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Fairfax County police cruiser (via FCPD/Facebook)

A change in Virginia law will allow police to once again pull over vehicles with excessively loud exhaust systems, starting tomorrow (Friday).

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (June 28), officials said the change was much needed, citing noisy cars as one of the top complaints they receive from constituents.

“This is a very annoying issue to a high percentage of my district’s residents,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I probably hear about this more than anything else.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation authorizing police to pull over vehicles and issue violations for loud exhaust systems.

Virginia eased rules on exhaust noise levels after the General Assembly passed legislation sponsored by local lawmaker Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) in 2020. Hope and other advocates argued at the time that police were disproportionately pulling over drivers of color for minor infractions, like broken tail lights, tinted windows, and loud exhaust systems.

That law went into effect in March 2021.

However, the change seemed to lead to a rise in noise complaints related to loud exhaust systems in Fairfax County and neighboring jurisdictions.

So, a new bill was created, passed, and signed into law by the governor this year that specifically made exhaust systems “not in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise” a primary offense, meaning police can now pull over drivers specifically for that.

Braddock District Supervisor Walkinshaw and Springfield District Supervisor Herrity said they often hear from residents about loud vehicle exhausts. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said expensive, new exhaust systems with the express purpose of making noise are popular among some in his district.

Even Hope, the sponsor of the original bill, admitted to FFXnow that the 2020 bill had “unintendend consequences,” though he did vote against this session’s legislation.

“This [legislation] was in response to the unintended consequence in the 2021 law of some motorists taking advantage of the law change and installing obnoxiously loud exhaust systems on their vehicles, disturbing families and neighbors,” he wrote. “I heard many complaints from constituents that supported the intent of the law but the unintended consequence was a disturbance of the peace.” Read More

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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (file photo)

A slew of new laws are taking effect in Virginia tomorrow (July 1), including a ban on police ticket quotas, a requirement for licenses to deliver alcohol, and a new allowance for hunting on Sundays.

The 2022 General Assembly session finally wrapped this month with the approval of a new budget. All in all, about 800 laws were passed by the legislative body and signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin this year, including some from local lawmakers.

A number of those new laws are going into effect tomorrow, July 1.

Here are eight that could impact county residents:

License to deliver alcoholic beverages

The identical bills HB 426 and SB 254 both create a new license for deliveries of alcoholic beverages purchased by consumers. The new law extends the pandemic-era “cocktail to-go” policy while addressing several safety issues.

Businesses will now have to obtain a third-party license, costing between $2,500 and $7,500 depending on company size. The license requires delivery employees to take an online course on age verification, food requirements and responsible drinking.

HB 426 was sponsored by Del. David Bulova (D-37), who represents Fairfax City and parts of Fairfax County.

School principals must report misdemeanors 

HB 4 and SB 36 require school principals to report most misdemeanors to law enforcement, including certain kinds of assault, battery, threats made to school officials, stalking, and alcohol and drug use. Before, principals only had to report acts that constitute a felony offense.

Both bills were introduced by Republicans and were a legislative priority of Youngkin, but did have some bipartisan support, including Del. Ken Plum (D-36), Del Mark Sickles (D-43), Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33), and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30).

No more police arrest or ticket quotas 

HB 750 bans police departments and sheriff’s offices from imposing formal or informal arrest or ticket quotas. This particularly affects the issuing of traffic violations, which have long been unpopular with both police and drivers. In some jurisdictions, quotas have been used as a barometer for job performance.

The bill received unanimous support in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Read More

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Supreme Court (via SCOTUS)

(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade today (Friday) in a landmark decision that will effectively ban abortion in more than a dozen states.

Abortion remains legal in Virginia, which doesn’t have so-called “trigger laws” that would go into effect with the court’s ruling.

However, shortly after the news broke this morning, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) told The Washington Post that he will seek to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Youngkin put out a statement in response to the decision:

The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life. That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward. I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January.

The decision will also not immediately impact the legality of abortion in neighboring D.C. and Maryland.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, the county’s top prosecutor, stated that he will never prosecute women for having an abortion, even if the state laws change, a sentiment he previously shared in a New York Times op-ed.

Most of Fairfax County’s representatives expressed outrage, describing the ruling as a rollback on human rights and a “dark moment.”

President Joe Biden, who previously said he’d look to shore up abortion rights, is expected to deliver remarks on the decision at 12:30 p.m.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that he’s “deeply concerned about the future of women’s rights and healthcare in our nation” but noted that the Supreme Court ruling won’t immediately affect abortion access in Virginia. Read More

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Fox News discusses protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes (via Gov. Glenn Youngkin/Twitter)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has some thoughts on how Fairfax County should handle abortion-related protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes.

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors and County Executive Bryan Hill yesterday (Wednesday), the governor suggested that the Fairfax County Police Department “establish an expanded security perimeter” and limit “unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access” around the homes of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett, who all live in the county.

“This request is based on credible and specific information received about upcoming activities planned at or involving the homes of the Justices in Fairfax County,” Youngkin wrote in the letter, which was posted online by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “…Establishing a perimeter will ensure both the safety of the Justices, their neighbors and the demonstrators.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay resoundly rejected Youngkin’s proposal, arguing that it would amount to “a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment.”

He said it would also raise concerns related to the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly, stating that the county’s “well-trained, sophisticated” police department “stands ready as always to take necessary action, if needed, to protect public safety.”

“My focus is on public safety and protecting constitutional rights of our citizens,” McKay said in a tweet sharing his letter to Youngkin. “I know the well-trained FCPD professionals can ensure both.”

The exchange came two days after abortion-rights advocates organized by the group ShutDown DC marched to Alito’s house in Fort Hunt in protest of his leaked draft opinion indicating that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has been used to protect access to abortion for nearly 50 years. Read More

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs S.B. 739, letting parents opt their children out of local school mask mandates (via Governor of Virginia/Facebook Live)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a bill yesterday (Wednesday) making masks optional in schools by March 1.

Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia school systems have continued to require students to wear masks, even after Youngkin issued an executive order that gave parents the choice whether their children wore a mask.

The school board, along with six others, sued the governor, challenging his power to prohibit local mandates. But Senate Bill 739 makes that suit moot, establishing the order as law. All jurisdictions that have mask mandates must make them optional by March 1.

The effort to make masks optional was led by Sen. Chap Petersen (34th District). Petersen said that in the final version of the bill, the governor can reimpose mandatory mitigation measures if necessary.

“COVID-19 has been a tough and stressful time, and our kids have been hit the hardest,” Petersen said in a statement. “We are in a different world than we were two years ago. The vaccine works and is widely available. Universal mask mandates, especially for children who are healthy and vaccinated, is an onerous and outdated measure that will now end on March 1st.”

Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement that it was reviewing the legislation to determine “what this means for FCPS.” With the bill adding pressure, the school system announced a plan last week to make masks optional once COVID-19 transmission returns to a moderate level in the county.

While cases have been declining in recent weeks, community transmission remains high, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When should masks become optional in schools — as soon as possible or when COVID-19 transmission levels are reduced?

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook Live

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Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams speaks at a union rally prior to a public hearing on a proposed collective bargaining ordinance for county government workers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) Scores of people called on Fairfax County to adopt a more robust collective bargaining policy for county government workers at a Board of Supervisors public hearing on a proposed ordinance yesterday (Tuesday).

At a rally before the public hearing and at the meeting itself, labor union representatives and other speakers stated that they want more workers to be eligible to participate in collective bargaining, more ability to negotiate working conditions, and more flexibility in discussing labor issues while they’re at work.

“This is a defining moment,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president Tina Williams said during yesterday’s public hearing. “Fairfax County can set the standard in Virginia.”

Williams and Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams were among the educational leaders who gave their support to a county ordinance, even though it would not cover school employees. Fairfax County Public Schools needs to adopt a policy separately.

Fairfax County has spent months developing collective bargaining procedures after the Virginia General Assembly broke from a 1977 state Supreme Court ruling that banned public-sector unions from collectively bargaining. The legislature approved a law in April 2020 that gives localities the authority to develop ordinances to permit collective bargaining if they choose to do so.

County leaders have expressed support for collective bargaining, which is already permitted for government workers in most states as well as D.C. Some neighboring jurisdictions, including Arlington and the City of Alexandria, adopted their own ordinances earlier this year.

With labor groups representing a wide range of workers, from firefighters and police to public works, nurses, librarians, and social workers, weighing in, the Board of Supervisors decided to defer a vote on the ordinance to its next regular meeting on Oct. 19.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay said the postponement will let supervisors to absorb the testimony and respond to speakers’ requests to take more time on the matter. Written comments will continue to be accepted as part of the public hearing.

Most speakers during the hours-long hearing came in support of an ordinance, though a few raised concerns about the implications the matter would have on taxpayers.

The county projects that the ordinance will carry $1.9 million in annual costs to handle increased workloads.

At least nine full-time equivalent employees and additional support positions will be needed to address new work involving labor relations, legal support, policy administration, contract compliance and administration, according to a county staff report.

While there was broad support for collective bargaining, labor groups and other stakeholders voiced concerns about the most recent draft of the proposed ordinance. Read More

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