Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Action Today is in the Senate

Today was the last full committee meeting for Senate Education and Health. Chairman Newman was determined to get through the entire 10-page docket this morning so as to not have another meeting. The committee sent a few bills to Finance, so there is a sub today at 3pm and a full committee at 4:30pm so that they can finish everything up before they finalize their budget for this weekend.
Senator Obenshain’s most recent charter school bill (SB1283) and Senator Dunnavant’s Virtual School Bill (SB1240) will both go to sub and full Finance today. VEA opposes both bills. We will know hopefully before the rooster crows in the morning, what will happen with these bills. The days leading up to crossover are always long as each body tries to finish up their work.

Senator Stanley’s suspension bills (SB995 and 997) are getting better, but are still concerning to us. We are working with him and with the House version of the bills to get them to a place where the unintended consequences of the current language are cleared up.

On the House floor, HB1962 which is Delegate Massie’s expansion of his Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship was killed by a voice vote on the second read. Gail Pittman has taken the lead on these bills and I tease that we need to call her “Tax Credit Killer” as on her watch, this expansion was killed, and the expansion to pre-schools also died. Can’t remember the last time we had this much success slowing down the expansion of Massie’s program. Thanks Gail!

Tomorrow we will have 100% confirmation that the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools is dead. The full House Privileges and Elections committee will meet at 9:30am. Right now the bill (Delegate Robert Bell HB629) is laying on the table on sub-committee action. If the full committee doesn’t pick it up tomorrow, it is dead. The Senate version is already gone, so if the House version goes, we win this year and next year!

In some bad news, the VEA initiated legislation carried by Senator McClellan (SB1476) that would require the DOE to develop training for hearing officers in teacher dismissal cases was stricken by the patron. The DOE put a fiscal impact statement on it that guaranteed its death, so we agreed with Senator McClellan to strike the bill and try again next year. The good news is that the School Boards Association is willing to work with us to develop the training. We are hoping that will mitigate any cost that the DOE is concerned with. It’s an off-session project we are committed to working on.

The House and Senate will present their budgets on Sunday. It is time to tell the chairs of the money committees to REMEMBER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES! Take action as a cyberlobbist using the link below.