Friday, February 24, 2017

Final Day?? Maybe.

Session is scheduled to finish up tomorrow, Saturday, February 25th, but legislators are talking about finishing up tonight. We will see.

Some good news for bills VEA opposed. HB2251, Delegate Jones’ Optional Defined Contribution VRS plan bill, was sent to Conference. The House and Senate could not agree on the amendments that Senator Tommy Norment added to the bill earlier this week, so that forced the Conference action. Conference only moves forward when legislators are assigned to the conference committee to come up with a compromise bill. The Senate did not assign conference members, so the bill died. We owe a huge thank you to Senators Tommy Norment and Emmett Hanger for their continuing opposition to this bill. VEA was basically alone in this fight. It isn’t easy to fight an “optional” plan that was championed by the Speaker of the House in his last session before retirement, but we did. Thank you to our cyber lobbyists who contacted legislators asking for opposition to the bill. Thank you, as well, to the Senate Democratic Caucus who voted in a block in opposition to this bill. The VEA appreciates your support!

As you may have heard, the school discipline bills that addressed long-term suspensions have died. The patrons had diminishing support in the House and Senate, so they decided to wait for next year. VEA is committed to working with legislators during the off session to determine the best way to implement programs in every public school in Virginia that address and diminish long term suspensions. We must do better for all of our students, and with the right resources and programs, all of our schools can be better equipped. President Livingston is committed to visiting programs that are working around the state, and we will invite legislators to go with us. We will make a case for implementing best-practices in every school in Virginia.  VEA and teachers really took a beating over these bills, but, regardless, we are focused on solutions. We will move on and, because we are educators, we will learn from this session and be ready for next.

In the next few days, we will firm up the list of bills we will ask Governor McAuliffe to veto. Public education is very fortunate to have a Governor who recognizes that legislation that strips state funding from our public schools and hands it over to parents, charters, or virtual schools with no real accountability or assurance that state education money is helping students reach measurable educational outcomes, is bad legislation. Our Governor will also not allow legislation that violates the Virginia Constitution to become law. While we will have to wait and see what Governor McAuliffe’s does, I think we see language referencing the Constitutional issues of bills when he explains his veto action.

Be on the lookout for a cyber lobbyist action on vetoes soon.

I want to take a minute to thank the VEA’s tremendous Lobby Cadre who made this session easier. There is no other association that has representation in every single full and subcommittee during session. The days of session are very long, and emotionally draining. They stayed sharp and strong even on the toughest days. Thank you President Jim Livingston, Vice-President James Fedderman, Gail Pittman, Jay Deck, Pat Wood, Lisa Staib, Cindy Kirby, and Alicia Smith for everything you did for our members, our schools, and our communities! You ROCK!