Today, as the sun rises over the state Capitol, legislators are recuperating from yesterday’s crossover day, the day when each chamber has to complete work on its own bills. Lawmakers in each the House and Senate spent long hours the past two days debating and voting on hundreds of bills, from ethics reform to a state song. Yesterday, as time wound down, the House of Delegates voted on several Family Foundation supported measures, including a historic vote that brings Virginia one step closer to much needed reforms that will allow public charter schools and education choice in Virginia. On a 58-41 vote it passed HJ 577, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle), a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that will allow charter school proponents to have their applications approved by the State Board of Education rather than local school districts. The school districts, fearful of the competition charter schools bring, repeatedly block these proven public education options that provide parents with choices that best meet their children’s educational needs.
The Senate previously passed a version worded exactly the same. All that is needed is for one of the resolutions to pass the other chamber and the resolution will be brought back next session. Once passed again by both chambers, it would go on the ballot in November 2016 for voter approval.
Another school choice bill, HB 2238, Education Savings Accounts for children with disabilities, patroned by Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton) also passed the House. This bill is another piece of a bigger education freedom puzzle that gives families with kids with disabilities more options to find the best environment for their education.
Also yesterday, the House passed one of The Family Foundation’s priorities, a bill that will provide guidelines to local governments that want to have prayer before public meetings. The legislation, HB 1437, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20), would also require the Attorney General’s office to defend any locality that implements the policy should it be sued. The proposal is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Greece decision that upheld prayer at government meetings as constitutional.
Several other bills supported by TFF also passed, including an update to a law that requires parents be informed when their kids will be surveyed at school regarding sexual activity, more substantial penalties for those involved with sex trafficking, and more government transparency.
The Family Foundation has nearly 50 bills remaining that we either support or oppose, which we will be working on over the second half of session, while we monitor budget negotiations.
Thank you to all who have responded to our many action alerts so far this session! It is so important that lawmakers hear from you, their constituents, on these important issues. Please continue to take action during the second half of this year’s session! Your voice matters.