Monday, February 3, 2020

Things Are Moving Fast! Cross-Over Is Just Eight Days Away

February 3, 2020
We are eight days from crossover and things are starting to move very quickly. Sub and full committees are wrapping up their work so that all bills can be on the floor for debate. For the next few days, legislators will spend hours and hours on the floor taking up all the bills that have passed through the committee process and have moved to the floor.

A few of the VEA-initiated bills have hit roadblocks, but overall, we seem to be on path to have a good legislative session. The roadblocks are on our bills to reduce the SOL test to the Federal minimum as established in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and our bills to allow local school employees to participate in the state employee health insurance plan.

Our House SOL bill (HB1277 O’Quinn) was carried over to next session. It wasn’t killed, but members of the House Education Committee want to get more information about the impacts to the local school divisions on how they would implement a locally run assessment program. The Senate bill (SB390 McPike/Pillion) will go to the Senate Education and Health committee on Thursday after passing the subcommittee last week. Even if we can get the bill out of the Senate, we know what fate the bill will face in the House.

Our health insurance bills ran up against concerns from the administration and the Department of Human Resource Management. They have asked that we amend our bills to allow all local employees of any political subdivision to participate if the governing body (Board of Supervisors or City Council) decide that is what they want to do. Limiting it only to school employees becomes complicated for our local governments. The other amendment was requiring that any local government who decided to join the state employee plan commit to remaining in the plan for three years. This is not ideal, but without the amendments, the bills were dead on arrival to committee. Both the House bill (HB107/Kilgore) and the Senate bill (SB234/Chafin) are in the money committees this week.

Today all eyes are on the House floor debate on HB582 which is Delegate Guzman’s collective bargaining bill. The members of the House will debate the merits of the legislation ahead of their vote tomorrow. We have a solid floor strategy in place and have worked with the patron on the right members of the House to speak in favor of the bill. We actually have two other big bills up for debate today that are, in some ways, related to collective bargaining. They are the House version of the two due process bills that have already passed the Senate. These bills will be debated before the debate on collective bargaining. HB365 from Jennifer Carroll Foy restores the probationary term of service for teachers back to three years. Republican William Wampler has signed onto that bill, so I am hopeful for bipartisan support. HB570 from Elizabeth Guzman removes the ability of a school division to use one unsatisfactory performance evaluation as a reason to declare a teacher incompetent and fire them. These bills, along with the collective bargaining bill, will be up for passage tomorrow.

UPDATE: The House Collective Bargaining bill went by for the day when there was an unexpected floor amendment proposed by a Republican. That delays the final vote for passage to Wednesday.