Thursday, January 23, 2020

Budget Amendment Hearing Makes for a Very Long Day

January 22, 2020

This morning the House Subcommittee on PK-12 added a meeting to the schedule, as they have so many bills they need to hear before cross over. Most subcommittees only meet once a week, so getting through 70 bills in only three meetings wasn’t going to work. The Chair of the Sub, Delegate Lamont Bagby, is apparently a morning person, as he convened his subcommittee at 7am today. The most interesting action in the sub was around lock down drills in schools. The first bill will decrease the number of lock down drills required at all schools (HB402/Keam) and the second will require parental notification of lock down drills 24 hours before the drill (HB270/VanValkenburg). As educators, we know that these lock down drills are traumatic for many students and staff. By reducing the number and letting parents know they are happening, we hope that some of this trauma can be reduced. The VEA supported both bills.

Also, early today all the budget amendments offered by members of the House and Senate were made available for review. While Governor Northam introduced his 2020-2022 Biennial Budget in December, the General Assembly uses that as a starting point and propose amendments to the House and Senate money committees. We have lots of good friends, on both sides of the aisle, who have budget amendments to address the VEA’s request to the Governor that were not included in his introduced budget.

Senators McDougal, Vogel, and McClellan all have submitted amendments to fund a 5% salary increase in year one of the budget. Getting money in year one is so important, as there will be additional amendments next year and likely additional revenues. You can’t go back and change a zero once you are in year two of the budget. We must see money for salary in the first year. We are grateful to the members of the Senate who offered these amendments.

In the House, Delegate Mugler proposes a 4.5% increase in year one and year two. This amendment is a companion to her HB233 that requires that teacher salaries in Virginia be at or above the national average by July 1, 2025. It is her intention that the state fund its share of a 4.5% salary increase every year until we meet the national average standard. Delegate Kilgore’s amendment raises the second year salary increase to 5% but leaves 0% in year one. We appreciate his efforts, but we need to see money funding in year one.

I have only finished going through the House budget amendments that aren’t specifically salary, and there is lots of good news. Delegates Aird (D) and Leftwich (R) each have budget amendments to reverse the support staff cap and restore the funding as recommended by the VA Board of Education. Quite a few members of the House have “language only” amendments to require the development of a plan to lift the support staff cap and provide the state funding. That is not what we are looking for, but it is good to see this much action on the support staff cap; it is really good news. Maybe this thing won’t be permanent after all.

Delegate Aird also has an amendment that is co-patroned by Delegates Bagby, Bourne, Plum, Price and Rasoul to fully fund the revisions to the Standards of Quality as issued by the Board of Education. Delegate Aird’s two amendments total $2 billion in new money for K-12 as recommended by the Board. The assembling of co-patrons on this amendment lets us know that this is clearly a priority of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC), and I am certain the VLBC members in the Senate have the same amendment. I just need to dig through them.

Another important amendment is from Delegate Krizek. He has an amendment to fund the Employee Labor Relations Board as we implement public sector collective bargaining in Virginia. It is expected to cost $1.5 million each year to operate and staff the new Board, but without this framework and structure, we would have to count on local governments and school boards to bargain in good faith and to handle grievances and arbitration internally. That is better than what we have now since we are currently prohibited from collectively bargaining, but we need the money allocated in the final budget so that we can have an Employee Labor Relations Board.

Later today the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing where every member who has a budget amendment will come and present that amendment. It is a very, very long afternoon as there are a couple of hundred House amendments. No action will be taken during the hearings. Frankly we won’t know outcomes until we see a final budget in March, but these amendments let us know that our legislators have heard us.

Thursday at 8am the three important VEA bills are up in the full Senate Education and Health Committee. You can read about the bills in yesterday’s blog, but if your Senator is on the committee, call them and urge them to vote YES on SB98, SB167, and SB377.

Here are the names of the Committee members. You can click on their name to get their office phone number: