Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This Is Important: Call Your Senator

It’s funny what can shape a legislative session, especially in the forty-member senate where you have 21 Republicans, 19 Democrats, and a Democratic Lieutenant Governor who can break ties.  What are some of the variables at play now?  One, you have several Republican Senators, centrist by nature, who will not be seeking re-election.  These two, Stosch and Watkins, may be inclined to vote their conscience rather than their caucus, and Watkins, especially, has always shown an independent streak.  Second, two Democrats, Toddy Puller and Louise Lucas, both dear friends to VEA, are absence as a consequence of ill health.  Toddy fell and broke her elbow, and Louise will undergo neck surgery for a disk problem.  We wish them both well.

I remember years back, the late-great Senator Joe Gartlan was carrying a binding arbitration bill for VEA, and it failed by one vote when Senator Yvonne Miller missed a session when she was ill.  We fell one vote short of what would have been a great gain for Virginia’s teachers.
One vote can make the difference.

Today in the Senate, Senator Donald McEachin’s SB 785, which prohibits discrimination in public employment based on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity passed the Senate 20-19.  The Lieutenant Governor broke the 19-19 tie.  Check out the vote:

YEAS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Vogel, Watkins, Wexton--19.

NAYS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Wagner--19.

RULE 36--0.

NOT VOTING--Lucas, Puller--2.

Senators Vogel and Watkins broke with their caucus.  Two votes made the difference.

 Which leads me to a big vote looming in the Senate.  Senator Obenshain’s SJR256 proposes an amendment to Section f of Article VII of the Constitution of Virginia, relating to the establishment of charter schools.  Should this amendment become part of our the Constitution, a 9 member board appointed by the governor rather than your school board would decide if your locality should open a charter school in your division.  Please see earlier post on January 6 regarding the House companion resolution HJR 526.

Consideration of SJR 256 went “by for the day” when the resolution came up today in the Senate.  The Final vote could be as soon as tomorrow.  A constitutional amendment must receive 21 votes to pass, so if even one Republican votes against or simply takes a walk we win this battle.

 Earlier I asked you to send a message to your Senator regarding this resolution.  Today, I ask you to call your Senator and ask them to, “Please vote against SJR 256.”  Just leave that short message.

If you don’t know who your Senator is, please click here.  Even if you do click to see the cool map.

Your Senator’s Richmond office phone number is available here.

Please call tonight.