Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Marathon Rules Committee and Attention Turns to Budget

As I have reported in the Daily Reports, we are inching towards crossover. All bills in each body need to be through the subcommittee/committee process by the end of the day on Thursday so they can be on the floor on Friday. All the committees that may have been slow to put their bills on dockets are backed up and jamming all theirs bills onto the final meetings before cross over. The House Rules Committee is doing exactly that. 

Unlike the other committees in the House, the Rules Committee does not have a regularly scheduled meeting. They meet at the call of the Speaker of the House and Speaker Cox just called the committee and the associated subs this week. This afternoon two VEA initiated bills are finally on the docket along with 54 other bills. This will either be an incredibly long meeting (if each bill is heard) or it will be quick if the Chair just takes all the bills by in a block. If they go by for the day, they all die. The two VEA bills are our part-time school employee VRS bill patroned by Delegate Ayala and our Teacher Evaluation bill patroned by Delegate Rodman. Our evaluation bill asks for the VA Department of Education to review and revise the current teacher evaluation model in Virginia that is tied to student test scores. The VA DOE has altered members of the House that they intent to do the work this year and so the bill isn't needed. Our argument is that we have been hearing those exact words from the DOE since 2016. Delegate Chris Peace asked the VA Board of Education to send him a letter that confirms the revision is on their plan of work. We did receive the letter, but we would still like the bill to pass to force the work to happen. We will see what is the will of the Rules Committee on both bills. 

Sunday of this week, the House and Senate will release their budget amendments. This morning I was asked to go by Delegate Chris Jones' office. Delegate Jones is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the chief budget negotiator in the House. He confirmed the reports we had been hearing- the House budget will include the additional 2% salary increase in the second year of the budget to match the Governor's 5% proposal. That is big news. The delegate also congratulated the VEA on our lobby day and rally yesterday. We were heard. The devil will be in the details on how the House will fund and allocate this increase. Until we see the actual budget, we are reading tea leaves which is always risky.

So what about the Senate? No word, yet, and no leaks. I did get a chance to talk with Senator Salsaw who is a very vocal advocate for increasing teacher salaries. He is also a lead budget negotiator on the Senate side. He told me that he hadn't heard yet where the Senate was on the 5%, but "he won't support a budget proposal that doesn't include it."