Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Delegate Helsel for the Win

Just to show you can never sit back and count your chickens at the General Assembly, I share the continuing saga of Senate Bill 1236. That is Senator DeSteph's bill that adds a definition of education employee association into law and directs local school boards how to interact with their employee associations. If you are keeping score, we have already killed the bill when Delegates Helsel and Collins voted with the Democrats to kill the bill on Monday. As we were preparing for the 8am House subcommittee meeting this morning we got a heads up that Senator DeSteph was planning to bring his bill back. In order to do that he would need to have a member of the committee who voted on the prevailing side ask for the bill to be heard again. The prevailing side were the folks who voted to kill the bill. We knew none of the Democrats would make that ask, so that left Helsel and Collins. Helsel was a solid no vote because he thought the bill was a mandate on local school boards and he, in general, opposes those bills. That left Delegate Collins.

Delegate Collins told me on Monday he hated the bill. I also let him know that the School Boards Association and the VEA tried to work with DeSteph on language we could support, and he rejected that effort. Collins told me, "You can't work with him." Delegate Collins actually wasn't present on the vote for the bill, but cast his no vote after the committee adjourned. Even with all that, he was the one that brought the bill back.

We knew that we had lost Collins as a NO vote so we knew we needed all 10 Democrats and Delegate Helsel present and voting when the bill came back. I actually had to chase down some members of the committee who got up to leave prior to the end of the meeting to tell them to stay in their seats. I even followed one member to the bathroom to hustle him back to his seat so no trickery could happen.

In the end, all the Democrats were in their seats and Delegate Helsel broke with his caucus to vote to kill the bill. The bill died, AGAIN, on an 11-11 vote. In the House, there is no tie breaker and that kills the bill. Last year Delegate Gordon Helsel was our Legislator of the Year for votes just like this. Today he continued to be a champion on public school issues. Last year he told me, "If School Boards, Superintendents, and teachers oppose a bill, how can I support it?" Today the School Boards, the Superintendents and the VEA opposed the bill, so Helsel held firm. 

This time the bill really is dead as the Chair of the House Education Committee said the committee has completed its work this session and there is no one left to bring the bill back. The fun never ends here.