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Inside NOVA: Arlington officials have modest ambitions for 2019 legislative session Print

BY: Scott McCaffrey 

Created: December 27, 2018 

Discretion is the better part of valor, and perhaps in hope of a change in the majority following elections next November, Arlington County Board members appear aiming to fly under the radar screen during the 2019 General Assembly session.

“We are very cognizant of Arlington’s reputation in the General Assembly and around the commonwealth,” County Board Chairman Katie Cristol said during a 90-minute meeting with the county’s legislative delegation, held in early December. The annual gathering was in preparation for the upcoming legislative session, which starts in mid-January and is slated to run 46 days.

Cristol, who was wrapping up her year-long stint as board chair, said “preservation of critical funding streams” was the county government’s key priority for the coming session.

It was a comment echoed by other board members.

“This is the year we stay the course,” said board vice chairman Christian Dorsey. He was speaking specifically about transportation, but the comment could be extrapolated to other topics.

Cristol told legislators that local governments bear the brunt when the state leadership imposes mandates on education, transportation and social services that aren’t adequately funded at the state level. She urged the delegation to do its best at “holding back any mandates . . . that don’t come with any support.”

But Northern Virginia, which remains outnumbered about three to one in both the state Senate and House of Delegates, often gets the short end of the financial stick, said state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd).

There is a “belief that ‘oh, Northern Virginia is so rich, we should send [funding] somewhere else’ – that will be part of the ongoing battle,” said Howell, the most senior member of the Arlington delegation and a member of the powerful Senate Committee on Finance.

Arlington’s delegation to the General Assembly in 2019 will be unchanged from 2018: Sens. Howell, Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin and Dels. Patrick Hope, Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez.

Each is a Democrat, and each – to varying degrees – is sympathetic to most of the legislative priorities espoused by the County Board.

“Our delegation has been our champion,” Cristol said.

Should Democrats win control of one or both houses of the legislature after the 2019 elections, Arlington and other left-leaning communities potentially could see a flood of legislation they support making it to the governor’s desk after years when those types of measures have been bottled up by the Republican majority.