Editorial: Careful What To Wish For

Could changes in General Assembly mean some legislative requests from Northern Virginia might not be dead on arrival?

When the Virginia House of Representatives adjourned from its 2017 session, Republicans controlled the house by 66 to 34. The exact count following elections earlier in November is still unclear, but one party or the other could have a 51-49 majority, or even face a 50-50 split.

I don’t recall anyone predicting this level of change.

Three very close races are likely headed for recount, including one in Fairfax County, and since this is the first time all voters have used paper ballots, it’s hard to predict how that will go. But one way or the other, Northern Virginia localities are likely to have more influence.

Fairfax County, along with Arlington and Alexandria, prepare a state legislative wish list each year, made all the more urgent because localities in Virginia have only the powers specifically given to them by the General Assembly. If there is any reasonable doubt whether a power has been conferred on a local government, then the locality does not have that power.

That has meant, for example, localities can only raise revenue from limited sources, can’t restrict where people carry guns, can’t set their own minimum wage, and can’t fully control land use within their boundaries. Some haven’t been able to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Not all of these restrictions are based on party affiliation.

Aside from more local authority, the top wish is for more funding.

Fairfax County’s draft on funding schools: “Public education funding in the Commonwealth is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution as a joint responsibility of both state and local governments, so it is essential that the state fully meet its Constitutional responsibility to adequately fund K-12 education. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth continues to allow critical gaps to persist between state funding and the actual costs of providing a high-quality education, placing more of the fiscal burden on localities while substantially limiting local revenue sources, creating a discrepancy that has become increasingly untenable.”

The one action that could produce significant funding and services with very low cost to state coffers: expanding Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act. Virginia has turned away billions of dollars, plus the jobs and healthier citizenry that come with that.

— Mary Kimm

mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com

Next Week: More Local Giving

Next week, we will publish our lists of local nonprofits for holiday giving. If you know of an organization that should be included or whose listing needs updating, please email mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com.

Deadline Extended, Children’s Edition

Submissions of student art and writing are due by Friday, Dec. 8, an extended deadline.

You can see last year’s editions by visiting www.connectionnewspapers.com/PDFs/ and scroll down to Children’s Edition.

Email submissions for the Children's Edition to the following editors:

  • For Burke, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Great Falls, Herndon, Lorton, McLean, Reston, or Springfield, email to Kemal Kurspahic at kemal@connectionnewspapers.com.

  • For Alexandria, Arlington, Centreville, Chantilly, Mount Vernon, or Potomac, Md., email to Steven Mauren at smauren@connectionnewspapers.com.

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