Well, aren't you a parasite for sore eyes.
As the weather’s getting colder, politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia are heating up. Here’s what’s in store for this week’s Politics Hour.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring joins the show to give us his take on the week’s biggest political headlines out of the Commonwealth:
- A number of counties in Virginia are declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) requested Herring’s formal opinion on the declarations. He’ll go on the record with that opinion on The Politics Hour.
- On December 11, Attorney General Herring is hosting a Cannabis Summit. What are his hopes for cannabis policy in 2020?
D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) has been embroiled in investigations from a federal grand jury, WMATA and the Council itself. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson joins the show to breakdown the latest.
- In a historic turn, all 12 D.C. Councilmembers voted to recommend that Evans be removed from office.
- Mendelson urged Evans to step down after the vote.
- The effort to recall Evans halted after petitioners fell short of the 5,000 valid signatures needed.
John Bell is the Senator-elect (D-District 13) representing Loudoun and Prince William Counties.
- Bell is currently a delegate for House District 87, which includes Prince William and Loudoun counties.
- For the senator seat, Bell defeated Republican candidate Geary Higgins in one of the most competitive and expensive races in Virginia’s 2019 elections.
- In his campaign, Bell focused on gun violence and transportation. What will be his priorities come January?
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Mark Herring Attorney General, Virginia (D); @MarkHerringVA
- John Bell Member-elect, Virginia Senate (D-13); Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-87); @DelegateJBell
- Phil Mendelson Chairman, D.C. Council (D); @ChmnMendelson
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to the Politics Hour, starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon, everyone.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the D.C. Council and then John Bell, Member-elect in the Virginia State Senate. There's a lot to do today. So we'll be moving on very quickly. Joining us now by phone is Mark Herring, the Attorney General of Virginia. General Herring, thank you for joining us.
MARK HERRINGWell, thank you for having me and hello everyone.
NNAMDIMore than two dozen counties in Virginia are declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries where counties voice their opposition to impossible defiance of new gun control laws. On Monday, Virginia Delegate, Jay Jones, a Democrat from Norfolk, asked for your formal opinion on these declarations. What is your opinion?
HERRINGWell, Kojo, these resolutions have absolutely no legal effect whatsoever. And what this is about is the gun lobby going around stoking fear trying to scare people when what Virginians is to do something about the epidemic of gun violence. And so this is really about saving lives and reducing gun violence, and the majority of newly elected legislators from this past election are committed to doing everything that they reasonably can to address this epidemic and I feel confident that when the legislature passes these laws in the next couple of months they will be enforced and they will be followed.
SHERWOODGeneral Herring, Tom Sherwood. Thank you for being on the show. I checked with WSLS, which is the TV station in Roanoke, who's doing a count by count for localities. It says 45 localities have already passed something. And that 50 other localities that means counties and cities are also considering something. Loudoun County considered it, but voted it down. Prince William County may bring it up here in Northern Virginia. What does it say -- is it more than just the NRA gun lobby people? Is there a real concern among some citizens that you talk to that the upcoming legislature may go too far?
HERRINGWell, you've got groups like the Citizen's Defense League, which incidentally thinks the NRA is not -- you know, it's too weak when it comes to guns. They are out stoking a lot of fear before one bill is even heard.
SHERWOODWell, what do you support?
HERRINGWell, I support addressing this epidemic of gun violence with laws like universal background checks, which are supported by the vast majority of Virginians, reinstating the one handgun a month law that Governor Wilder got passed that served Virginia for two decades really well up until Republicans in the General Assembly repealed it a couple of years, red flag laws, which when someone has been found to be an imminent threat to themselves or others, there's a way that they can give up their guns. Those are reasonable gun safety measures that will keep our communities safer and do something about this epidemic of gun violence.
HERRINGAnd what really should be the outrage is that in the last 10 years more than 9,000 Virginians have been killed using a gun. More than 200 women have been shot and killed by an intimate partner. And from 2014 to 2018, there were 40 mass shootings in Virginia alone. That should be the outrage and that's the level of carnage and death that should really drive people to demand action, which it has done, and drove people to the polls to elect legislators, who would be responsive to the needs of the community.
NNAMDII haven't even put out the phone number yet and people are calling already on this issue. And our time is limited, 800-433-8850. Here's John. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNMy question is the common sense gun laws that the state legislature and representatives ran on -- the gun laws actually being proposed by legislature go far past common sense gun laws in that they're actually going -- if passed the way that they're written right now will actually make hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia felons overnight, because they are the strictest gun laws proposed in the United States. How do you call that common sense when you're talking law abiding citizens, who've owned several firearms that are potentially going to be outlawed and you're not offering grandfather clauses or potential buybacks for those guns?
NNAMDIOkay. Mark Herring.
HERRINGWell, thank you, John. And, again, one bill has not even been heard yet. And the extremists within the Citizen's Defense League and gun lobby are out trying to stoke fear, and as I talked about, the primary proposed legislation that we say introduced in the special session, which lasted all of 60 minutes before Republicans shut it down, were things like universal background checks, which are supported by the vast majority, by not only Virginians, but gun owners,. Things like red flag laws, things like the one handgun a month law that Virginia had, we had for two decades, and it served Virginians well until it was repealed just a few years. These are reasonable and common sense measures. These are ones that on the campaign trail Democratic candidates talked about and advocated for and that voters elected them to go to Richmond in the upcoming session and do something about this.
NNAMDII know your time is limited. So I have to interrupt. What do you see as the source of charges being made by people like our caller, John, about what the legislature is likely to do?
SHERWOODYes. Is there any proposal that you've heard or seen that would take -- would it limit the possession of guns already in the hands of people in the state?
HERRINGWell, you know, I'm not sure what bills are -- that individual legislators might be thinking about. But the ones that most people are talking about are the ones that I just mentioned, things like universal background, one handgun a month.
SHERWOODI'm not aware of anything that is going to make people give up guns, though. I'm not aware of any of the bills that would make people give up guns they already own.
NNAMDINor am I, but we have to move on. You're hosting a Cannabis Summit next week in Richmond. What are you hoping to accomplish with that? We got a tweet from Roger, who says, Mr. Herring, what are your plans with marijuana legalization?
HERRINGWell, as a lot of your listeners may know I've been calling for major reforms to our cannabis laws in Virginia. Criminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana is not working. It's needlessly saddling a lot of people with convictions that last for a lifetime in Virginia. It's spending a lot of money that could be better spent on our other public safety needs. And there's a smarter better way to this. And there's been a lot of momentum building since I've started that. And with the new elections now behind us and a new Democratic majority, I think we have a real opportunity to get something done. I hope that that is at a minimum decriminalization of possession of small amounts and addressing past convictions, but I also hope that there is a concrete path toward legal and regulated adult use.
HERRINGAnd I have organized this upcoming summit next week to bring policymakers and lawmakers together with panels of experts and some policymakers from other states, who have already taken the steps of decriminalization or legalization to share information and those experiences. So that lawmakers can get their questions answered, address any concerns and really put together a plan that is going to work for Virginia and serve us well.
SHERWOODGeneral, let me ask you a quick question. A year ago, November of last year I think it was, you formally filed papers to run for governor in 2021. Where are you on that? Are you raising money there? Are you in fact still a candidate for governor in 2021?
HERRINGWell, I actually didn't formally announce or formally ...
SHERWOODYou filed some paper.
HERRINGI said that that was what I would be planning on doing when the time comes. I wanted to ready. But, you know, my focus over the last year has really been to do the job and be the best attorney general I can be. And then on the political side to help elect a new Democratic majority and we were successful in that. And now where my focus is, is in trying to make sure that we have a successful session. We have an opportunity now that is historic to do things like pass the Equal Rights Amendment and make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We can enact real meaningful criminal justice reform measures that have been bottled up in committee, because of republican leadership for years.
HERRINGWe can really do something to protect voting rights. It's a historic opportunity. That's really where my focus is.
NNAMDIMark Herring is the Attorney General of Virginia. Thank you so much for joining us.
HERRINGThanks for having me back.
NNAMDINext up is Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the D.C. Council. He will be talking with us about the likely future of Councilmember Jack Evans. Tom Sherwood, by way of providing some background, talk about what happened in the D.C. Council this past Tuesday.
SHERWOODWell, the Council Special Committee that had been formed, which is all the council members except Jack Evans, were looking at what to do about him and the allegation of his ethical wrongdoing met this past week on Tuesday, I think it was. And they were supposed to discuss what punishments they would recommend for Jack Evans. And people thought they wouldn't make any firm decisions, but they got into the meeting room. People started talking. People wanted to expel Jack Evans and it turned out 12 to 0, all of his colleagues voted to expel Jack Evans.
NNAMDIOr to recommend his expel.
SHERWOODWell, yes. Well, yes, to recommend it. Thank you. Very important word, recommend. And we'll ask the Chairman about this, but there's a procedure now that has to go forward. There's going to be another meeting maybe on the 10th, another meeting on the 17th. It's not quite clear exactly when the Council will simply convene and vote for that expulsion, but I think everyone knows that train has left the station.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, there was also a move in Ward 3 to recall the councilmember. What happened with that?
SHERWOODYes, in Ward 2.
NNAMDIWard 2, I'm sorry. Yes.
SHERWOODFor the last several months, a group of citizens has been out trying to get petitions together to have a referendum or have a vote by the Ward 2 citizens to recall Jack Evans. No one on the D.C. Council has ever been recalled, and they submitted the petitions last week I believe it was. The Board of Elections determined that the petitions fell short by 1,065 signatures. And so the recall effort, as far as we know now, is dead.
NNAMDIAnd it is my understanding that the council member informed Fenit Nirappil of the Washington Post that this is an indication that the voters in Ward 2 don't necessarily want to recall the council member.
SHERWOODWell, that's an optimistic view. I would say anybody whose tried to collect signatures in Ward 2 or in other parts of the city realize it's very difficult to find people at home, who are in apartment buildings or complex condo buildings and to actually get them to sign to understand what the issues are. I think this is just a failure of the recall people to get enough signatures. I don't think it's a reflection on whether Jack is popular or not, but let's see. Some people are suggesting that he could resign from the Council not be expelled, and run in the next elections.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, up next D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, you can start calling now 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour with Tom Sherwood. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with John Bell, Member-elect in the Virginia State Senate. Joining us now by phone is Phil Mendelson, who is the Chairman of the D.C. Council. Council Chairman Mendelson, thank you for joining us.
PHIL MENDELSONThank you, Kojo, and good afternoon.
NNAMDIBefore the break Tom Sherwood talked about the vote that was taken by 12 members of the D.C. Council aside from the Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans voting to recommend removing him from office. It's my understanding that when that session started you didn't expect the vote to take place. What changed?
MENDELSONI did not expect that a vote would take place. I think that Mary Jay as the Chair of the ad hoc committee felt that the time was right to take a vote. That's what changed. I do not think that members in their thinking about this -- I don't think that their views changed, although some may have been more quiet than others.
NNAMDISo why did you join them?
MENDELSONI felt for some time that the gravity of the allegations (unintelligible) the Council's report that are extensive in nature and given how much has transpired that it's best for the institution to take this step. (unintelligible).
SHERWOODAre you in an elevator?
MENDELSONNo. I'm not.
SHERWOODYour voice ...
NNAMDIOkay, because your phone is fading out on us. This week's vote does not remove Councilmember Evans from office. So what happens next and what's the timeline for it?
MENDELSONWhat happens next is that the ad hoc committee has to vote formally next week to adopt a report with the recommendation, which will be transmitted to the full Council. I expect that will be on December 17th. That's not absolute, but that's what I expect. Our rules require that there has to be a hearing and so that hearing would be set for the first or second week of January. And that the full Council would take action, I expect around the 21st of January.
SHERWOODMr. Chairman, you have gotten criticism yourself for being some people say too easy on Mr. Evans trying to delay taking away his committees and other things like that. But it seems to me you did come down to finally decide that Jack Evans both for himself, for the Council, for the city is too much of a problem for this Council to continue putting up with. If you had not voted this week, would you have possibly voted not to expel him in a couple of weeks or did you just decide that the majority wants him to go and so you join the majority?
MENDELSONThis has been my view for some time. And as I was saying a minute ago before you commented that I was fading in and out, I don't think any of the members have changed their thinking just because there was a vote this past Tuesday. Our members have had a long time to think about this and to grapple with the issue. I think for many the issue is whether the Council should override the voters. You know, we have a direct relationship with voters, not with each other. But I think that every member was exactly where they said they were when they voted on Tuesday. I think the only surprise was that nobody expected to vote on Tuesday.
SHERWOODIf you vote on January to expel Mr. Evans for the Ward 2 citizens, when would there be a special election to fill the remaining year of his seat?
MENDELSONI think because of the time required for circulating petitions that it probably wouldn't occur until right after the primary. That's very awkward. I don't know that there's a way around that. That's not our decision, however. That's the Board of Elections. And they have to give time for candidates to file petitions in order to get on the ballot to fill the remainder of the term.
SHERWOODSome people have suggested that Mr. Evans rather than being expelled and being the first person to be expelled would resign from the Council at some moment between now and the middle of January. And then seek reelection again just to go to the voters and say, put me back on the Council if you think I've done the work for you in the Council. What would you think of that if Mr. Evans were to resign and then decided to run again?
MENDELSONWell, (unintelligible) the reality is that Mr. Evans has damaged himself fatally politically.
NNAMDIWell, I want to go back to the argument that you referred to early and that Tom just implied in his question that there are those people who say, look, the recall effort failed. Why shouldn't it be up to the voters of Ward 2 to decide whether or not the councilmember that they elected stay in office? Why should it be up to the Council to make that decision for them?
MENDELSONI think (unintelligible).
NNAMDIWe cannot hear you. I think we're going to have to let you go, Council Chairman Mendelson, because we are not hearing you at all. Tom -- and thank you very much for joining us. Thank you very much for trying to join us.
SHERWOODWell, I think the clear thing he said is that the actual expulsion of Jack Evans from the council is not going to be until late January.
NNAMDIWe got a comment from Dottie on our website. Some are saying that Jack Evans must have something on perhaps one or a few councilmen. Could it be he has something on a few members and that he's holding out to trade them in a federal plea bargain if the feds step in? I'd like to not speculate about that for a second, but to speculate about whether or not the feds will step in because that federal investigation is still underway. Any indication at all about whether it's going to lead to any kind of charges against the councilmember?
SHERWOODThe short answer is no, there's no indication from the U.S. attorney's office that this yearlong investigation into Jack Evans's behavior. I don't think that this is a -- Jack Evans has dirt on the other council members that he wants to trade up in order to avoid being prosecuted by the U.S. attorneys. I think Jack Evans thinks that he's not going to be indicted, because he believes he may have violated some ethics rules, but didn't violate the law. We don't know that until the U.S. attorney acts. But I don't see any major scheme or conspiracy here.
NNAMDIApart from some of the issues raised by Republicans in congress, what do you feel or what have you been learning about the notion that if Councilmember Evans is not voted out by the council that it casts a shadow over the politics of the District of Columbia generally?
SHERWOODI would take Joe Biden's word, that's a bunch of malarkey. You know, people who are opposed to statehood for the District of Columbia will find any reason. For a while, of course, it was Marion Barry and then it's all these different issues. The city was too liberal, couldn't do this, couldn't do that because it was too liberal. That has nothing to do with the fundamental right of whether the 700,000 Americans, who live in the District of Columbia should have the same rights as other Americans. We may be the nation's capital, but we're the most un-American city in America.
NNAMDIWell, we're going to have to see what happens with all that. Joining us in studio now is John Bell. He is a member elect for District 13 in the Virginia State Senate, which covers Loudoun and Prince William Counties. He's currently a member in Virginia's house of delegates for District 87 which also covers Loudoun and Prince William. He is a Democrat. John Bell, thank you very much for joining us and congratulations.
JOHN BELLThank you, Kojo. It's great to be here this morning. I appreciate the invite and I'm looking forward to a good discussion. I was able to hear the attorney general's comments and I think that's some interesting dynamics happening right now. But the people, in my opinion, have spoken and they've spoken very loudly.
SHERWOODFirst of all, welcome. How did you get here?
NNAMDII was about to say, the only other time we've had you on this show was back in 2013 ...
BELLIt's been a while.
NNAMDI... when you first ran for the delegate seat which you're now about to leave. You didn't win the seat in 2013, but you did two years later in 2015. In fact, you first ran for office in 2009.
BELLPerseverance is key.
NNAMDINot only perseverance. How has Northern Virginia changed since you first ran for office?
SHERWOODCan we ask him how he got here though, because transportation is a big issue. I wonder ...
NNAMDIOh, when you said how he got here I thought you meant politically. He means literally.
SHERWOODOh well, you did a good job there. I mean, did you drive in?
BELLI did, I did.
SHERWOODHow was the traffic?
BELLYou know, not too bad. A little accident on 66, but thankfully it didn't look like anybody was hurt. So other than that it was pretty smooth driving.
SHERWOODKojo was asking a good question though ...
NNAMDIWell, thank you.
SHERWOODWell, you know, if it were bad I'd say that too. How has Northern Virginia and specifically the district you now represent, 13 in this senate, has changed other than the that traffic is 10,000 times worse than it was a decade ago?
BELLWell, it's changed a tremendous amount. It's, you know, one of the highest growth areas in America. Loudoun County averages 33 people a day moving there, which is a pretty phenomenal statistic. If you think about...
BELLYou know, frankly it's become a place where, you know, businesses are coming to locate. And also, you know, many people, their families grow and they may need a little bit more affordable house than they can get even though, it's still quite expensive to live there, it might be more affordable than say Arlington or Alexandria or D.C. So they move to the suburbs.
BELLBut, you know, that's affected the politics in that area a tremendous amount. When I first ran in the old 13th delegate district, that was a huge district because the populace had grown so much since the previous census. I think it had 35 voting locations, which is huge for a house district. And when the redistricting happened I ended up in the 87th district. I didn't move, but it was split up because there were just so many people who had moved there.
BELLAnd then the 87th, in my four years I've done two terms there, it's been the highest growth district in Virginia. The 13th senate district has also been the highest growth district in Virginia.
SHERWOODJust for people who don't know where that is, it's Loudoun County from Manassas up to Ashburn to -- give us a rough -- what are the major localities within your district?
NNAMDIIn 40 seconds.
BELLIn 40 seconds, okay. If you take Route 28 in the Dulles Airport, you go west of that and pretty much all the way to Haymarket through all the South (unintelligible) and some of the communities there. And the senate district is a bigger footprint. In Prince William it includes Gainesville, parts of Manassas and Haymarket.
SHERWOODIs their legislature ...
NNAMDINo, we don't have time for you to ask another question, because we've got to take a short break. Our guest is John Bell. He's a member elect in the Virginia state senate. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Our guest is John Bell, member elect for district 13 in the Virginia state senate. He's currently a member in the Virginia's house of delegates for district 87. Your election against Republican Gary Higgins -- Tom was talking about this in the break -- was one of the most expensive in Virginia's history. Your campaign spent over $2.1 million, his over $1.3 million. What are your thoughts on Virginia's campaign finance laws or lack thereof?
BELLI think it's ridiculous to spend $2 million, $3 million in a race for an $18,000-a-year job. We need campaign finance reform in the worst way. Having these, you know, giant unlimited donations, I mean, at the federal level the donations are at least capped for the primary and the general election with $2700 each in the last race, so 5400 total. But in an 18,000-a-year job in the state legislature, which is a citizen legislator part-time job really, we're talking unlimited donations.
BELLIn a $3 million race, you know, many congressional races are not $3 million. So I think we need campaign finance reform in the worst way. You know, I would have a formula. Some states do things where based on how many people you represent is the maximum amount that can be spent in a race. And controlling only people who vote for you can donate. There's many different ways to make it better. And I would say almost anything is better than what we do today.
SHERWOODA lot of candidates didn't take money from the Dominion Power. Did you?
BELLI did not.
SHERWOODAnd would you support banning contributions from any government -- any agents -- any business that has a government business?
BELLI wouldn't go in that direction. I would go in a different direction. I actually submitted a bill last year and I'll be submitting it against this year which bans contributions from publically-regulated companies. And I think that's the key differentiator. Because if the State Corporation Commission regulates the company and the general assembly points the State Corporation Commission, I think there's a conflict of interest there.
SHERWOODThat would be power, telephone ...
BELL... and toll roads, and I think those should be ones that we should not be receiving contributions from because that -- and of course you shouldn't receive, you know, contributions if there's a clear conflict of interest. And that is, you know, something that's in existence already, but I think the prohibition on the publically regulated is something we need to do.
NNAMDIGun control was a huge issue in this election. You made it a central part of your campaign with the TV ad focused on common sense gun reform, you called it. We were talking earlier with Attorney General Mark Herring about counties declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. And I know this is something that is on the minds of some Prince William County residents. What do you think of Second Amendment sanctuaries? And do you think it'll happen in Prince William County?
BELLWith the outgoing board, it could. With the incoming board, I don't think so. But I do think it's ...
NNAMDIThe incoming board, of course, can overturn anything the outgoing board does.
BELLThey can. And the other side is, the bottom line, it's a resolution. You know, they could also do a resolution and say that they think the world is flat and send it to the general assembly and let us decide on that. But it's really -- I think Chair Phyllis Randall in Loudoun, when a resolution was put up similarly the other night, she called him out on it and said, you now, the same people who are putting this out wanted to tell the general assembly what to do in this case have argued, when it's antidiscrimination legislation that we shouldn't do that because it's a purvey of the general assembly. We shouldn't be telling them what to do.
BELLSo the hypocrisy of many of the county officials across Virginia on this issue I think is astounding. And to quote Chair Randall, "I'm embarrassed for them as well."
SHERWOODAnd to Loudoun's credit, some of the Republican members of the commission voted against it also. It failed.
BELLAnd I give them credit for that. I mean, but I can tell you I feel like in my election, and this was a central issue, I'm a veteran. I've served in combat zones during my 26-year air force career. I'm a gun owner so to say I'm antigun, I think, is unfair, but I believe in safety.
NNAMDIWhat type of gun control laws would you like to see passed this session?
SHERWOODI was going to ask, what type of gun do you own?
NNAMDIAnd are you planning on introducing any gun control bills yourself?
BELLI am and I'm going to introduce one bill I've done for four years in a row, every year I've served. And it will require in-person training for a concealed carry permit. Currently you can get a concealed carry permit in Virginia with online training or video training. And I know from my own personal experience, the only way you can tell if a holster's properly fitted or you can verify the safety procedures for the weapon is have a trained instructor witness. And also see that those procedures are being done correctly.
BELLYou can't -- you get no feedback from a computer. You get no feedback from a video. And I think frankly the computer or video training is far lacking. Anyone can do it in minutes. It doesn't really -- I think this is a public safety issue. I have a jacket on right now. I can tell you I'm not carrying a weapon, but if I was carrying a weapon, you wouldn't know. So many people are afraid of open carry. Open carry scares me less than concealed carry, because if someone has a weapon out in the open, I can at least look at it and know that they're handling it properly. I can possibly see if the safety is on that weapon. If it's concealed, I don't know.
SHERWOODI'm for open carry if you allow them in the legislature in the halls of congress. (unintelligible), for some reason, don't want guns inside congress, but they don't mind them around the schools that are around the congress.
BELLI mean, I think that these are all things we have to look at. I mean, one of the points I would make is that the current paradigm we've taken with guns for, I think, the last 20 years, 25 years for more guns. A good guy with a gun is the argument we often hear. It's failed by every measure. It's failed by every measure. Every year we sell more guns. Every year we have more gun violence.
BELLI think I would love to see the gun lobby work with us, the gun groups work with us. I hosted a session. It was an open meeting. We called it beyond faith and fear and we were discussing, among other things, having guns in places of worship which my constituents told me they're very against, and the faith community tells me they're very against this.
SHERWOODWhat do you say to the more rural areas where they think guns are -- they have guns for protection in isolated areas. They have guns for hunting and for entertainment. And they don't want to be compared to a more urban area where the people are tightly packed and guns are more of a problem.
BELLI would say that I -- well, let me add something to the previous discussion with Attorney General Herring. Many bills have been filed. Most of them are not yet public. I think people are speculating on legislation they may not even know about or may not have read, but I don't know of any legislation that's going to restrict a law abiding citizen from having a gun in a rural area.
NNAMDIWe're down to five minutes now so we've got to go to transportation, where in Northern Virginia it's always an issue. As a delegate you've been working on the Dulles Greenway, which is privately owned, and what it would look like to combine that road with the state-owned Dulles toll road. What are your hopes for the Dulles Greenway?
BELLWell, first, I think, that's a 14-mile road. It's west of Route 28 right by the Dulles Airport. And then the Dulles toll road -- the two names often get confused because it is kind of confusing -- it's east of Route 28. And that's a 14-mile road that ends at 495, so together 28 miles. What I'd like to see happen, and the Virginia Department of Transportation is studying this at my request and their results are going to come out pretty soon -- is combine a solution for both.
BELLThe Dulles Greenway is you get charged one price if you take one exit for a quarter mile or if you're on it for 14 miles. And the price is expensive. You know, it's over $6 each time and it dramatically impacts people who live in that area because there's really no alternative roads.
BELLIf you look at the Dulles toll road, while I think it's a little over $3, $3.25, $3.50 depending on which exit you get off, while it's not as much over the last decade it's gone from a dollar to over $3. So the percentage of increase there is much greater. I would like to see a distance-based pricing for both and (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIAll me to interrupt, because Laney tweets, please ask Senator Elect Bell why he supports distance-based toll pricing and continuing to increase tolls that punish people who are more economically vulnerable. Most people who live far from work do so because they can't afford to live closer.
BELLWell first, I don't support continuing to raise tolls. That was a campaign attack that just wasn't valid and not true. We have a choice on the transportation. I think our choice needs to be what makes sense, and I think distance-based pricing makes sense. If I want a large pizza, I buy a large pizza. If I want a small pizza, I buy a small pizza. If I want one slice, I buy one slice. And right now without distance-based pricing, everyone's paying for the whole pizza, even if they only want one piece. And I think that's just common sense of what people want is distance-based pricing, but I do not support continuing to raise tolls.
BELLNow, the bottom line is, we're going to have to, you know, come together on this. The Greenway was built in a time where people didn't envision the kind of growth that Loudoun County would experience, and seeing it as a major thoroughfare. It's a privately-owned road. People call it a public private partnership, but basically the Commonwealth of Virginia just gave a private road the ability to operate there and really didn't put controls to stop if it changed ownership and debt went up and it caused tolls to go up.
BELLThere were no caps on it. And basically that road -- if a deal isn't made and the deal I tried to negotiate last year which got misconstrued all over the place, would've capped annual increases at 2.8 percent, but brought distance-based pricing in with no caps it can go up 17 percent a year.
NNAMDIYou mentioned public private partnerships which is a key word in this next email. We only have two minutes left. As a farm in Senator Bell's district in Lovettsville, one of the big challenges small producers face is getting meat processed to increase our local production. Maryland has engaged public private partnerships for a new processing and retail facility in St. Mary's County. Do you see potential for a similar type of operation in Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier?
BELLI do. Actually I've served on the appropriations committee in the house for the last two years, and I've been on the agricultural subcommittee. And we've talked about public private partnerships in many places. Public private partnerships can be great. When I talk about the Greenway and not liking that, I think that was a bad deal. But it doesn't mean every public private partnership is bad. I think what we can do to help farmers bring their product to market quicker, safer, more efficiently is what we should do.
BELLAnd one of the other things I'll just quickly mention with farmers is using technology like drones and public private partnerships in that area, because I've seen farmers have their farms analyzed in 30 minutes by three drones. And they had a four-generation farm that they learned things about that they never knew in 30 minutes.
SHERWOODIs there any room in Loudoun County for a Redskins football stadium?
BELLIn my opinion, if it takes public funds, no.
NNAMDIWhere do you stand on an independent redistricting committee?
BELLI believe that we need a new redistricting. I voted for the redistricting bill last year which it wasn't as good as what was originally submitted. And it forms independent redistricting. It still needs some tweaking and there needs to be an enactment clause in it, which is where the devil is in the details.
NNAMDIWell, now that you're going to be in the majority in the senate ...
SHERWOODBut if you tweak it does it mean it has to go into another year to approval ...
BELLIt would but...
SHERWOOD...and then a vote?
BELLIf I get a chance to vote on the bill that went through last year, I will vote for it.
NNAMDIJohn Bell. He's a member elect for district 13 in the Virginia state senate. Thank you so much for joining us and good luck to you.
BELLThank you so much. I appreciate the invite and hope to be back again.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. We'll be taking a break on Monday to bring you coverage of the impeachment hearings from WAMU and NPR. But join me Tuesday for a conversation about what's new at the Anacostia museum. Have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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