Thursday, January 9, 2020

Day Two: House Committees Anyone?

The General Assembly usually gets of to a slow start, but today was really odd. The Senate blasted out of the gates and started hearing full bill testimony at 8:30 am this morning in the full Senate Education and Health Committee. This caught all the education lobbyists off guard, as there was no committee meeting listed as of 7 pm last night and no docket of bills. Word started getting out at about 9:30 pm through email alerts. The VEA actually got a text from one of our bill patrons as one of our bills was to be heard in the full committee. All assumed the full committee would meet simply to name the new subcommittees so bills could be referred. Nope, bills were heard. We had ours go by for the day so that we could work with the other education groups to get agreement on the language but lots of other bills were heard.

The most exciting part of the quick start in the Senate this morning was the naming of the Chairs of the Subcommittees. This is an incredibly important role as the real work on bills, the “sausage making,” happens with these small committees. There was genuine surprise when Senator Ghazala Hashmi was named as Chair. We have a strong working relationship with the Senator as our PAC worked very hard to get her elected. The VEA Fund made big investments in her campaign, her mail program, and on TV ads. Our members knocked doors and made phone calls. This is when that work pays off. This is also why we must always engage in elections. The VEA is in the enviable position of having a good relationship with the new chair and the Commonwealth in in the fortunate position of having this incredible legislator as the Chair.

One the other side of the Capitol, we had the exact opposite start in the House of Delegates. No meeting, no bills, and no testimony, because they did not pass rules or appoint committee members yesterday. They wanted to bask in the history of the day, but it does put things on hold until these important votes are taken. At about 2:30 pm today the House adopted rules and appointed committees, so the work will begin tomorrow with committee meetings in the House.

The only thing that isn’t moving slowly is budget amendments. Those are all due by noon tomorrow. We will have a budget amendment to put a 5% salary increase into the first year of the budget. As you may remember, the Governor did not include any salary increase in the first year of the Biennial Budget (School Year 2020-21), but a 3% increase in the second (School Year 2021-22). Contact your legislator now and let them know you want state support for a 5% increase in year one of the budget. If you don’t know who to call, you can click here to find out.

Fridays are always shorter days at the General Assembly so that legislators can get back home to their districts for the weekend, but next week will get quite crazy. Right now, there are 150% more education bills filed then were filed in 2019, and bills can file for another whole week. You can always visit the General Assembly bill tracking site to look at all the bills filed and to follow bills you care about. Click here to take a look.