Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday Marathon and Gun Day

The General Assembly is open for business on the MLK holiday. People are always surprised that they are in session on a state holiday. Interestingly the General Assembly is in session on every Saturday and Sunday from gavel down on opening day until they adjourn sine die in February during the short session. Luckily they rarely meet on these days, but they could and, sometimes, do. I am grateful to the VEA Lobby Cadre who give up their holiday to make sure that all of our committees are covered. Especially on Mondays.

While I am certain it isn't the case, I think that the Chair of the House Education Committee is trying to wear down the public education lobbyists on Monday. We started with a 7am subcommittee where they heard a few bills where the VEA has positions of support. This morning the VEA was proud to stand with Delegate Lopez on his HB2388, a bill that would allow Dreamers to be eligible for in-state tuition for a Virginia public colleges. This an important bill for students who are on a path towards citizenship and were brought here by their parents. The bill requires that these students graduate from a VA public high school or have earned a Virginia GED, they must be accepted and enrolled in a public college or university in Virginia, and their parents must have paid Virginia income tax for at least one year. The bill reported from the sub committee 7-1 with only Delegate Leftwich voting against. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee where it will likely face a tougher fight.

In the full committee that started at 9am, Delegate Krizek's HB1724 that creates a pilot Grow Your Own program for high needs schools passed, but was also referred to Appropriations. The VEA and the NEA is very supportive of these programs that encourage middle and high school students to learn more about teaching as a profession and to commit to come back to teach in their home school division after graduation with a teaching license. The bill grants college scholarships for these students. There is much research on the effectiveness of these types of programs in filling teaching positions in hard to staff schools. We are hopeful the House Appropriations committee sees the values in the investment of state resources on this program.

At 4pm the House Education Subcommittee on K-12 meets and, when the docket is long, like it is today, we are usually not finishing up until sometime after 8pm. Today's subcommittee was fairly non-controversial, they are saving all those bills for the next Monday which is the final subcommittee before cross over. The big bill for us was Delegate Carroll-Foy's and Delegate Ware's HB1397 the VEA Teacher Diversity bill. This is the House version of SB2037 that has been going very well on its path towards passage in the Senate. I am always nervous about a bill until it gets its first hearing. Even though the Senate version is doing well, you never know how things will go in the other body and you NEVER tell members of either body that the other side likes the bill. That makes an assumption that the other side doesn't matter. We have been talking with all the right folks and everyone knows that this is a good, solid bill. While HB2037 passed unanimously, it was referred to Appropriations even though the Department of Education says there is no fiscal impact. I am hopeful they can help the Speaker and the Appropriations Committee see that this bill does have a budget impact and they pass it.

In other news, SB1236 Senator DeSteph's bill that attacks the VEA and other teacher unions will get a final vote on the floor of the Senate tomorrow. Keep emailing your member of the Senate and urge them to vote NO on SB1236. Click here to send your email.

On a side note, MLK Day is always Gun Day at the General Assembly. It's always packed with folks on both sides of the issue, but open carry in the hallways of the Capitol and the offices of legislators is disconcerting.