Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One Funny Valentine, and Today's Bills

The real drama of the day was provided in the debate over the teacher contract bill, SB 438. We needed one more vote to kill the bill. Senator Norment rose to speak. He said that his daughter sent him an email this morning. She wrote to him saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad. I love you. Don’t stick it to the teachers.” His daughter, Casey Bailey, is a kindergarten teacher at D. J. Montague in Williamsburg – James City County, a VEA member, and a Lobby Day participant. He said he couldn’t go home if he voted for SB 438. Every teacher in Virginia owes Casey thanks! At that point, fearing the bill would be killed, Senator Newman asked that the bill go by temporarily. Presumably, the Governor and his staff wanted time to deal for a vote to counter Norment’s defection.

The Governor could not do his magic, and when SB 438 was considered again, the final vote was 18-20. The bill failed. We owe thanks to the 20 Senate Democrats, and to Norment and Watkins, who walked on the final vote.

This battle is not over as the House Bill, 576, is still alive. We have fought the good fight engaging everyone from VEA’s Executive Director and President to one most important kindergarten teacher. We need to keep the heat on to kill HB 576.

Today was Crossover, and each chamber, House and Senate, so the calendars were thick and the hours long. Too many bills met their fate for me to go into much detail. Here’s a list and a thumbnail description of what education related bills that passed and what failed.

SB 498 – establishes a new hybrid retirement plan to replace the current plan. Current employees would have the option of joining this new plan, but it is mandatory for new employees. Passed 40-0.

SB 497 – requires school board employees to pay the 5% employee contribution to VRS. The school board must give offsetting salary increases, and the payment can be phased in 1% per year.

SB 598 – addresses virtual school funding, Passed 39-10.

HB 321 – this bill establishes a tuition tax credit program to pay private school tuition at taxpayer expense. Passed 64-35

HB 325 – this bill requires training for aides and teachers assigned autistic children. Passed 99-1.

HB 1129 – this bill reduces VRS benefits by reducing the multiplier from 1.7% to 1.6%, capping the COLA at 3% rather than the current 5%, and basing the average final compensation on the high 5 years rather than the high 3 years. Those within 5 years of unreduced retirement are grandfathered. Passed 74-26.

HB 1181 – Third grade reading intervention. Passed 100-0.

HB 1248 – transfers general funds, 30% of which now go to public education, to fund transportation. Passed 63-35.

HB 512 – Machinery and Tools Intangible Personal Property tax bill which would have reduced local government taxing authority when localities are under great stress and are having a difficult time supporting our schools. Failed 35-65.