LOPEZ SECURES WINS ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING, DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS; DEFENDS VETO OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT BILL
RICHMOND, Va. — Yesterday, Virginia state legislators returned to Richmond to debate the Governor’s legislative recommendations and vetos for the 2019 reconvened session. Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) successfully led the Democratic response in the House of Delegates in support of the Governor’s budget amendments to increase funding for affordable housing and end driver’s license suspensions due to unpaid court fines or fees.
The Virginia Housing Trust Fund will receive a funding boost of $4 million, in addition to the $14 million approved by the General Assembly during the 2019 regular session. The Fund is tasked with the mission of creating and preserving affordable housing within the Commonwealth, in addition to reducing homelessness. Delegate Lopez, whose legislation created the Virginia Housing Trust Fund in 2013, led the debate on the Floor of the House of Delegates in favor of the funding increase.
“It is increasingly clear that affordable, stable housing is a problem across the state,” said Lopez. “The issues are different in Northern Virginia, rural Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond. Housing Trust Fund dollars can and have been used to meet the unique needs of each of our communities in order to help all people address housing instability and achieve economic security.”
The Governor introduced an additional amendment ending the policy of suspending the driver’s licenses of those with outstanding court fines or fees. Delegate Lopez had worked on this issue for many years and was the patron of the Governor’s bill to end this practice during the 2019 regular session. The policy was overturned with broad bipartisan support.
“Suspending the driver’s licenses of residents who have already demonstrated an inability to pay court fees is unjust and counterproductive,” stated Lopez. “If you take away a parent’s ability to drive to work, take their kids to school, or pick up groceries, you harm the whole family. This practice amounted to a modern-day debtor’s prison and I’m proud to have led the charge to overturn it.”
The Governor also vetoed several bills passed by the General Assembly this year, including HB 2270, an anti-immigrant bill that would have mandated reporting of immigration status by local law enforcement authorities to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Delegate Lopez led the defense of the veto on the Floor of the House of Delegates and it was successfully sustained by the legislature.
“If this bill had become law, it would have send a clear message to people within our community and across the Commonwealth that state and local law enforcement officials are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged,” said Lopez after the vote. “Virginia should be a welcoming place for all, no matter your immigration status.”