Thursday, February 21, 2019

Long Day on the Floor, ERA, Where Are the Budget Amendments?

Today the Speaker warned House members that they would have along day. He warned that they would be in and out all day as he considered many of the bills where there are differences between the versions passed by the House and the Senate. He wasn't kidding.

Also facing the House this morning was the Resolution submitted by Delegate Hala Ayala to force the House to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment. As you may know, the Senate passed the ERA back on January 15. For most of the session the House Committee that needed to hear the legislation before it could go to the floor, refused to put the bill on the docket. Finally the committee caved to the tremendous public pressure and heard the bill only to kill it on a 4-2 party line vote.

The Democratic House Caucus decided to force the vote by introducing a Resolution to change the rules of House and bring the ERA to the floor for a vote. If you have been following along, the rules change resolution needed to be read five times over five days. That happened and today the vote to change the rules and hear the ERA came to the floor for a vote. The Resolution to hear the ERA failed 50-50, in the House there is no tie break, motions fail. All of the Democrats and Delegate Yancey (who only won his last election when his name was pulled from a bowl) voted to take the ERA to the floor. All of the other Republicans voted to kill the resolution and end the ERA fight this session. The VEA supports the ERA as do 81% of Virginians. The advocates this session did an outstanding job, but the House is still the roadblock. Elections are in November.

We are still waiting to see the final budget amendments. We expect to see them 48 hours before legislators vote, so we expect them at some point tonight as the General Assembly is expected to adjourn on Saturday. As soon as we see them, we will get information out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Do Your Part- take Action on the Budget

All committee work is complete for this session so we turn all of our attention to the budget. There is no time to waste. Make your voice heard and take action on the VEA requests for the budget amendments and the VEA has an email action alert that makes it easy. Click here to send an email to all 14 budget conferees.

The VEA is asking for the following to be included in the final budget:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

If you are ready to call the conferees  please ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
· Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
· Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
· Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
· Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
· Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
· Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052


· Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043

Monday, February 18, 2019

VEA Initiated Teacher Reprimand Bill Passes! It's Headed to the Governor's Desk

This afternoon, House Bill 2325, patroned by Delegate Bob Thomas, crossed the final hurdle to passage. It passed the Senate 40-0 and will go to the Governor's desk for his signature. This is the bill that originated on the floor of VEA Convention last session from the Spotsylvania Education Association. The bill will broaden the authority of the VA Board of Education when they are dealing with a licensed educator who is facing disciplinary procedures. Right now, the Board only has the authority to revoke or suspend a license regardless of the severity of the offense. Last year, the Board asked if they had something less punitive when they were dealing with one specific case. They didn't, so the local education association in Spotsylvania started the process to change the law.

The New Business Item from Convention went to the VEA Legislative Committee where they directed the GR Director to find a patron and work to submit a bill. The SEA had already talked with Delegate Bob Thomas about the bill, and he was ready to go. A bill was drafted and the VEA worked closely with the patron all session to amend the bill to address some legislator's concerns and to keep all of the key voting members up to date with the contents of the bill and to answer any questions. We wanted to be sure we had the votes in every subcommittee and full committee meeting where the bill was headed. We made sure there were no surprises and no voting member of the committees had any questions. That was key to this bill's success. The biggest hurdle was in the House Education Subcommittee meeting back on January 25 where we had to take the bill by for a while to clean it up and amend it to get it through the sub. It was a tense afternoon. In the end, that single "no" vote we had in sub was the only "no" vote the bill received in the House or Senate. Delegate Thomas worked hard on this bill and the VEA  spoke with the key leadership in the Senate to make sure they were good with the bill. So while the vote looked easy, there was nothing easy about this bill. It took lots of work, many conversations, some amending, and then sitting down so it could quickly go through its final full committee last week. Sometimes when a bill is on a roll, it is important to recognize when you don't need to get up again and speak to it. Just let it go on its own merits and on all of the background work we had done.

This is a good bill. Congratulations to Delegate Thomas and to the Spotsylvania Education Association for this one! Well done!

Conferees Start Work on Budget and Final Bills in Committee

The is the last week of session. All bills must be through the committee process by midnight tonight. The final bills the VEA is following were up in committee meeting today, and, since most of them were legislation tied to the budget, they passed out of the money committees. We will have to wait for the conference budget to see what is funded.

The conferees started their work this weekend on the budget. the VEA has an active call to action on the budget. Click here to send an email to all 14 budget conferees. The VEA is asking for the following to be included in the final budget:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

If you are ready to call the conferees  please ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052
·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043

Friday, February 15, 2019

Have You Taken Action on the Budget?

We are inching closer to all work on legislation being complete. The VEA only has a few bills left out there that are simply waiting to get to the floor. There is really only one that we are still working with the patron on. All of the others have had their final hearings. The last week of session (next week) is always dedicated to these final bills, but really only to budget.

Today the Governor signed the tax conformity bill. That was an important step towards completing the budget amendments, since this year tax policy changes really dictate the amount of future revenues the budget conferees have to work with. As I have described in this blog, the Governor assumed passage of certain tax policies in order to make the investment in K-12 he announced in December. The actual bill that passed doesn't go nearly as far in using the revenues for state investments. As we knew would happen in this circumstance, the budget conferees must make reductions to the Governor's INTRODUCED budget amendments. This is important. There are NO proposed reductions to the 2018-2020 biennial budget that passed last May. Items you are reading in your facebook feeds or in the news that talk about cuts to K-12 are comparing what the House and Senate budget amendments proposed compared to what the Governor budget amendments proposed. Don't get me wrong, the state still has the revenues to make significant increased investments over the adopted budget. They don't have the types of revenues the Governor assumed in his proposals, but they can certainly make the investments the VEA are calling on them to make. They are:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

Are you ready to take action? Click here to quickly send an email to the 14 members of the Budget Conference. If you are ready to call them all, ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052
·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043






Thursday, February 14, 2019

Our Last Two Bills Move Forward, It's Budget Time

This morning the Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously reported (passed) the last two VEA initiated bills still making their way through the process. I have written extensively about these bills, so I won't go into a lot of detail here, but they are both important.

House Bill 2037,  from Delegate Jennifer Carroll-Foy, is our teacher Diversity bill that is a direct result of the recommendations from the first VEA Teachers of Color Summit. You can read about the details of the bill in my previous posts. It is a good and important bill. It will go to the floor of the Senate tomorrow and be up for final passage on Tuesday. Since it came out of the committee unanimously, it is considered an uncontested bill and should pass quickly. If you happen to be going to the VEA's Teachers of Color Summit this weekend, Delegate Carroll-Foy will be on site on Friday to talk about her bill and to be recognized for her work. I look forward to reporting soon that this bill has passed both the House and the Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk.

In the same committee this morning, House Bill 2325, from Delegate Bob Thomas, also passed unanimously and it headed to the uncontested calendar tomorrow on its road to final passage on Tuesday. This is the bill that came from last year's VEA Convention. This bill will broaden the authority of the VA Board of Education on license action. This bill gives the Board the ability to reprimand rather than just suspend or revoke a license. This is another important bill and we appreciate the hard work of our patron. He has done an outstanding job. Like HB2037, I look forward to reporting this bill's final passage on Tuesday.

As action on bills wraps up, all eyes turn to the budget. Both the House and Senate have named their members of the Budget Conference (called budget conferees) and it is time to let them know what we want to see included in the final version of the budget. We are demanding three things:

  1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
  2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
  3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed, on a per-pupil basis, to those students most in need.
We need to fill the budget conferee's email in boxes and their voicemail with messages. Sending an email is easy. Click here to quickly send an email to the budget conferees.

You can also call their Richmond offices. That takes a little more time, but it is very effective. Just ask for the three items above to be included in the final budget. Here are their phone numbers here at the General Assembly:

Senate Budget Conferees

· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503

·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524

·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532

·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535

·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523

·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515

·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507



House Budget Conferees

·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076

·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025

·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097

·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081

·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023

·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052

·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Might This Be the Year King's Dominion Law Goes Down?

This afternoon Delegate Robinson's House Bill 1652 passed both bodies of the General Assembly. This is a school calendar bill. As you may know, Delegate Robinson has been trying for 8 years to pass a bill  that would repeal the King's Dominion law. This law requires school divisions to open after Labor Day unless they apply for and receive a waiver from the VA Board of Education to start earlier. Most school divisions in Virginia actually have a waiver, but basically the school divisions east of I-95 don't. Fairfax finally got a weather waiver last year, so most students in Virginia live in divisions that are able to set their own calendars and start before Labor Day. Today we finally got a bill to pass. I don't want to jinx it, as crazier things have happened, but as of today, all this bill needs is the Governor's signature, and the administration supports the bill.

This bill isn't perfect as it isn't a full repeal, but it does eliminate the need for any school division to get a waiver to start earlier. The hospitality and tourism lobby still have some control over this legislation, so a full repeal wasn't possible,

The bill is a bit complicated, but it protects every school division that currently has a waiver or is eligible for one and it allows all divisions to start before Labor Day. Here are the details:

  1. The first part of the bill covers any jurisdiction that has held a “legacy” Labor Day waiver  since 2011-2012. These jurisdictions would be able to open prior to Labor Day with no opening date restrictions or pre-Labor Day holiday requirements.
  2. The second part of the bill covers any jurisdiction holding a waiver this year.  These divisions would continue to be able to start prior to Labor Day with no opening date restriction, but would have to give a holiday on the Friday prior to Labor Day.
  3. The third part of the bill is the biggest change. It covers school divisions that don't have a waiver. They would be allowed to open no earlier than 14 days prior to Labor Day and have to give the pre-Labor Day Friday holiday.
So if your school division has started before Labor Day, you will see little or no changes. For those divisions that have been forced to start after Labor Day, they can now set their calendars to start school up to 14 days before Labor Day, no waiver needed, however they must give a 4 day Labor Day holiday.

Many school divisions have already set their calendars for next school year. This bill would become law on July 1, 2019, so some school divisions that now have the ability to start before Labor Day may decide to take another look at their calendars for the 2019-2020 school year. We need to be prepared for that. Some divisions that opened before Labor Day this year will need to adjust their calendars to include the Friday before Labor Day as a holiday. Again, we need to be prepared for that as well. 

The King's Dominion Law passed in 1985. We have been fighting it for years. Local school boards should be able to set their own calendars that work for their communities. This bill doesn't quite get us there, but it certainly puts the needs of our public schools and communities ahead of amusement parks. Thank you Delegate Robinson for your fight on this issue!