Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It’s Tuesday, and That’s a Good Thing

January 21, 2020

In good news, there were no acts of violence reported by the Unified Police Command that worked the Gun Rights Lobby Day yesterday. The city was shut down and the streets were filled with heavily armed (shot guns, assault weapons, handguns), masked, body armor wearing, Nazi symbolled, gun rights folks. Reporters say that about 8 in 10 were not from Virginia. I appreciate that they didn’t shoot anyone or run anyone over with a car, but to deem the gathering “peaceful” is an assessment loaded with white privilege. If you think I am overstating that, ask what would have happened if 20 people of color were walking the streets with masks, body armor and assault weapons. How would law enforcement have responded? Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while going out, unarmed, to buy Skittles. He had on a hoodie. No mask, no body armor, no Nazi symbols. We must stand up together. I appreciate the comments of Delegate Chris Hurst from the floor today. #NoRightToRemainSilent

This afternoon the VEA will stand in support of HB1383 in the House General Laws Subcommittee on Gaming. If you think that seems like an odd place for the VEA to be fighting for a bill, you haven’t been following the uptick in gaming in Virginia. Since legislation passed in the last two sessions opening Virginia to new “games of skill” and casinos, we have seen a significant decrease in VA Lottery ticket sales. This is important because all proceeds from the sales of lottery tickets are directed to K-12. The increase of gaming in VA has driven folks away from playing the lottery, lowering the proceeds. The biennial budget introduced by the Governor included almost $30 million to back fill programs that are usually paid for with Lottery revenues.

HB1383 will allow Lottery tickets to be purchased on-line. Evidence shows that this action will increase lottery sales and proceeds. The VEA believes we need to fight to protect and increase Lottery revenues. We will say exactly that this afternoon in committee. I understand that lottery proceeds allow for the supplanting of General Fund dollars and that many lottery programs should be funded through the SOQs, but when we see decreases in revenues for K-12 we must look for solutions. HB1383 is one of many gaming solutions the VEA will be pursuing this session. The VEA will also support legislation to regulate and tax all those new “games of skill” and legislation to bring all gaming under the umbrella of the VA Lottery. That will make sure that all gaming proceeds go towards K-12. We know we need to increase revenues for K-12, and this is one way we can do that.

Some estimates are as much as $125 million of new revenues if we can get all gaming proceeds directed to K-12. These are important bills that the VEA is working. Obviously, we are also fighting hard for over $1 billion of new state investments in K-12 through adoption of the revised SOQs as well as funding for state support for a 5% salary increase for SOQ positions, but we need to look at new investments as well.

In other news, three bills that restore due process protections for school employees passed the small Senate Education and Health Subcommittee on a 3-2 party-line vote last week. Those bills will all be heard on Thursday at 8am in the full committee. There are 9 Democrats and 6 Republicans on the full committee, so I expect the bills to pass, but I want to make sure all the members on the committee know how important these bills are. If your member of the VA Senate is on the full committee, please contact them ASAP and let them know to vote YES on SB98 (restore probation to 3 years for teachers), SB167 (remove the definition of incompetency that includes one unsatisfactory evaluation as the standard), and SB377 (restores the option of a three person panel in teacher dismissal cases). All three of these bills were an effort of the Republican-controlled Government (House, Senate, Governor) to make it easy to fire teachers. These bills are top VEA legislative priorities. Here are the members of the full committee, you can click on their names to get their phone numbers and email addresses:

Wednesday is another long day in the House Education Committee. There is a 7am subcommittee on PK-12, and the full committee at 9am. More on that action tomorrow.

VEA Lobby Day

Have you made your plans to attend? Click here to see the schedule. Click here to RSVP that you are coming.