Thursday, February 6, 2020

Where We Stand

**UPDATE: Our collective bargaining bill in the House, HB582, passed in the House today. Thanks to Delegate Guzman and all who supported this historic legislation! More details coming...

We are inching closer to crossover, as both the House and Senate must complete work on all their bills by Tuesday night. Since all bills need to go to the floor of the body of origin for three reads, one on each consecutive day (although that rule can be waived), bills really need to be completed by Friday. Days leading to crossover are very, very long. Today we started with the 8 a.m. Senate Education and Health Committee, where there was a docket of bills that lasted 3 hours. The legislators head to the floor for debate on bills that are on the daily calendar. The floor sessions are lasting 3-4 hours, followed by afternoon committee meetings. Today, the Senate Finance Committee is having a special meeting at 4:30 with nearly 70 bills on the docket, each of which needs a full hearing. The bills that make it out of that committee should all go directly to the floor tomorrow.

Monday and Tuesday will mainly be full days on the floor for the House and Senate. I’ll be following the votes there, doing a deep dive into what bills survive to crossover, and organizing our bills in preparation for the second half of session.

This is a good time to give you an update on the VEA bills.

HB582/SB939 (SB1022) Collective Bargaining
I gave a full update yesterday, so not much new to report other than the House bill is on the floor calendar today (Thursday) for third read and a final vote. Anything can happen. When the bill is called, the summary of the bill is read and the Speaker will simply say, “Shall the bill pass?” Then the vote board opens and we can see the votes. We expect no Republicans to vote with us, and we’re hopeful the Democrats are all with us. One member of the Republican caucus is out with the flu (Delegate Glen Davis), so we expect the bill to be 55-44. If that isn’t the vote total, it means the Speaker may have assigned a “vulnerable” Democrat a vote to help them in 2021, while not killing our bill. This happens all the time and is good floor strategy. The Labor Coalition is pushing the Speaker to hold the whole caucus so we can send a powerful message to the Senate. We need 51 votes to win. The Senate bill (SB939) is in the Senate Finance meeting today.

SB98/HB365 Restore the 3 Year Probationary Period for Teachers
We have identical bills in each body and each bill has passed the body of origin with bipartisan support, and each will cross over. This is a big deal because bills that are identical to ones that have already passed one body are “fast-tracked” in the other. These bills will (should) pass!

SB167/HB570 Remove One Unsatisfactory Evaluation in Definition of Incompetency
These bills are in the same posture as the probation bills, although they have less bipartisan support. That will make no difference as they cross over because as each bill was amended, we worked with the patrons to make sure they were identical. These bills will (should) pass!

SB377 Restore 3 Person Panel
We do not have a House version of this bill, but it did pass the Senate with bipartisan support. The House has been very favorable to our due process bills, so while this bill will not be fast-tracked, it should be in good shape.

SB234/HB107 Allow School Employees to Participate in the State Employee Health Insurance Program
These bills have each passed the policy committees, but there is concern that they will have a budget impact, so both were referred to the money committees for hearings. The Senate bill is up in the 4:30 Finance marathon and the House version will be up tomorrow in House Appropriations. I have real concerns about these bills.

HB1277/SB847 (SB390) Reduce SOL Assessments to the Federal Minimum
Our Senate version of this bill was rolled into SB390 since they were similar. Both the House and Senate versions have been carried over to the 2021 session. Legislators are concerned there isn’t enough state oversight of any locally developed performance assessments and don’t think local school divisions will actually teach the content. We will work with DOE during the off-session on this issue. The debate on the VEA Convention floor was very similar to the debate at the General Assembly. Unlike the debate we had, legislators aren’t educators, so they don’t realize all the accountability school divisions face, SOL test or not. We will keep working this issue.

SB729/HB257 Remove the Mandatory Principal Reporting to Law Enforcement
We joined the VA School Boards Association in supporting these bills this year. This is a school-to-prison pipeline issue. Police and the courts have lots of discretion on how to deal with students who face non-felony charges. The only people who don’t are principals. They must refer the student to law enforcement every time. These bills give principals discretion. Both bills are crossing over with bipartisan support and will (should) pass!

HB1344 Clean Up Bill to Our Teacher Reprimand Bill from 2019
This is a technical clean up bill to make sure that the Board of Education can use a reprimand in all license cases. Our bill last session passed, but that section of the Code is messy and the way our bill was drafted, the BOE can only give a reprimand in test violation cases. This bill passed the House unanimously, so we expect a favorable outcome in the Senate.

As you can see, this has been a very busy session so far. Monday and Tuesday will be welcome days to regroup for the second half of session where all eyes turn to budget. Lots of work left to do.