Monday, January 15, 2018

A New Governor and President of the Senate

It was a beautiful, although cold, day on Saturday for the Inauguration of Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring. 

Today the new Lieutenant Governor begins presiding over the Virginia Senate. It is good to know we have a friend of pubic education, once again, lading the Senate and breaking any tie votes. 

Today's action has been light, although the full House Education Committee met and it was exciting to see teachers, and VEA members, Delegate Cheryl Turpin and Delegate Schyler VanValkenburg, seated on the committee. It is good to have teachers in the legislature. The committee did not take up any bills although Chariman Steve Landes did alert the committee that they will take up over 200 pieces of legislation this session, and he encouraged the sub-committees to stay focused on moving legislation along. Session always has a slow start, but goes from 0 to 100 overnight. We will be ready.

In the House, there are some concerns with Speaker Cox referring quite a few of the more controversial bills to the House Rules Committee. That is not typical and there is some thought that this action might be a way to kill bills in Rules where the Republicans have a large majority. Today I received a great review of all of this from Virginia FREE, and I am quoting them here, 

"The REALLY interesting test will be in the House where Speaker Kirk Cox has sent at least one minimum wage bill to the Rules Committee. Cox chairs that committee. Many observers expect that to be a sign that the Rules Committee will be used to defeat this and other controversial pieces of legislation. Then again, many observers could be wrong. 

There is one option that is contained within the Rules of the House that allows the Rules Committee to send legislation to the Floor of the House WITHOUT a recommendation from the Committee. 

This could be used to put every member of the House on record as having voted for or against specific policies and legislation. 

It is also important to note that any bill that opens a section of the Code can be amended as long as it is pertinent to the intent of the bill. 

Example, a bill on minimum wage goes to the Floor and it states an increase of the current $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. It can be amended to say $1,000 an hour but it cannot include a tax increase. Virginia's Speaker would rule the tax increase "not germane" to the intent of the bill and a vote would not be taken. 

Virginia's General Assembly operates under Jefferson's Manual which states in Sec. XXVI (b) "for he that would totally destroy it will not amend it." This means that the no member can offer amendments to legislation unless the member intends to support the bill if the amendment is adopted. If the member does, then the member is duty bound to support the bill unless the amendment is defeated along the way. This means Virginia legislators cannot offer "poison pill" amendments and then NOT vote for the bill. 

Further in section (b) 'It is therefore a constant rule 'that no man is to be employed in any matter who has declared himself against it.' "

Tonight Governor Northam will deliver an address to a Joint meeting of the VA House and Senate. We are hearing word that he will talk specifically about the teacher shortage and about increasing salaries as a means to improve retention rates. We will report more tomorrow, but we are hopeful that the Governor will propose a salary increase in both years of the biennial budget.