Friday, February 12, 2016

Statewide Health Insurance Clears Senate/First Last Chance to Stop Charter School Constitutional Amendment

The Statewide Health Insurance bill, SB364, passed the Senate on a 39-Y 0-N vote.  Unlike other years, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Delegate Chris Jones, not only looks favorably on the bill – he has worked with Senators Chafin and Vogel, Delegate Kilgore and with Director of the Virginia Department of Human Resources  Sarah Wilson to craft the acceptable compromise.  This bill will provide the platform to build a plan for a statewide option for local school boards, local governments, and retired employees.  Optimism prevails regarding the prospects for this bill in the House.  VEA has been working for decades to make this happen.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The focus in the House was on the Charter School bills.  Most of the debate centered on HB565, the bill to implement the Constitutional Amendment, Delegate Rob Bell’s HJ1.  There is also HB3, the bill spelling out the actual question that will be on the ballot.  The question is as follows:
"Question: Shall Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to grant the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth, subject to criteria and conditions that may be prescribed by the General Assembly?"
Here is what the question should say if they wanted people to understand what's going down:
"Question:  Shall Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to give the State Board of Education the authority to create charter school without the approval of local school boards?" 
The final votes on HB3 and HB565 have to occur by Tuesday, but the House voted on HJ1 today, and it narrowly passed on a 52-47 vote.  Thirteen Republicans joined all of the Democrats in opposition.

VEA thanks Delegates Sickles, McQuinn, McClellan and Albo for their contributions to the debate.  Delegate Albo was successful in amending the bill to require that if a new school must be built for a charter school approved by the state Board of Education, that the Board must designate that either the state or the entity seeking the charter school must pay for it.

At the point we must stop the identical constitutional amendment resolutions HJ1 and SJ6 in the Senate.  The Senate vote on SJ6 is pending, and the Senate vote on HJ1 will be after crossover.  Please contact your senator urging opposition to SJ6.

Click here for Senate contact information.