Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bills We Followed- Where Are They Now?

Session is sprinting towards a finish, but with the House and Senate budgets over $650 million part, we are hearing rumors that the budget battle may extend session beyond the March 10 adjournment date. All work on bills other than budget is wrapping up, so this is a good time to go over some important bills we have followed.

VEA Initiated Bills:
SB456 and HB1119- These identical bills would require the Department of Education (DOE) to implement a school personnel climate survey. The estimated cost of implementing this survey was $300,000 over the biennium. Overall, members of the House ans Senate liked these bills a whole lot, but the House version was killed in Appropriations because they weren't prepared to fund it. The Senate passed the bill 39-0 (in fact it received not a single NO vote in the Senate at all), but the House has sent the bill to Appropriations to die. The bill has not yet been put on the docket, but it should be up on later this week. In good news, the Senate did include language in their budget to require the DOE to implement the survey with the resources they already have. If that language stays in the Conference budget, the DOE will have to implement the survey regardless of the bills passing.
Where are we: We have to wait for the budget.

HB624- A bill to allow state tax credits for educators of up to $250 on non-reimbursed classroom supplies they purchased. The bill had a $23 million fiscal impact.
Where are we: HB624 died in House Finance. A 'Yea" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Hugo, Pogge, Fariss, Bloxom, Ayala, Ware--6.
NAYS--Watts, Sullivan--2.
NOT VOTING--Cline--1.

HB1501- This bill would have restored the original voting procedure to the SOL Innovation Committee and remove the current language that allows 4 legislators to override any vote of the 28 citizen-members on recommendations to make changes to SOL testing in VA.
Where are we: That bill died a painful death in the Speakers Rule's Committee. A "Yea" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Cox, Gilbert, Landes, Kilgore, Ware, Jones, S.C., Orrock, Knight, Ingram, Habeeb, Hugo--11.
NAYS--Plum, Toscano, Carr, Ward, Torian, Bagby--6.

Teacher Evaluation Bill- This bill would have required the DOE to convene a work group to review and update Virginia's Teacher Evaluation Model to reflect the changes allowed by the passage of ESSA.
Where we are: The patron of the bill failed to file the necessary budget amendment by the due date, so the bill could not proceed. In fact, the bill never filed (although it was written) so it was never assigned a bill number.

Other Bills of Interest:
HB1125 and SB349- These bills became each chamber's omnibus bill on changes to teacher licensure. Both bills had very serious issues when they started and had very concerning language that would have allowed anyone to teach by making it very easy to get a teaching license or to allow waivers from even holding a license.
Where we are: The VEA worked very closely with the patron of the bills to get them to a place where they will do no harm. All of the really bad language was removed, including the "let anyone teach" section of the bills. The bills have conformed and, hopefully will not need to go to Conference. Basically the bill allows for full reciprocity for someone with an out of state, valid teaching license, allows for a 3-year provisional license to be extended by up to two years (one year at a time) by the Board of Ed upon the recommendation of the local superintendent and evidence of progress towards full licensure, and a change from a 5-year teaching license to a 10-year teaching license. The bill needs to pass the House and then go back to the Senate for adoption.

HB1600 and SB170- These bills change the definition of a long-term suspension (HB1600) and also limit any suspension in PK-3 to 3 days and prohibits expulsion in PK-3 (SB172).
Where are we: The VEA worked with the patrons and other groups to add flexibility to both bills so that local school boards have the ability to suspend beyond the days stipulated in the bills. These were important changes that we needed to see to get fully behind these bills. HB1600 passed the House 84-15 and the Senate 34-6. It will go the Governor's desk. SB170 passed the Senate 34-6 and just yesterday reported out of House Education Subcommittee 7-0. It will be heard tomorrow morning in the full House Ed Committee where we expect it to pass and head to the floor of the House for passage.

SB261- This bills adds permissive language in the staffing standards for middle and high school librarians that would allow local school divisions to hire fewer librarians. This has been a messy bill that has gained more and more heat the longer it lives. The bill barely passed the Senate after the patron was forced to make significant amendments just to get the floor votes it needed for passage.
Here is the Senate vote on passage, a "Yea" vote is to pass the bill:
YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Petersen, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner--22.
NAYS--Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton--17.
RULE 36--0.
NOT VOTING--Locke--1.

Where we are: The bill has picked up lots of push back and was assigned to the House Appropriations committee even though it has no fiscal impact. The bill has not yet been placed on the docket, but I expect it to show up later this week. It may never be put on a docket, which is another way to kill it. We will see. This one is very much still alive.

SB969- This bill sets into law how a student may earn a verified credit in Social Studies in order to graduate from high school in VA. The BOE recently made sweeping changes to how we teach (and test) our high school students so that they are better prepared for college or the workforce. The patron of this bill disagreed with what the BOE did and decided to write a bill to overrule them. The bill passed the Senate where the patron has a very high level of influence on education bills. In the House, they saw the light. The VEA lobbied hard against this bill and we had the votes to kill it in subcommittee. In fact, had the bill gotten out of subcommittee we had the votes to kill it in full committee, and had it gotten to the floor, we could have easily killed it there, too.
Where we are: The patron realized his bill was going to die a very quick death in subcommittee and he amended his bill to the point where he doesn't really like it anymore (he said that during testimony on the bill). The very amended bill passed the subcommittee 7-0 and will go to the full committee in the morning. The VEA still opposes the bill based on the over reach of the General Assembly over the Board of Education. We also learned yesterday the amended bill will cost almost one million dollars to implement and we feel that money could be far better utilized. The bill will have to go to Appropriations after it goes to the full Education Committee in the morning. We are working with Appropriations members to have them not fund (and kill) the bill.

Tomorrow I will walk you through the bad bills we were able to kill this session. Some of these bills have passed the General Assembly in years past and we've had to count on the Governor to veto them. Not this year since we are taking them down before they get very far. In fact, Governor Northam is starting to wonder if he will need his veto pen for any Education bills this session.