hole in the Virginia Code.
➤ Yesterday, I was proud to speak on the Floor of the House of Delegates in opposition to HB 2640, which would have changed how the machinery and tools tax is calculated across the Commonwealth. Several localities have indicated that they would expect to see significant revenue losses if this policy were put in place.
Taxpayers already have the ability to submit an independent appraisal to the Commissioner of the Revenue, who must consider the appraisal when valuing the property.
If enacted, the bill would reduce machinery and tools tax collections without providing localities a substitute revenue source that is both reliable and sustainable. Relying on the current "original total capitalized cost" methodology simplifies tax administration and is fair to all taxpayers.
Working together with both Republicans and Democrats, I am happy to report that this legislation was defeated.
➤ Early last week, I met with a group of constituents with the Virginia Education Association, who came in to discuss their work as teachers in Arlington Public Schools.
➤ I also met with Ms. Debbie Kilpatrick, with the Northern Virginia District of the Virginia PTA. She and I discussed the importance of increasing funding for our public education system and for our teacher’s salaries.
➤ Later that morning, I met with a group with the Virginia Farm Bureau, who came to discuss agricultural issues with members of the House Committee on Agriculture, the Chesapeake, and Natural Resource.
➤ On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from Virginia Tech, including President Timothy Sands. They spoke with me about the incredible work Tech is doing in Southwest Virginia and across the Commonwealth with STEM education.
➤ A group of constituents and friends with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) visited to speak with me about a number of pressing labor issues being considered by the House of Delegates this session.
➤ I testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing last week to advocate for a pay increase for attendants working through the Personal Assistive Services program run by the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. These attendants work with Virginia residents with disabilities to allow them to work and live independently in their own homes.
➤ Another group of constituents with the Arc of NoVA came to visit my office to advocate on behalf of Virginians with intellectual and physical disabilities. I am very supportive of their work and am glad to have the opportunity to advocate for their priorities in the House of Delegates.
➤ Finally, on Thursday I was visited by a delegation from the Arlington County Board, including my friends Erik Gutshall, Matt de Ferranti and Arlington State Liaison, Pat Carroll.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
➤ Tax Conformity: The House Finance Committee met last week to vote on several bills related to our changing tax code. I am disappointed, however, that the majority party chose not to bring a clean conformity bill to the Floor in a timely manner.
Like many Virginians, I am very concerned about the potentially severe consequences facing our state if the General Assembly does not pass a bill conforming Virginia’s tax code with federal policy. I urge my colleagues to move swiftly in rectifying this issue so that Virginians can be sure to receive their tax refunds in a timely manner.
➤ For one delegate, local concerns trumped need for Amazon incentive package, InsideNoVA
“Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) was the only one of four members of the House of Delegates representing Arlington – the only one of the county’s seven-member delegation at all, in fact – to vote against the proposed economic-incentive package binding the state government and Amazon in what supporters say is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Lopez, however, did not see it that way. While acknowledging there are good parts to the incentive package, which could net Amazon $750 million over the course of a decade or more, Lopez said the arrival of the retailer’s hordes was likely to put too much stress on housing costs in the 49th District, which includes much of Arlington south of Columbia Pike as well as adjoining areas in Fairfax County.
‘My concern is for the current residents of the 49th,’ Lopez said. ‘Folks are worried that they and other low-income families are going to be priced out.’”
Many of you may have begun to receive my 2019 Constituent Survey in the mail over the last few weeks. I send out this survey annually to get as wide a sample of opinions and perspectives as possible from folks all across my district on the issues that matter most to them. If you have not received a survey in the mail, or would prefer to submit your survey electronically, please visit the link here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Delegate to the General Assembly. If there is any way that my office may be helpful to you, please feel free to contact us by email atDelALopez@house.virginia.gov or by phone at (571) 336-2147. Additionally, you can always visit my website at www.alfonsolopez.org.
Member, 49th District
House of Delegates