Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Statewide Health Insurance Appears to be on Fast Track

What seemed impossible now seems sure.  Senator Ben Chafin's SB364 gained unanimous passage of a bill which could lead to a Statewide Health Insurance option for Virginia’s school divisions and local governments.  VEA initiated SB364 first cleared the Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on a unanimous vote.  This subcommittee had killed similar measures year after year.  Just minutes later, it cleared full committee on another unanimous vote.  The bill new heads to the House floor on the uncontested calendar.

Once again Governor McAuliffe vetoed the Tebow bill, Delegate Rob Bell’s HB131.  The Governor’s veto message read in part as follows:

Allowing home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic competitions would disrupt the level playing field Virginia's public schools have developed over the past century. For example, VHSL rules state that a student must pass five subjects or the equivalent in the previous semester, and be enrolled in five subjects or the equivalent offered for credit toward graduation, in order to participate in the league's events. While the bill provides that home-schooled students must demonstrate evidence of progress in order to participate in interscholastic activities, the unique nature of their educational situation precludes conformity to the same standards.

Virginia's public schools provide a complete package of scholastic offerings and access to extracurricular activities. Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements. Opening participation in those competitions to individuals who are not required to satisfy the same criteria upends Virginia's extracurricular framework and codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition.

The House failed to override the veto on a 57-Y 42-N vote.

HB8, the virtual school bill, reported from the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) 10-Y 4-N this morning, but not before Senator Emmett Hanger amended the bill.  The amendments delay implementation until 2017-18, and cap enrollment at 5,000.

Another amendment calls on the Department of Education (DOE) to do what VEA has sought for decades: “develop a proposed methodology for estimating the cost of fully online programs.”

HB8 now heads to the Senate floor where passage seems a sure thing.  Let's hope for another veto!

HB389, Delegate LaRock’s voucher bill, was also reported.  The vote was 9-Y 5-N.  However, this bill, too, was amended thanks to Senator Hanger.  The amendment reads, “That the provisions of this act shall not become effective unless reenacted by the 2017 Session of the General Assembly.”  Even after the amendment the vote reflected bipartisan opposition.  The bill now heads for the Senate floor where we hope to see it fail.