Virginia Sen. L. Lewis Lucas gives another blow to the Arena project


RICHMOND — A powerful Democrat in the Virginia House of Representatives said Thursday that his bill to build a sports arena in Alexandria for the Capitol and the Wizards has died, leaving only one legislative path in the General Assembly for Gov. Glenn Youngkin's top priority. is also alive.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke E. Torian (D-Prince William) said his bill, which passed easily in the House last week, would not advance in the Senate because Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman L. Lewis Lucas (D-Portsmouth) has told them he will not hear it.

Lucas defeated Senate Majority Leader Scott A. The same was true of the Senate's stand-alone arena bill proposed by Rep. Surovell (D-Fairfax), killing it without a hearing last week.

Torian told The Washington Post, referring to his own bill, “I had a meeting with President Pro Tem Lucas and he indicated to me that since he has not docked Senator Surovell's bill, he plans to dock HB1514. Not the intention.” “She's not going to dock the bill, so the bill won't get a hearing.”

An associate of Lucas confirmed that account.

However, the arena plan remains viable in the House version of the budget, and its presence will keep arena discussions alive during the final hours of the legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn on March 9. Language establishing the State Department of Sports and Recreation's authority to oversee construction of the arena remains in House Bill 29, a budget bill known as a “caboose” that adjusts funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Is.

“In passing HB29, we still have a vehicle for the arena, and obviously the budget will go to conference and we'll address everything at conference,” Torian said. “HB29 has arena legislation and we will continue to address it when we go to conference.”

Even if the territory's language is not in the final budget, the Governor has the power to send a new bill or call a special session. A spokesperson for Youngkin (R) did not immediately comment on the development.

Monumental Opportunities, a supporter of the project, said in a written statement that the bill's death is not a surprise. “We had always hoped that this would be addressed in the budget process,” the statement said. “We are really encouraged to see bipartisan support for both the budget language and the standalone legislation, but we always know the budget conference committee will have the final decision.”

However, Thursday's development was the latest setback for the project, two days after a group of labor unions came out against the plan, claiming it lacks vital worker protections.

Arena dispute escalates between Bowser and Leonsis, Youngkin and VA Dames

Youngkin announced a handshake deal in December with Monumental Sports & Entertainment for its D.C.-based teams and a splashy development at Potomac Yard — a potentially legacy-making coup for the governor.

To do that, Youngkin needs the Legislature to create a Sports and Recreation Authority to issue $1.5 billion in state-backed bonds for the project — and state and local money generated at the site to help pay off that debt. Must agree to divert tax revenues.

Uncertainty from the start — some legislators are hoping for economic development rewards, but others are wary of giving incentives to Monumental's billionaire owner, Ted Leonsis — the plan's prospects in the General Assembly are looking increasingly shaky.

Lucas declared “Glen Dome” dead on February 12, days after Youngkin insulted the Democrats in a partisan speech at a mock political convention, saying that Democrats do not believe in a “strong America.” Lucas expressed displeasure at the comments but also said she was concerned the project would not be a good deal for taxpayers.

On Sunday, he removed the arena language — as well as Metro transit funding seen as key to the project — from the Senate state budget bill.

The House and Senate voted on their respective budget bills on Thursday. The gubernatorial language is not included in the Senate but is in the House version. The rival spending plans would eventually end up in a conference committee, where a handful of legislators would iron out differences.

Youngkin has pitched bringing NHL and NBA franchises to a state that has no major professional sports as a way to create 30,000 jobs and provide a $12 billion boost to the state's economy.

Some members of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly have shared the governor's enthusiasm, but there are skeptics on both sides of the aisle who fear taxpayers could be on the hook for the bonds if the project fails. Others have objected on principle to having the state help pay the bills for a private business enterprise. Legislators in traffic-plagued Northern Virginia said they were concerned about the impact on transportation.

Some Democrats – including Lucas – initially suggested that Youngkin might be willing to go along if he agreed to some of their priorities, including more Metro funding, the creation of a legal market for recreational marijuana, a minimum wage. Salary increases and less are included. Highway Tunnel Toll in Hampton Roads, Lucas part of the state.

Torian and Surovel agreed to sponsor stand-alone arena bills for Youngkin in January after the governor promised to support increased funding for Metro over the next two years, Surovel said at the time.

Earlier Thursday, influential labor groups reiterated their opposition to the arena plan — a stance that could further jeopardize the proposal's chances of passing through the General Assembly and Alexandria City Council.

“We deserve to be a part of this huge investment of public dollars,” Sam Epps, political director of Unite Here Local 25, said after an Alexandria news conference Thursday morning. “They said they were going to bring jobs there, but they would be low-wage jobs. “The math just doesn’t add up for workers.”

The Northern Virginia AFL-CIO and its member unions – including Unite Here – had been negotiating for several weeks with Monumental, developer JBG Smith and Virginia over measures that would guarantee job security and a minimum wage for construction workers. Determine who will create the arena and entertainment district.

Unite Here, which represents thousands of D.C.-area hotel workers and concessionaire employees at Capital One Arena, also sought an agreement that would allow future employees of privately built hotels in that district to unionize. Will allow to create.

But officials overseeing the planned hotel site said during talks that it was too early to sign agreements before lining up a hotel operator. Youngkin also cited the commonwealth's weak labor laws in a statement Tuesday, saying that “unreasonable demands from union leaders will not derail this project.”

Union leaders were seen displaying their political influence at Thursday's press conference in response to the Governor. At least three of the seven members of the Alexandria City Council – which has similarly positioned itself as a champion of organized labor – said they would reject the plan if labor unions opposed it.

A George Mason University report released last week found that the area would far exceed Alexandria's housing goals, creating more than 5,400 units of affordable “workforce housing” for families who make slightly less than the area's median income. (Professor Terry Clover, who wrote the report, said JBG Smith paid the university about $50,000 for its Center for Regional Analysis to study the area proposal, although the developer plays no role in the center's research process.)


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