Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The House and Senate Are Organized and Ready (kind of)

Such a great day at the General Assembly! It was so exciting to see all of the candidates the VEA Fund recommended be sworn in today! Most exciting of all- our two classroom teachers AND VEA members, Delegate Cheryl Turpin (HD85) and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (HD72). We know good things happen when you put teachers in the legislature! Take a look at the picture below to see our new #teachersinthelegislature

Governor-Elect Ralph Northam continues to preside over the VA Senate until Saturday when Lieutenant Governor-Elect Justin Fairfax is sworn in. As Gov.-Elect Northam said, "he's keeping the seat warm." The Senate is ready to roll with the first meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee at 8:30am tomorrow. The 30 bills they take up will all be assigned to sub-committees and the work will begin.

The real action was on the House side where, after the retirement of long-time Speaker Bill Howell, the House unanimously elected Delegate Kirk Cox as the new Speaker. From there the House needed to adopt rules for how they would work together. There was much anticipation on this, but, both sides quickly agreed to the rules without much fanfare, but there are two important features in the rules of the House as they were adopted.

The main worry in some circles was whether or not the House Rs would change the rules on proportional representation on committees. By that I mean, the number of Republicans and Democrats on each committee would be proportionately the same as the make up of the body (which is 51-49). In the end, the House did the right thing and will maintain proportional representation on all of the Committees. Assignments haven't been made, yet, we expect those later today, but the committees will be balanced. That is really good news for public education bills!

In the biggest news of the day, the House adopted a rule that all sub-committee votes will be recorded. The days of bills dying quick deaths in small sub-committees with no member accountability (because there was no record of the vote) are gone. The VEA has been pushing for this rule for years, and we are so happy that there will be transparency and accountability in the House Sub-Committees!

So day one is over, 59 more to go. If you are wondering how lost you can get in the new legislator office building, I walked almost 12,000 steps today in there. Most of those were retracing my own steps because I turned left instead of right. Let's hope I get a better sense of direction before too long... wait, if I walk that many steps every day I think I can have ice cream every night!! Never mind.

So here's to our new Speaker, here's to our new members of the House, here's to the new office building. Change is good!