Saturday, January 26, 2019

Special Saturday Post

There was lots of action on VEA bills late on Friday in a specially called House Education Subcommittee meeting. The sub normally meets on Wednesdays immediately after the full House Education Committee, but the docket was so long this past Wednesday, the chair wasn't able to get through all the bills. Here's why she had to call a special sub meeting- crossover is coming. Crossover is Wednesday, February 6. Each body must complete work on all bills that they originated by midnight, Tuesday, February 5. Bills need to be on the floor of the body for three days. That means all bills must have finished the committee process by Thursday, January 31 so they can be on the floor on Friday. So all the subcommittees must meet to get all their bills to their full committees between now and Wednesday. Some bills report out of committee and are re-referred to another committee, generally a money committee, so that adds a new wrinkle. At this point if a bill is re-referred or passed by for the day (which means, can we look at it at the next committee meeting) that means it's dead.

This next few days are CRAZY for committees and subcommittees at the General Assembly. We will also be able to see what bills will be "pocketed" by committee chairs. These are bills that the chair of the committee decide not to hear at all. While this seems crazy, if a chair doesn't like a bill or thinks that it is a bill that is redundant or unnecessary, they can basically, put it in their pocket and never hear it. It's why committee chair positions are so powerful.

Friday's subcommittee finished all the bills on their docket, no bills were pocketed, and all of the bills that reported (passed) are on the docket (agenda) for Monday morning's full House Committee. Bills that report from that committee will go to the floor for debate. So here is the update on Friday's action on VEA initiated bills and some other bills that we follow:

HB2037 is Delegate Carroll-Foy's (D) Teacher Diversity bill. It is co-patroned by Delegate Lee Ware (R). This bill is a direct result of the VEA's Teachers of Color Summit. The VEA has worked closely with the VA DOE, VASS, and the patrons to draft and get this bill bipartisan support and in a good place. The Senate version of the bill (SB1397 by Senator Peake (R) and co-patroned by Senator Locke (D)) has already passed the Senate and is headed to the House. The House version hit a road bump after the full House Education Committee re-referred the bill to the House Appropriations Committee even though the bill has absolutely no cost associated with its implementation. In general, this is a death sentence for a bill that, for some reason, leadership wants to kill. Once we got the re-referral, the VEA worked with both patrons to save the bill. Delegate Carroll-Foy worked with her caucus and Delegate Lee Ware worked directly with House Education and House Appropriations leadership to get the bill back on a good track. Having patrons from both parties was a good call, as it seems Delegate Ware saved the bill. HB2037 reported out of Appropriations 7-0 and will go the floor of the House. It should go on the uncontested calendar (just as the Senate version did) and that's a fast-track for passage. This is an important bill and while I don't want to curse it, all signs look good for passage. Keep your fingers crossed. The House and Senate versions of the bills are identical. You can read the House bill here

VEA-initiated HB2325 from Delegate Bob Thomas (R) was a New Business Item from the VEA Convention. This bill would add a reprimand as an option the VA Board of Education can take on a teacher facing license action. The patron has been outstanding. He met with each member of the subcommittee before the hearing so they all understood the bill and he answered all their questions before the meeting started. That is what really hard working patrons do and it's why Delegate Thomas has been so successful is his legislation this session. The bill did hit a road bump after the VA School Boards Association stood to speak to the bill, not in opposition and not in support, just to point out a few things. That got members of the subcommittee asking a whole lot of questions. In the end we had to amend the bill a bit, but nothing changes the intention of the bill. The bill passed out of the sub 7-1. We appreciate Delegate Chris Hurst, who is on the sub, leading the amendment discussion and working out in the hallway with us, VSBA, and the patron to get the language right. The only no vote was Delegate Leftwich who only voted no because he wants to see the full bill, with the amendments, during that committee meeting. If it has passed unanimously, it would have been fast tracked in the full committee, and the one no vote flags it for discussion. I talked with Delegate Leftwich after the sub meeting to put his concerns at ease (I hope). We actually talked about the whole section of the current code on teacher licenses and how "messy" it is. He said the whole section needs a rework (in a good way, he was very supportive). I let him know the VEA would love to work with him, next session, to clean up the Code. The amended HB2325 will be up in the full House Committee on Monday, January 28. So if you are in Richmond for Lobby Day, come by the House Shared Full Committee room in the Pocahontas building at 9am and cheer the bill on!

In good new, Delegate LaRock killed his own annual version of his voucher bill (HB2568). He gave a 20 minute presentation on the bill and then moved to lay it on the table. The word on the street is that he knew it would die in full committee, so he was asked by the chair of the full committee not to bring the bill. Delegate Helsel (last year's Legislator of the Year) breaks with his caucus and votes against vouchers, so he would be the deciding vote.  We are grateful to Delegate Helsel for listening to the VEA on this bill. 

In bad news, Delegate Glenn Davis' unconstitutional Charter School bill, HB2416, reported out of committee 6-3. We are hopeful the full committee will kill the bill. Delegate Helsel knows our position and he usually votes our way on these bills. In case you were worried at all, the Governor is opposed to HB2416 and has let legislators know it. You can read his bill here

I will post a lobby day update tomorrow. Monday is big!