Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ERA Goes Down in the House, Senate Passes Anti-VEA Bill

Not a great day in the General Assembly today.

All of the Equal Rights Amendment bills were killed today on a party line vote in the House Privileges and Elections (P &E) subcommittee. The Senate versions of these bills all passed last week, so this is a real blow to to the bipartisan efforts in the House to get this passed. The P&E subcommittee took up the House bills but also killed the Senate bill that was carried by Republican Glen Sturtevant. Here is how the members of the subcommittee voted. Since the motion was to kill the bills, a NO vote was the RIGHT vote:

YEAS--Ransone, Ingram, Fowler, McGuire--4.
NAYS--Sickles, VanValkenburg--2.

It seemed as though this might be the year that Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, but the vote of 4 members of this small committee killed this effort. Recent polling showed that more than 70% of Virginians support ratifying the ERA, but it only took 4% of the House of Delegates to take it down.

In other disappointing news, the Virginia Senate passed Senate Bill 1236 from Senator DeSteph on another party-line vote 20-19. Senator Chafin wasn't in the chamber at the time, so he didn't vote.  This is the bill that is designed to be anti-VEA and anti- teacher union. It is also a huge overstep by the General Assembly over the local control granted to local school boards to run their schools. The VEA was hoping enough of our friends on both sides of the aisle would understand our argument, but, sadly, only the Democrats voted with us. We are grateful tot he Democratic Caucus of the Senate for standing with us on this vote. We are also glad that the School Board's Association and the School Superintendents also opposed this bill. It now goes to the House where we will try again to defeat it. Thank you to everyone who sent an email to your Senator. If your Senator voted the wrong way on this bill, make sure you follow up with them and ask why.

Tomorrow there are all sorts of interesting bills up in the House Education Committee and the subcommittee that will meet after the full committee adjourns. Tebow, vouchers, a bad charter school bill, and two of the VEA's bills are all up. Look for a full debrief here tomorrow.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday Marathon and Gun Day

The General Assembly is open for business on the MLK holiday. People are always surprised that they are in session on a state holiday. Interestingly the General Assembly is in session on every Saturday and Sunday from gavel down on opening day until they adjourn sine die in February during the short session. Luckily they rarely meet on these days, but they could and, sometimes, do. I am grateful to the VEA Lobby Cadre who give up their holiday to make sure that all of our committees are covered. Especially on Mondays.

While I am certain it isn't the case, I think that the Chair of the House Education Committee is trying to wear down the public education lobbyists on Monday. We started with a 7am subcommittee where they heard a few bills where the VEA has positions of support. This morning the VEA was proud to stand with Delegate Lopez on his HB2388, a bill that would allow Dreamers to be eligible for in-state tuition for a Virginia public colleges. This an important bill for students who are on a path towards citizenship and were brought here by their parents. The bill requires that these students graduate from a VA public high school or have earned a Virginia GED, they must be accepted and enrolled in a public college or university in Virginia, and their parents must have paid Virginia income tax for at least one year. The bill reported from the sub committee 7-1 with only Delegate Leftwich voting against. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee where it will likely face a tougher fight.

In the full committee that started at 9am, Delegate Krizek's HB1724 that creates a pilot Grow Your Own program for high needs schools passed, but was also referred to Appropriations. The VEA and the NEA is very supportive of these programs that encourage middle and high school students to learn more about teaching as a profession and to commit to come back to teach in their home school division after graduation with a teaching license. The bill grants college scholarships for these students. There is much research on the effectiveness of these types of programs in filling teaching positions in hard to staff schools. We are hopeful the House Appropriations committee sees the values in the investment of state resources on this program.

At 4pm the House Education Subcommittee on K-12 meets and, when the docket is long, like it is today, we are usually not finishing up until sometime after 8pm. Today's subcommittee was fairly non-controversial, they are saving all those bills for the next Monday which is the final subcommittee before cross over. The big bill for us was Delegate Carroll-Foy's and Delegate Ware's HB1397 the VEA Teacher Diversity bill. This is the House version of SB2037 that has been going very well on its path towards passage in the Senate. I am always nervous about a bill until it gets its first hearing. Even though the Senate version is doing well, you never know how things will go in the other body and you NEVER tell members of either body that the other side likes the bill. That makes an assumption that the other side doesn't matter. We have been talking with all the right folks and everyone knows that this is a good, solid bill. While HB2037 passed unanimously, it was referred to Appropriations even though the Department of Education says there is no fiscal impact. I am hopeful they can help the Speaker and the Appropriations Committee see that this bill does have a budget impact and they pass it.

In other news, SB1236 Senator DeSteph's bill that attacks the VEA and other teacher unions will get a final vote on the floor of the Senate tomorrow. Keep emailing your member of the Senate and urge them to vote NO on SB1236. Click here to send your email.

On a side note, MLK Day is always Gun Day at the General Assembly. It's always packed with folks on both sides of the issue, but open carry in the hallways of the Capitol and the offices of legislators is disconcerting.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Action Alert on Senate Bill 1236- An Attack on the VEA

Fridays are generally really slow at the General Assembly. They try to finish up early so that legislators can head home for the weekend. Today even the committees that usually meet on Fridays after the floor session, have been cancelled. I won't lie. It's been a long, busy week here. I am looking forward to getting home while it is still light out.

A couple of important updates. We have a cyberlobbist action alert active on Senate Bill 1236. This bill, from Senator DeSteph of VA Beach,  attempts to very broadly define an education employee association.  The bill puts all of these “associations” on an even playing field with the VEA even though there is no requirement in the definition that these other "groups" represent employees, or advocate for improved working and learning conditions for teachers and students.

As defined in the bill, “an education employee association means teacher associations, teacher organizations, and other associations that are formed for the purpose of promoting the interests of teachers or students.” So local school boards would need to treat any “group” as an equal to the VEA and other teacher unions. These other “groups” want access to employee emails and mailboxes. They want access to buildings and events. They want to be able to replace the true teacher unions.

Wondering where this bill came from? There was a local fight in Virginia Beach that the Virginia Beach City School Board resolved in a way that left a disgruntled group looking for a different answer. So even though this local issue was resolved by locally elected officials, Senator DeSteph has decided to try to reverse that decision through legislation.  While Senator Desteph claims to have brought in stakeholders on his substitute legislation, the VEA, VSBA, and VASS were not included in those discussions. It is not a compromise.

Both the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents oppose this legislation and we are grateful for that. It is a swipe at the local control of schools that is a Constitutional right granted to our local school boards. More importantly, SB1236 is an effort to silence educator voices at a time where, across this country and right here in Virginia, they have finally found their voices. Please contact your member of the VA Senate now by clicking here and demand they vote NO on SB1236. The bill will be on the floor of the Senate on Monday.

Speaking of Monday, it will be a crazy day here. MLK Day is always "Gun Day at the General Assembly." Gun rights advocates from across the Commonwealth come to Richmond, openly carrying their weapons, to demand protection of their 2nd amendment rights. The gun violence prevention groups will be here too. It is amazing to see their silent protests and quiet work on Gun Day especially since many of them are victims of gun violence. The VEA is proud to stand with them on common sense gun violence prevention legislation.

As if Gun Day wasn't crazy enough, Monday is always a marathon day for House Education. Dockets haven't been published, but I expect quite a large number of important VEA bills to come up. Make sure to read the Daily Report on Monday for a full run down.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Early Start in Senate Education and Health

An early start today in the full Senate Education and Health Committee this morning. Let's get to the good news first. SB1397, the bill that the VEA and the School Superintendents worked on together, passed unanimously. This is the Teacher Diversity Bill that will break through the current roadblocks that keep minority students from entering the teaching profession. It is a really good bill. It now goes to the floor of the Senate early next week. Since it passed unanimously out of the full committee, it will go to the floor as an uncontested bill and likely pass in the block and cross over to the House. A really good outcome. Interestingly, the House version of the bill (HB2037) hasn't been heard in a subcommittee yet, so while we are hearing the House is as favorable to the bill as the Senate has been , we haven't seen a vote on the bill on that side of the General Assembly. So while we feel confident, we are still talking to members of the House and leadership on the House Education Committee and answering any question that have on the bill. We want to make sure this bill gets through the House with identical language to the Senate bill, too. That is important so that it can get on the "fast track" when it crosses over. This is a really big, really impactful bill. Lots of good work has been done to highlight the lack of diversity of Virginia's teacher workforce and this bill is a direct result of all of that work. I am proud of the VEA for taking this issue on and fighting for some really good solutions to this problem. So that's today's good news.

Making a right hand turn, there is some bad new to report. Senate Bill1236,Senator DeSteph's bill that goes after the VEA and other teacher unions, reported out of the full committee today. Interestingly Senator DeSteph offered a revised version of the bill and claimed that he "developed the substitute bill after discussing the issue with stakeholders and coming to a compromise." I am trying to figure out who those "stakeholders" were and how he can call something a compromise when you only talk to one side. Neither the VEA nor the other two opponents to the bill- the School Boards Association (VSBA) and the Association of School Superintendents (VASS)- were invited by the senator to discuss a compromise. The bill is better but it still puts all employee "groups" on an even playing field with the VEA. It also directs local school boards on how they will mange their relationship with the local education association. That is a complete overstep of local control of our schools. You can read the new version of the bill here. This is a tough committee for anti-union bills. Frankly it was our goal to make sure the Democrats on the committee knew what the issue was and that they voted to protect the union. We visited the office of each of the Democratic members and dropped off a one pager on the bill. Because Senator DeSteph claimed to have reached a compromise with stakeholders, two members who are usually with us, abstained from the vote because there was no testimony allowed on the substitute bill. The vote tally is below. A NAY vote was to kill the bill:

SB 1236 Public schools; equal access, education employee associations, etc.

01/17/19  Senate: Reported from Education and Health with substitute (8-Y 4-N 2-A)

YEAS--Newman, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Dunnavant, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake--8.
NAYS--Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke--4.
ABSTENTIONS--Barker, Petersen--

The bill will now go to the floor of the Senate. We will be getting out a cyberlobby action later today on the issue asking our members of the VA Senate to vote NO on the bill. We are making sure that VASS and VSBA are reaching out to their members, too. If we can get school superintendents to call their school division's senator, we may be able to kill this on the floor. If not, we will, hopefully, kill it before it gets to the floor of the House.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

School Safety Bills and A VEA Bill Faces Its First Test

This morning the House Education Committee took up the recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety. The VEA is encouraged by many of the recommendations from the committee. We are especially grateful for the focus on increasing school counselor's ability to work directly with  students rather than being assigned many of the responsibilities on test administration and data. Here's the rub. Just saying that school counselors should be relieved of those other responsibilities without providing any additional staff or state funding to hire either more counselors or more support staff to take on some of those other responsibilities is an unfunded mandate. The work will still exist and that means someone will need to take it on. Should that be the school administrators who are already overburdened and unable to be real instructional leaders because of the paper-pushing they are required to do? Should it fall on the teachers who are already stretched beyond their limits? Should these responsibilities simply fall into the "other duties as assigned" and everyone can just try to figure it out? None of these is OK with the VEA. If the General Assembly wants to change the roles of school counselors so that students mental health needs are met, they need to fund additional positions or lift the support staff cap so that state dollars for the support positions we need are funded with state dollars. Delegate Landes' legislation that increases the percentage of time that school counselors spend on true counseling is very well intended and we are grateful to him for highlighting this issue, but the state's idea that this change is "free" is ridiculous. There must be state dollars that follow this change. His bill was referred to Appropriations for review, but we are concerned that it will pass without any additional state dollars to support its implementation.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education had its first meeting this afternoon. House Bill 2144, VEA initiated legislation that came from a New Business Item at our 2018 Convention, was heard. HB2144, carried by VEA member and teacher, Delegate Chery Turpin would reestablish the Duty Free Lunch Incentive Grant. This grant would make limited state funding available for school divisions that wanted to provide duty free lunches to their teaching staff. Currently there is no federal or state requirement that teachers have a duty free lunch. The incentive fund was established in 1950 and funded until the 1990s. At that time, school divisions were required to report the extent to which they were providing duty free lunches to their teachers. When the reporting requirement was there, more divisions were providing that time during the day. The fund was repealed in 2011 and the reporting requirement also went away.

In 2017, the VEA asked school divisions what their polices were on duty-free lunches. Most reported they did their best to provide them as often as possible. Ours was a soft ask since there is no state report, so the data was what it was. We know that fewer teachers are getting a break to have even a 15 minute lunch. We are grateful to Delegate Turpin for carrying this legislation. In good news, as we traveled the state talking about this bill, we heard from some of our hourly ESPs who were not getting an unencumbered break for lunch. Hourly employees are on a different category depending on how may hours they work. We were able to connect some of our ESPs with their UniServ Directors to help resolve those issues. The more we talk, the more we learn.

In good news,  the members of the sub committee were very responsive to our bill. While the bill was laid on table, that is actually a good outcome on a bill that needs to be funded. The members of the committee can "pick the bill up" off the table once the budget is drafted. I will tell you anything that isn't a kill in that committee is a good outcome. Delegates Peace, Landes, and John Bell asked great questions and engaged on the issue. They also asked about any data the state had on teacher morale. Delegate Peace asked specifically about the school personnel climate survey that the VEA proposed last year and, while not funded, was still required to be implemented. It allowed us to make a case for state funding for a more deep dive into issues. So two birds with one stone on that one. A good day for a good bill that was initiated by your VEA Convention delegates! We will have to see how the budget talks progress, but Delegate Turpin and I were pleased with the outcome in sub committee today.

House Appropriations Tears Apart Governor's Budget Proposals

A quick post that will be followed up with a recap of the day, but WOW, we are sitting in the House Appropriations Committee listening to the Department of Education's review of the Governor's budget proposals and Dr. Lane and his staff are getting torn apart by the leadership of the committee. Not a good first sign of where this committee is heading as they begin to develop their budget development.

If you thought a single penny of the Governor's $269 million in increased funding to K-12 was a sure thing, you need to change your thinking and get to work putting pressure on your member of the House of Delegates.

Not a good sign of things to come.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lobby Day is Coming. Have You Made Your Plans?

So in big news, the Equal Rights Amendment passed the Virginia Senate! A huge victory, but there is still a HUGE problem in the House. The Chair of the House Privileges and Elections committee, Delegate Mark Cole, has refused to put the House version of the bill on the committee docket for consideration. The Speaker of the House, Kirk Cox, has yet to intervene and force the issue. We will have to see if the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates is really prepared to block a vote on legislation that the vast majority of Virginians support and that the Senate passed. So while we celebrate a victory today, we are along way from passing the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia. We need to be contacting our legislators and put pressure on them to do the right things. They need to hear from you.

Hearing from you is why the VEA has a Lobby Day every year. This year it is Monday, January 28. It is one, coordinated day where school employees from across the Commonwealth come to Richmond to demand that legislators to do the right thing for us and for our schools. This year it is vital that you come to Richmond. We are facing a budget fight that will set the stage for how K-12 public education is funded for years to come. We need to put pressure on every member of the House and Senate to do the right thing. Come to Richmond, lobby your member of the General Assembly, and then come to the noon rally for education on the grounds of the VA Capitol. Members of Virginia Educators United will join us to demand that the General Assembly FUND OUR FUTURE! It is time to make structural, long-term changes to how we fund our public schools and pay our public school employees. Click here to learn more about VEA Lobby Day and the Fund Our Future Rally.

For anyone who is not a member of the VEA, we encourage you to learn more about the Virginia Educators United plans for January 28 by clicking here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mondays Are Busy for House Education

Today the House Education Committee got to work. Mondays are always long because the House Ed committee has three subcommittees, and two of them meet on Monday. On Mondays, House Ed Subcommittee #3 meets at 7am, then the full House Ed committee meets at 8:30am, and House Ed Sub #1 meets at 4pm. As the dockets get longer, these days go non-stop from 7am until at least 7pm as the subcommittees run long with so many bills to hear.

Why are subcommittees so important? Well the subcommittees are the engines that drive all the committee work. They are smaller and more focused. Most bills in both the Senate and the House are assigned to subcommittees, where they get very thorough hearings. In general, this is where bills are amended and discussed at length. It is where one vote can kill or advance a bill and where you can have the most influence. It is also where you must be the most prepared to speak to every detail of each bill. I enjoy the subcommittees and appreciate the discussion and debate with the smaller group. You can see who sits on the House Education subcommittees by clicking here and then clicking on each of the three subcommittees. You can see the the members of the Senate Education and Health subcommittee on public education here.

There was not much action on VEA bills today, but there is a whole lot of tweaking language, proposing amendments, and working on bill strategies. Things will pick up tomorrow.

As an fyi for those of you following the ERA Constitutional Amendment, the chair of the House committee where the legislation is assigned, Privileges and Elections (P&E), is continuing to say that he does not intend to being the legislation to the committee. You can contact Delegate Mark Cole, Chair of House P&E by clicking here.

Friday, January 11, 2019

VEA Initiated Bills and Budget Amendments

Today's post features the legislation that VEA members voted, at Convention, to initiate along with a really sweeping bill that has been in the works since VEA's first Teachers of Color Summit and the recommendations that came from that event. Overall, it is a good agenda for educators.

From our 2019 Legislative agenda:
Teacher Evaluation and a$200,000 budget amendment for the VA Department of education to complete the study: Delegate Debra Rodman (D) patron
You can click here to read the legislation.

Duty Free Lunch and a $500, 000 budget amendment for initial funding: Delegate Cheryl Turpin (D) is our Chief Patron and she has co patrons that you can see when you click on the bill.
You can click here to read the legislation.

Part time VRS Study/$200,000 budget amendment: Delegate Ayala (D) (notice patrons who have signed on when you click on the bill).

Our bill that will allow the VA Board of Education (BOE) to have the ability to issue a reprimand when a teacher faces a license action in front of the BOE. Right now the Board can only revoke or suspend a license. Those are really severe punishments for lesser infractions. We need to change that. Delegate Thomas (R) is patroning the bill. You can click here to read the bill.

The Department of Education has requested funding in order to implement the School Personnel Climate Survey we proposed last year. Our patron's have each submitted a $300,000 budget amendment to cover the cost. Thank you Senator McClellan (D) and Del. VanValkenburg (D).

VEA will support the School Construction funding in the Governor’s budget and Senator Bill Stanley’s (R) School Modernization budget amendments.We will go after the restoration of the Per Pupil Lottery Allocation in 2020 through the Biennial Budget process.

From the Teacher of Color Summit Recommendations:
An amazing bill to open up both Teacher Diversity and the Teacher Pipeline in Virginia. There is a House and a Senate version of the bill. They are identical.
House Bill 2037 is patroned by Delegate Jennifer Carroll-Foy(D) and Co-Patroned by Delegate Lee Ware (R). you can click here to read the House version of the bill.

The Senate version of the bill is patroned by Senator Mark Peake (R) and co-patroned by Senator  Mamie Locke (D). You can follow the Senate bill here.

The other big news today is that VEA Fund recommended candidate, Jennifer Boysko,  was sworn into the Virginia Senate. That leaves her seat open in an nearly evenly divided House. She also sat on the House Education Committee. Her open seat there shifts the balance of power a bit for sure. Speaker Cox has announced that the Special Election to fill that House seat won't be until February 19. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on February 23, so we will have to work with some new math until then. For most of session the House will be 51 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

VEA's Teacher Diversity Bill and An Attack On Our Union

This morning was the first meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee and they took no time at all getting started. They reported bills and referred bills at lightning speed. A VEA bill and a bill that attacks educator unions were both referred to the afternoon sub-committee meeting for full hearings. Usually some of these larger, more controversial bills come up later in session. Not this year.

Senate Bill 1236 (Senator DeSteph, VA Beach) is an attempt to undermine the role of the VEA and our local affiliates. Interestingly, this bill came out of a local issue the Virginia Beach Education Association (VBEA) faced and fought off. So even though the VA Beach School Board was able to take care of their issue through local organizing and the work of locally elected officials, Senator DeSteph decided to make the issue a legislative issue and is trying to add to Code language his local school board rejected. We were glad to have the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) with us opposing this bill. The bill reported 3-2 with our two champions Senators Locke and Howell voting to stop the bill. The fight will likely be on the floor of the Senate as the full committee will likely report on party lines.

On another note and in really, really good news, VEA initiated Senate Bill 1397 is a direct result of the recommendations that came out of VEA's Teacher of Color Summit. Diversity among Virginia’s student population continues to increase, non-white students made up 49 percent of Virginia’s student population in 2016-17, up from 39 percent in the 2003-04 school year. Virginia’s teacher workforce is nearly 80 percent white. Research shows that diversity in schools, including racial diversity among teachers, can provide significant benefits to students.  Improving teacher diversity can help all students. Teachers of color are positive role models for all students in breaking down negative stereotypes and preparing students to live and work in a multiracial society. Both quantitative and qualitative studies find that teachers of color can improve the school experiences of all students. PK-12 students of color also do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they are taught by teachers of color.By 1998, in response to the National movement to high-stakes testing, Virginia added passing standardized, professional assessments (PRAXIS) for entry into teacher education programs and for earning your initial teaching license. These assessments show significant pass rate gaps between white teacher candidates and minority teacher candidates.Candidate screening tests also inadvertently perpetuate historic inequities.

In order to diversify our teacher workforce, we need to address the three inflection points where standardized professional assessments create road blocks to minority teacher candidates entering the profession.Virginia needs to examine the three inflection points for teacher licensure where the current requirements bar entry for minority candidates: 

  1. Entry into traditional teacher education programs 
  2. Earning their initial license 
  3. Completing the requirements of a provisional license

SB 1397 eliminates the requirement, established by the Virginia Board of Education, that all individuals seeking entry into a traditional teacher preparation program must pass the professional assessments. We know these assessments unfairly screen out minority teacher candidates. It would allow colleges and universities in Virginia to establish their own entry requirements into their programs. The bill also grants authority to the Virginia Board of Education to develop an alternative evaluation that would allow a teacher candidate to demonstrate proficiency in the relevant content area, communication, literacy, and other core skills for educators before being granted an initial teaching license. This bill does not eliminate the professional assessment as one of the means of evaluating a teacher candidate’s readiness to become a licensed teacher, it simply allows the development of an alternative method of evaluation as prescribed by the Board. And finally, it allows for a local Superintendent to request a waiver from the Virginia Board of Education of the professional assessment requirement of a provisionally licensed teacher who has met all of the other requirements for full licensure and has also received a rating of proficient or above on the performance standards each year of their provisional license. 

We are grateful to Senator Mark Peake for patroning this bill. There is an identical bill in the House that is partroned by Delegate Carroll-Foy and Delegate Lee Ware.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Day One of the 2019 Session

The gavel went down at noon today on the 2019 session. Have you talked with your legislator yet? If you haven't, reach out now and tell them your story. Build a relationship and make sure you are a "go to" person for them on education issues. If you don't know who your legislator is, you can click here to find out.

This is going to be a budget session even though, on paper, it isn't. This session will be all about tax policy and how the state handles the changes in tax code at the Federal level that will impact the state. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made significant changes to the Federal tax code. Virginia will conform to the Federal changes as they always do. The issue will then become how Virginia handles the standard deduction changes and the ability to itemize. There is potential for substantial new revenues that can be invested in public programs like public education. In fact, Governor Northam's budget amendment proposals assumes passage of tax policies that will bring in these revenues. Without them, cuts will need to be made to his proposals. So the General Assembly is facing very difficult choices. Obviously the VEA supports the Governor's budget amendments and investments in our schools and school employees. It will be the big issue of session.

As usual, today's floor action was focused on organizing the session and establishing rules. Committees will start meeting this afternoon, so there will be more to do tomorrow. Today your Lobby Cadre spent their time visiting every legislator's office and sharing the VEA legislative agenda. If you haven't seen the 2019 VEA Legislative Agenda you can click here to read it.

Tomorrow I will give updates on the VEA bills. There is a lot of good work going on with those.

I wanted to end with a shout out to Mrs. Carol Bauer's 4th grade class. Carol is a tremendous VEA advocate, our senior NEA Board member, and award winning teacher. She let me know that the link I shared on Monday to the web site American Evolution that celebrates the 400th Anniversary of Virginia's General Assembly was helpful to her students and they enjoyed the content. So glad I shared it here. See, this blog is more than just an update, it's a teaching tool :) Click here to check out the web site.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Are You Ready for the 2019 General Assembly Session?

Ready or not, legislators are back in town.

The gavel will go down at noon on Wednesday, January 9 for the 400th anniversary of the the oldest, continuous, law-making body in the New World, Virginia's General Assembly. The Assembly was established on July 30, 1619. There will be all sorts of commemorations and celebrations this year to mark the anniversary. You can visit The American Evolution web site to learn more about all the events this year.

Even though session doesn't start until Wednesday, most legislators are either in Richmond or on their way. Bill drafts are being considered, patrons are lining up, and bills are dropping into the queue for committee referrals. If you are interested in looking at all the bills that have filed so far, you can go to the Legislative Information System (LIS) web site to find out everything you want or care to know about session. Legislators have until 5pm this Friday to file their bills and, even with bill limits this session, we expect about 3,000 bills to drop. Session is always busy and chaotic.

This session is in an odd year, so it is a short session lasting only about 45 days. Virginia operates on a biennial budget that is adopted during even-years, so those sessions are longer (60 days). Of course last session lasted for more than 5 months when the House and Senate failed to come to agreement on a budget until May 30. In odd years, they will only be considering amendments to the biennial budget, so we don't expect to go into extra innings, but that doesn't mean there won't be big budget fights to fight.

On December 18, Governor Northam delivered his proposed budget amendments to the General Assembly for consideration. There will be more about that tomorrow. Ultimately the members of the General Assembly determine how state dollars are allocated, so they will create their own budget, but the Governor's is always the starting point. If you went to one of VEA's Pre-legislative Dinners, you know that the Governor really doesn't have the final say on how state dollars are allocated. It's the members of the General Assembly who do that, so we need to make sure they know how we feel about how state dollars are allocated. If you don't know who your legislators are, you can click here to find out.

As always, the VEA will follow every bill and have coverage in every committee and sub-committee meeting the entire session. We do this by bringing in a team of lobbyists from our membership and staff who work very long days, walk miles, take notes, and keep your GR Director updated. Of course VEA President Jim Livingston and Vice-President James Fedderman will lead a good portion of this work, but they are happy to be joined by members Kelly Walker and Dave Palanzi and VEA staff Brenda Pike, Joel Coon, Jay Deck, Lisa Staib, Bekah Saxon, and Dena Rosenkrantz.

So let's get ready. Wednesday is coming!