We are almost at the halfway point of the session, also known as Crossover. Crossover, which falls on Valentine’s Day this year, is the day that the House of Delegates must finish voting on the nearly 1,300 House Bills that were filed this session. Next Wednesday, the House will begin to consider all bills that have passed the State Senate.
A great deal has been accomplished over the past 5 weeks. Over 400 bills have passed in the House so far. Over one-third of these bills relate to job creation, expansion of educational opportunities, public safety, and government efficiency.
“Tebow Bill” Passes in the House
Over the past few weeks, many of you have called, emailed, and written to me in support of the so-called “Tebow Bill”. This week the House passed HB 947, which allows homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams. The bill, nicknamed the “Tebow Bill”, requires the Virginia High School League to allow home school students to try out for athletic teams in Virginia’s public schools.
Currently, twenty-two states already allow for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams, including Florida where Tim Tebow was allowed to play on his high school football team.
House Republicans Unveil 2012 Public Safety Agenda
This week, a number of Republicans highlighted the Party’s public safety initiatives to keep families safe from habitual drug traffickers, individuals who prey on children, drunk drivers, gang members, and those who commit domestic violence.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) has proposed a bill, House Bill 968, which will increase penalties for habitual drug traffickers, keeping our kids away from drugs and drug-related violence. He has another bill, House Bill 973, which would impose a mandatory life sentence for raping a child under the age of 12.
Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) has put forward two bills, House Bill 49 and house Bill 50, which respectively increase the jail time for DUI-maiming and DUI-manslaughter.
Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) introduced two bills to address strangulation and gang recruitment. House Bill 762 raises the penalty of assault and battery via strangulation in an attempt to curb the elevation of domestic violence. To help combat gang violence, Cline also introduced House Bill 751, which will make it a felony to induce criminal activity or recruit a gang member via the internet, a telephone, or text message. With technological developments, gangs are using new methods of communication to recruit, discuss, and plan criminal activities.
Protecting our families and keeping our streets safe is one of the most important responsibilities of the government, and we are 100% committed to keeping all Virginians safe.
You can read more about the House Republican efforts in public safety online at http://www.vahousegop.com/2012/02/house-republican-caucus-unveils-2012-public-safety-initiatives/
Making Virginia the Most Veteran Friendly State
This week the House passed several bills aimed at accomplishing Governor McDonnell’s goal of making Virginia the most veteran and military friendly state in the Nation. On Monday, the House passed House Bill 719, a bill that allows for a veteran with a permanently disabled service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime hunting, fishing, or combined hunting and fishing license at a discounted rate. The House also passed House Bill 384, which would give hiring preference for state jobs to members of the Virginia National Guard. This bill builds from last year’s successful efforts to give hiring preference for state jobs to veterans.
We are just days away from crossover, so at this point most of the legislation has at least gone through committee. I’m pleased to announce that several pieces of my legislation advanced this week. Next week we’ll provide a full update of all of the legislation that has passed in the House, which will advance to the Senate starting next week.
House Bill 48 codifies a version of the “castle doctrine”, which allows a person to defend themselves if they are being attacked in their own home without the risk of prosecution. I believe this is a fundamental right, and was pleased to see it pass in the House of Delegates with broad bipartisan support this week. The final vote was 70-28.
House Bill 72 requires highway work zones to be clearly marked with warning signs and flashing lights. This legislation was brought to us by a constituent, and would change the law to require flashing lights to be attached to the signs in a work zone. It advanced unanimously out of the Appropriations committee this week, and will be on the floor early next week.
House Bill 218 requires local school divisions to ensure that Individualized Education Plan teams consider the specific communication needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and address those needs as appropriate in the childs IEP. This bill was reported out of the Appropriations committee after determining that it posed no significant fiscal impact. It will be heard on the floor early next week.
House Bill 576 makes several changes to the process by which teachers and administrators are evaluated and retained. It replaces the continuing contract status with a three year term contract evaluation process, requires a mandatory two year probationary status for teachers and principals, and allows termination of term contracts for just cause. It also requires performance to be a significant factor in force-reduction, rather than seniority. This will allow school systems to remove ineffective teachers that are not performing adequately, while helping the best teachers continue to grow in their careers. I’m pleased that this bill was reported out of the Committee on Education this week. It was on second reading today, and I expect that the final vote of passage will be on Monday.
This week we were able to meet with many guests from the 20th District. I was pleased to see Faye Giles and several students from Augusta County 4-H. I was also happy to see Crista Cabe and several of the VWIL cadets. Several students from Radford University dropped by, as well as members of the Staunton City Council and Augusta County Board of Supervisors.
If you’re in Richmond over the next few weeks please feel free to stop by. We’d love to see you.
Our office is currently operating out of our Richmond Office for the entirety of the 2012 Session. You can contact us here by phone at 804-698-1020, or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
If you’re in the Richmond area we’d love to see you. We make constituent visits a priority and do our best to meet with as many as possible. In order to help us accommodate you we encourage you to call and make an appointment.
We hope to hear from you while we are here. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to voice your opinion on key pieces of legislation that may impact the District or the Commonwealth, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Thanks again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.