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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Adam Ebbin

UPDATE: Arlington senators split on mask-freedom measure

Legislation that would put an end to mandatory student masking at all Virginia public schools received a mixed response from the three members of the Arlington delegation to the state Senate. Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax-Arlington) on Jan. 8 voted to support incorporating the concept into existing legislation, while Sens. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-Fairfax-Loudoun) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) opposed it. The wording, which passed the state Senate on a lopsided 29-9 vote Feb. 8, was patroned by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax-Vienna), a vocal critic of mandatory masking policies. The measure unmasked splits within the Senate Democratic caucus, with 10 supporting the bill, nine opposing it and two not voting. All 19 Republicans supported the measure. A day later, the state Senate passed the broader bill, patroned by Republican Dr. Siobhan Dunnavant, which also included language mandating that public schools retain an in-person option even if COVID spikes again. The full bill passed the Senate 21-17, with a few Democrats, including Petersen (but not Howell), joining with Republicans. The bill moves on to the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, which seems destined to approve it. The bill, SB 739, has the support of the Youngkin administration. Whether the measure would have any practical effect, or is merely political theater, is an open question. Backers have devised a plan that would, after expected passage by the House of Delegates, have Gov. Youngkin propose an amendment to treat the bill as an emergency measure. Unlike legislation that originates in the General Assembly, which requires a supermajority of both houses, an amendment from the governor would only require majority votes, Republicans say. That would allow the measure to go into effect immediately, if at least one of the Democrats in the Senate went along. A coalition of Northern Virginia school districts has sued the Youngkin administration, arguing that the new governor’s executive order requiring a mask-optional policy for all Virginia school districts violates their rights. The measure, now working its way up the judicial system, likely will be decided by the Virginia Supreme Court – unless the school districts throw in the towel first. Petersen is something of a renegade Democrat, and had promised at the start of the 2022 General Assembly session that if local school districts did not end their mask mandates – which he believes are ineffective and do more harm than good – he would force the issue. Which he then proceeded to do, but only after first ripping into outgoing Fairfax Superintendent Scott Brabrand in a letter castigating that district’s mandatory-masking policy. The fact that more than half the Senate Democrats voting opted to support Petersen’s position suggests how quickly the political winds on masking appear to be changing across the nation. A number of Democratic-dominated states are beginning to eliminate their own mask mandates, an effort that seems likely to be driven as much by polling data as by major changes in public health.

Ebbin tapped to chair Senate committee

Arlington is now 3-for-3 when it comes to its state senators holding committee chairmanships. The Senate Democratic Caucus on Jan. 28 announced that Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) would become chair of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. He moves...

Amendment to tidy up Va. constitution in hopper for 2022

A state constitutional amendment being shepherded through the 2022 General Assembly by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington) would align portions of the Virginia Constitution with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage. The measure, if sent to voters...

Fairfax state senators prep legislative packages

Like snow melting off of area rooftops in recent days, bills crafted by local General Assembly members are beginning to trickle in for the session that starts Jan. 12. As of Jan. 5, no House of Delegates members representing the...

Redistricting gives Arlington senators a holiday gift

Forget hand-knitted sweaters, gift cards or stale fruit-based confections: Two state senators whose districts include Arlington may have gotten the best holiday gifts of them all. State Sens. Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin have emerged from the redistricting sausage-making process...

Measure on gubernatorial succession dies

Efforts by a local state legislator to remove Virginia’s one-and-done restriction on governors made it out of committee but died a lopsided death in the state Senate. Senators voted 26-12 to kill the proposed constitutional amendment, patroned by Sen. Adam...
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New School Board member receives liaison assignments

New Arlington School Board member Bethany Sutton has her assignments. School Board members on Feb. 2 are expected to approve...
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