Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Elections Matter, But So Do All of Our Friends of Public Education

This session started with a Democratic pick up in the House of 15 seats. That election result led to a complete shake up in the Chamber. Suddenly the Democrats, who only held 34 seats last session, had 49. The make up of almost every committee in the body changed dramatically with a more balanced number of Ds and Rs. But, the Democrats are still the minority on every committee and in the House overall (51-49), so we needed to count on some of our Republican friends to break with their caucus and vote to kill some really bad bills. Breaking with your caucus is far more difficult when you have such a narrow majority, but our friends did. This session, Delegates Tim Hugo, Robert Bloxom, and Gordon Helsel stood with us on bills that we were fighting, and their votes made the difference we needed. So while we are certainly grateful to our friends on the left side of the aisle, without bold votes by these three Republican delegates, our outcomes on these bills would have been different.

Some Bad Bills We Killed:
HB1286- This is Delegate Dave LaRock's annual attempt to create a voucher system in Virginia that would drain resources from our public schools and shift money to private and religious schools. This bill has passed the last three sessions only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. This year was different. His bill came to the House Education Subcommittee where Delegate Helsel broke with the Republicans, and his vote killed the bill on a 4-4 vote. A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill:
YEAS--Bell, Richard P., Cole, Davis, Collins--4.
NAYS--Helsel, Tyler, Bulova, Bagby--4.
It was stunning! A bill that has passed the House and the Senate went down in subcommittee. Thank you Delegate Helsel!

HB1165 and SB172- These bills would have expanded eligibility of the families who could participate in Virginia's back door voucher system known as Educational Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The patrons championed these bills as a way to extend pre-school education to our under-served 4 year olds. That is not what these bills did. The bills would allow corporations or individuals to receive huge state tax credits for donations they make to scholarship programs at private and religious schools. These individuals can also claim a charitable donation in state income taxes and on their Federal income taxes- so a triple dip. These scholarships can be claimed by families with an income of no more than $74,300 to pay for pre-school. Lots of issues inside this bill, but ultimately the lost state revenue, in the form of tax credits, would have impacts on the state's ability to fund vital programs, including public education. Also the largest scholarship that could be claimed would in no means, pay the full costs of a high quality pre-school. The Washington Post recently called this program welfare for the middle class and a bailout for religious and private schools. We can always count on Delegates Hugo and Bloxom to vote against these bills, but his bill was tricky because of the focus on pre-school students. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate, but the House Finance Committee killed it and the House version as well. Here are the votes of the Finance Committees on both bills:
SB172- A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Ware, Pogge, Orrock, Byron, Cole, Cline, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Brewer, Heretick--11.
NAYS--Hugo, Bloxom, Watts, Keam, Filler-Corn, Kory, Sullivan, Lindsey, Ayala, Jones, J.C., Carter--11.

HB1165- A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Ware, Pogge, Orrock, Byron, Cole, Cline, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Brewer, Heretick--11.
NAYS--Hugo, Bloxom, Watts, Keam, Filler-Corn, Kory, Sullivan, Lindsey, Ayala, Jones, J.C., Carter--11.
Thank you Delegate Hugo! Thank you Delegate Bloxom.

SB516- This bill is Senator Obenshain's annual attempt to expand charter schools in Virginia by taking the granting authority away from the local school board and giving it to a newly formed "Charter School Board". This bill passed last year and Governor McAuliffe vetoed the bill. This year there was writing on the wall, and the Senate Finance Committee actually carried the bill in to next year. So while it isn't dead, this committee passed the identical bill last year, so they realized the bill had no chance in the House.

HB496- This is Delegate Rob Bell's annual attempt to allow home schooled children to participate in the Virginia High School League activities. This bill has passed the House for years and, for a while, we could count on the Senate to kill the bill. For the last two sessions the bill has passed the General Assembly and was vetoed by Governor McAluliffe. This session, the bill came before the full House Education Committee where Delegate Helsel broke with his caucus as the only R to vote with all the Ds and the bill died. Everyone was shocked as this bill has passed the House for years. There was no Senate version of this bill, so we killed it early and didn't have to deal with it his session. A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill. The motion was to pass the bill, and, in a tie, the motion fails so the bill died.

YEAS--Landes, Bell, Richard P., Cole, Pogge, Robinson, Yancey, Davis, Leftwich, LaRock, Collins, McGuire--11.
NAYS--Helsel, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Bagby, Bourne, Boysko, Hurst, VanValkenburg, Turpin, Rodman--11.
Thank you, again, Delegate Helsel.

We must always remember that a true friend of public education can be from any political party. If we don't build our coalition with members in both parties, we get no where. This session proves that. We are very grateful to Delegate Hugo, Delegate Bloxom, and Delegate Helsel for being with us.

While we are talking about friends of public education I wanted to share the vote on the the House budget that expands Medicaid, which we know is good for Virginia, and allows for real investments in our public schools. Here is the vote to pass the House budget, a "Yay" vote was to expand Medicaid and adopt the budget.
YEAS--Adams, D.M., Aird, Austin, Ayala, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bloxom, Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Carroll Foy, Carter, Convirs-Fowler, Davis, Delaney, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Gooditis, Guzman, Hayes, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hodges, Hope, Hurst, Ingram, James, Jones, J.C., Jones, S.C., Keam, Kilgore, Knight, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, Marshall, McQuinn, Morefield, Mullin, Murphy, Peace, Pillion, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Reid, Rodman, Roem, Sickles, Simon, Stolle, Sullivan, Thomas, Torian, Toscano, Tran, Turpin, Tyler, VanValkenburg, Ward, Watts, Yancey, Mr. Speaker--68.
NAYS--Adams, L.R., Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Brewer, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Hugo, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, McGuire, Miyares, O'Quinn, Orrock, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright--32.