Monday, February 4, 2013

Bully Bill Passes House/Grade the School Amended in the Senate

As we approach tomorrow's crossover deadline the calendars in each chamber are thick.  Many bills are up for consideration.

In the House, VEA's anti-bullying bill, sponsored by Delegate McClellan, gained final passage on a strong 93-6 vote.

The Governor's grade-the-schools bill passed the House (55-40), but was amended to a form more to our liking in the Senate.  Significantly, the amendments offered by Senator Barker postponed implementation of the bill "until student growth factors are included in determination of grades."  Prior to amendment, the bill would have assigned grades next year based on current state and federal accountability measures and then switched to the student growth factors in the next year.  Reasonable legislators questioned the wisdom of grading one way and then switching - correctly assessing that this would cause confusion.  As the House and Senate bills will vary, it appears that these bills will be heading to a committee of conference.  Please look for more on this later.

Bills to require CPR training of all teachers for licensure and re-licensure passed in both chambers.  VEA had asked that this training be offered as in-service and not associated with licensure.

Tomorrow, each chamber must complete work on its own bills prior to midnight.  Then bills cross to the other chamber.

It is appearing that this session may well last beyond the scheduled date of February 23, as there is a standoff in the Senate over the issues of Medicare expansion and the diversion of General Fund dollars to pay for transportation.  The Democrats want the expansion as it will insure as many as 420,000 Virginians who are currently uninsured including 33,000 veterans, it will create 30,000 jobs, and if Virginia doesn’t take the $2 billion in federal revenue it will be shared by the other states.  If the budget does not include Medicare expansion it appears that all 20 Democrats will vote against the bill, and it won’t pass.

The other contentious budget issue is the diversion of General Fund revenues, 30% of which goes to schools, to pay for transportation.  This, too, appears to be a deal breaker for Senate Democrats.