Monday, January 13, 2020

2,746 Bills Filed But Who's Counting?

The bills just keep coming. I can’t even guess how many bills will be filed by midnight on Friday when all must be in the system. Right now, 2,746 bills have been filed. That is a whole lot to follow!

In good news, the House has itself organized and has started committee meetings. The new House Education Committee met this morning and heard a very interesting report from VCU’s Wilder Center for Public Policy. Here’s the link. Overwhelmingly Virginians believe our schools are underfunded. Doesn’t matter party or zip code. They all agree. This is a significant change over past years. Clearly the Red 4 Ed movement is driving public opinion. Virginia is with us.

Legislators are with us, too. VEA Fund-recommended Delegate Jay Jones (D) and Senator Todd Pillion (R) wrote a great op ed about the need to join together to fund our schools. The piece focused on how similar the needs are for so many of our students, no matter where they live.

Senator Jennifer McClellan (D) and Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D) have both filed bills to fully implement and fund the revised Standards of Quality issued by the VA Board of Education. Those bills include over $1 BILLION in new money each year for K-12. We will need to fight hard to get that funding approved.

You know a good way to join the fight? Attend VEA’s Lobby Day and Fund Our Future Rally on January 27 in Richmond. Click the link at the top of the VEA web site to learn all the details, but make sure you sign up here:  We need to show our legislators that we are not going away. There will be money to put toward our public schools. Today, the Governor announced that the latest revenues are well ahead of forecasts. This money must be invested in K-12. Show up on Lobby Day and demand that schools be properly funded.

In other exciting news today, Senate Commerce and Labor advanced VEA’s SB234 (Chafin-R). This bill would allow school employees to participate in the state health insurance plan. The Senate has been friendly to this legislation before; the stumbling block has always been House Appropriations. But this session  we will be facing a whole new Appropriations Committee with friendly legislators, so I am hopeful. The state actually covers the state share of the prevailing costs for health care premiums for all SOQ funded positions. The VEA will be building the case that any state “expense” that may be incurred (even though two actuarial studies failed to prove there would be increased costs) can be offset by the SOQ dollars. We will see. We have a House version of the bill patroned by Delegate Kilgore (R), so we will know what the House will do before crossover.