Arlington County Board members once again will ask the General Assembly for more powers to protect trees within county borders. And with the change in the political power structure in Richmond, the request may find more success in 2020 than it has in past years.
County Board members have included a request for more flexibility to require conservation and preservation of trees as part of the county government’s draft 2020 legislative package, to be acted upon next month.
It is one of a number of policy positions in the document that has been included in past years. But with Democrats’ taking control of both houses of the General Assembly in the Nov. 5 election, measures being sought by the Arlington board and other left-leaning jurisdictions across the commonwealth may move up in priority.
General Assembly members will convene on Jan. 8 and are expected to be in session for 60 days. The prime object of the session will be to pass a biennial budget, but thousands of pieces of legislation will be introduced during the session, as well.
Over the past several years, tree advocates have pressed Arlington board members to do more to preserve existing trees. Often, the response has been that county government does not have the power under state law to do more than it currently does, something tree advocates have scoffed at.
Among some of the other policy proposals included in the draft package, the county government asks the legislature to:
• Provide counties with the same taxing and regulatory powers as cities, which currently have more power.
• Fully fund local costs associated with the expansion of Medicaid previously enacted by the General Assembly.
• Support more funding for affordable-housing efforts.
• Support more funding for public education.
• Fund improvements to Long Bridge (over the Potomac River) to provide for expansion of passenger-rail service.
• Enact protections for tenants facing eviction.
• Enact a variety of gun-control measures, including allowing local governments to prohibit the possession of firearms on property owned or leased by a locality.
• Increase funding for jails.
• Allow localities to regulate the use of plastic bags.
• Ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment.
(Interestingly, the package does not include any request that the state government allow Arlington to convert from a county to a city, an idea that over the past year has gained some momentum in certain corridors.)
Despite the turnover in the General Assembly ranks, Arlington will be represented by the same three state senators and four delegates as in recent years. All seven won re-election, five of them unopposed.
County Board members will hold a work session with the seven members of the General Assembly on Dec. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the County Board room of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center. The public can attend but not participate.
A public hearing on the legislative package will be held at the Dec. 14 County Board meeting.