Thursday, April 6, 2017

2017 Reconvened Session- The Veto Session

Every year, on a Wednesday, six weeks after the close of session, the General Assembly reconvenes to take up the Governor's action on the bills passed by the legislature during the regular session. Yesterday was that day. Governor McAuliffe has vetoed 40 bills this session. Delegate Kirk Cox gave a floor speech announcing that the Governor has set a single-session record for vetoes. Beacuse all his vetoes held, Governor McAuliffe has vetoed 111 bills during his term. That is a term record as well. Governor Gilmore has the next highest number- 91 vetoes. Delegate Toscano did remind the House that many of the House bills the Governor vetoed this session are identical to bills he vetoed last session.

The VEA was following a group of bills. These bills are all bad for public education and we are thankful to our members who have called, emailed, and written the Governor asking for his veto. We are also grateful that WE WERE HEARD! Governor McAuliffe vetoed all of the bills we requested. We expect the vetoes to be upheld since you need a 2/3 vote to overturn a veto. The Senate sits at 21-19, so it is very difficult to get a 2/3 vote in that body. The House, on the other hand, sits at 66-34, just one vote away from a 2/3 vote possibility. We followed the House closely, but we felt good that we had locked up our votes. Thank you to the 34 members of the House of Delegates who stood with us on the vetoes!

Today we will watch the following veto votes:

House Bill 1400, Delegate Dickie Bell's Virtual School Bill (the Senate version, Senate Bill 1240, from Senator Dunnavant is identical to the House bill and was also vetoed). In his veto, the Governor questioned the constitutionality of these bills. He also commented that, even with off-session work to improve this legislation, it passed in a nearly identical form as House Bill 8 from the 2016 session that he also vetoed. These bills would establish a separate Virtual School Board independent of the Virginia Board of Education and would receive state funding on a per-pupil basis based, draining those resources from our traditional public schools. All school divisions in VA are already required to offer on-line courses, and the VA Department of Education already offers full-time, virtual high school. The VEA opposed these bills and we are grateful the veto was upheld. In the House, the 34 Democrats were joined by Republican Delegates Bloxom, Farrell, Habeeb, Helsel, Hugo, Miller, Ware and Yost in sustaining the Governor's veto.

House Bill 1605 (Delegate LaRock's Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts Bill) concerned us on many levels, including the Constitutionality of the legislation as drafted. The Constitutionality of the bill concerned the Governor as well, as he cited his concern in his veto. He also had concerns with the lack of accountability standards and the diversion of public funds from our public schools. The Governor vetoed nearly identical legislation last year. The VEA opposed this bill and we are grateful the patron realized he did not have support to overturn the veto and simply accepted the veto instead. When you bill barely squeaks out of the House (49-47) you should know it's a problematic bill. 

The Regional Charter School bill, Senator Obenshain's Senate Bill 1283, allows the Board of Education to establish regional charter school divisions that would have the authority to open a charter school without the request or consent of the local school division. There is an identical House version of the bill, House Bill 2342 from Delegate Landes. This legislation has Constitutional issues and, as the Governor said in his veto, we should, instead, consider innovation ways to provide a world class education to every student enrolled in our traditional public schools. The VEA opposed these bills and are grateful the veto was upheld.

If we did not have a champion as our Governor, one who is prepared to veto legislation that undermines our system of public schools, all of this bad legislation would become law. We must be Public Education Voters. We must not sit this election out. The future of public education may depend on it.