Just to prove it's half as smart as a broken clock, which is right twice a day, the Senate Education and Health Committee actually passed a commonsense bill. In what must be a committee first, at least since the new Democrat majority took super control (a 10-5 non- proportional committee majority), it reported to the floor this morning a bill publicly backed by The Family Foundation, and a priority one at that (after killing everything else)! HB 1135, patroned by Delegate William Fralin (R-17, Roanoke), is a bill that would protect the religious expression rights of students in Virginia public schools by putting into the Virginia code what the United States Supreme Court has ruled on the issue. After several days of negotiations over the language of the bill, Ed and Health voted to report by a margin of 13-1 with one abstention.
The need for the legislation arose after several incidents of students having their religious viewpoint rights violated. Just this school year, a first grade student in a Virginia public school was denied the right to read a story to her class simply because it contained the word God. Such incidents happen far too often, and many go unreported.
HB 1135 simply brings the code of Virginia in line with Supreme Court precedent, and allows students to express their religious viewpoint within homework and classroom assignments.
The newly crafted language now will go to the full Senate. If approved there, the House will have to pass it again since it was amended since the House passed it on February 8. Then it would go to Governor Tim Kaine for his signature, amendments or veto. If vetoed or amended, the General Assembly would still have a say in the final outcome.
Delegate Fralin deserves a lot of credit on this important bill, especially with all bartering on language and amendments. It took some twists and turns, but so far, everyone's got it right - even Ed and Health - and even if a broken clock is still twice as smart, it's still something of a step forward.