Bell Sounds from the 20th - February 17

We have just passed the halfway point of the 2012 General Assembly Session. The House has completed action on all House bills and begun to take action on the 403 bills that passed out of the State Senate. The State Senate has also begun taking action on the 603 bills that passed in the House of Delegates this year.  Any legislation that passes both bodies will then go to the Governor for final approval.

House Republicans Highlight Successful Legislative Agenda at Crossover

On Wednesday, the House Republican Caucus held a press conference to highlight a number of successful Republican bills related to our primary focus - creating jobs, expanding educational opportunities, protecting our families, and reforming state government.

To help businesses create new jobs, the House advanced House Bill 33 and House Bill 714, which protect non-unionized labor and extend the Major Jobs Business Facility Tax Credit. This legislation will facilitate job growth and keep Virginia among the best states to do business.

We put forward and passed House Bill 321 and House Bill 1173 in an effort to help expand educational opportunities for all Virginians.  House Bill 321 provides tax credits for businesses that contribute to scholarships for children who qualify for free or reduced lunches. House Bill 1173 increases flexibility for charter schools, providing parents and students with more choices to meet their educational needs.

We are also committed to making our state government as efficient and effective as possible. Our top priority in the area of government reform is to ensure that current and future employees have a reliable retirement system. House Bill 1130 will allow existing or new government employees the option of choosing a defined contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans used throughout the private sector. Other major government reform bills include House Bill 1291 and House Bill 1295, which will eliminate a number of boards and commissions and reduce mandates on local government.

Last, but certainly not least, we are committed to ensuring the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth.  The House of Delegates passed two bills, including House Bill 48 that I patroned, that will codify the castle doctrine to allow for homeowners to defend themselves from an intruder without fear of civil or criminal prosecution.

Budget Leaders Begin to Unveil Biennial Budget

The Virginia State Budget will be the primary focus for the remainder of the 2012 Session. On Thursday, Delegate Lacey Putney, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, gave a preview of the House budget.  Hegave a great summary of the budget when he said “Our [budget] will provide additional funding for both our public schools and our local governments so that they can keep local taxes low, use one-time savings to fund non-recurring costs such as capital projects,  minimize the amount of new debt, provide full funding of the VRS contribution rates, reduce the burden on Virginia’s businesses with fewer and lower fees, provide additional support to attract new industry and promote tourism, and make the largest investment in over a decade to our colleges and universities.”

Following Delegate Putney’s speech, Majority Leader Cox rose highlighted the additional funding for localities and K-12 public education included in the House budget. The House’s budget puts nearly $580 million in new funding into our children’s classrooms and begins the process to restore funding for localities that had been cut in prior year budgets.

Videos of both speeches can be found online at www.vahousegop.com.

Teacher Contracts Legislation

There has been a lot of discussion over the past couple of weeks about House Bill 576.  This legislation makes several changes to the processes by which teachers and certain administrators are evaluated and retained.  Specifically, it replaces the current continuing contract system with a term contract of three years and requires new hires to have a five year probationary period.  It also requires annual evaluations of teachers, principals, and superintendents and includes student performance as a significant factor in these evaluations, and requires that force-reduction measures consider performance rather than seniority.

This legislation is not intended to punish teachers, but rather to help recognize their successes and allow for improvement by fixing the evaluation process.  This type of legislation has the support of not only Governor McDonnell, but President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  It also has the support of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and Virginia School Boards Association, who offered a series of amendments that have strengthened the legislation.

This legislation passed in the House of Delegates on Monday with a vote of 55-43.

You can see the statement of Governor McDonnell on the passage of the legislation at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1129.

My Legislation

I am pleased to report that this year 11 pieces of legislation that I patroned advanced out of the House and has been sent to the committee for review.  I have already mentioned House Bill 48, which codifies the Castle Doctrine, and House Bill 576, which changes the teacher evaluation and contract policies.  Below is a list and brief summary of the other legislation that has passed.

  • House Bill 98 Amends the definition of the practice of athletic training so that licensed physical therapists may no longer direct such practice.  It passed in the House with a vote of 98-0.
  • House Bill 84 reduces the time limit for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect from 72 hours to 24 hours.  Additionally, it provides that the person who receieves the report shall notify the person who makes the initial report when the abuse or neglect has been reported to local or state authorities.  This bill passed in the House with a vote of 96-0.
  • House Bill 217 provides that the provisions of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act do not apply to personal information systems maintained by the Department of Social Services related to child welfare, adult services or adult protective services, or public assistance programs when requests for personal information are made to the Department of Social Services. Such personal information requests are required to be made to the appropriate local department of social services.  It passed with a vote of 98-0.
  • House Bill 577 clarifies that teachers of online courses and in college partnership laboratory schools shall, as a condition of employment requiring direct contact with students, provide written consent and the necessary personal information to obtain a search of the registry of founded complaints of child abuse and neglect maintained by the Department of Social Services.  It passed with a vote of 100-0.
  • House Bill 578 requires the Board of Education to develop licensure criteria for teachers who teach only online courses. The bill also provides that teachers who hold a Board issued five-year renewable license may teach online courses for which they are properly endorsed.  This bill passed with a vote of 100-0.
  • House Bill 1215 requires the Board of Education to promulgate regulations establishing standards for accreditation of public virtual schools that enroll students full time.  This bill passed with a vote of 92-5.
  • House Bill 1216 provides that when a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance involves a tract of land owned by the Commonwealth or by the federal government, and when the proposed change affects only a portion of the larger tract, notice need be given only to the owners of those properties that are adjacent to the affected area of the larger tract. This bill passed with a vote of 98-0. 
  • House Bill 72 would require highway work zones to be clearly marked with warning signs and attached flashing lights.  This legislation passed in the House of Delegates today unanimously. 
  • House Bill 218 requires local school divisions to ensure that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams consider the specific communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing children and address those needs in the child’s IEP.  It passed in the House today with a vote of 98-1

Recent Contacts

This office has always prided itself on providing the voters with a forum and responding to their concerns in a timely manner. Unfortunately many of the complaints we are now receiving are made by those who have not actually read the legislation thoroughly or made themselves familiar with the issues they complain about.

Although I have received thousands of emails and phone calls from concerned citizens over the years, I have never been subjected to the kind of rude and threatening communications received this week. This week our office received profanity laced voice mail messages and emails that stooped to vicious name-calling using four letter words. Both scenarios are offensive to me and my female staff members.  In each of these inappropriate situations, the sender failed to identify themselves by name or leave a phone number.  This is cowardly behavior as far as I am concerned.

While they did not leave their name, they did inform us that they were “educators”.   I have no way of knowing if that is true or not.  Had the callers had the courage to leave their contact information, we could verify the claim.  Is it possible that people we entrust with our children’s education are vile and intolerant?  If these are the people teaching in our schools, they are perfect examples of why no teacher should have a lifetime contract.

Over and over we heard from those who insisted that their Constitutional right to freedom of expression allowed them to do or say whatever they chose in attacking us or demonstrating against our positions. Apparently they do not believe those extend to us as we state our policy beliefs.

Dissent is not necessarily a bad thing. Disagreement can sometimes help produce solutions when done in civil fashion, but dissent and disagreement both become impotent when civility is lost.

I welcome your comments and feedback. I can respect our differences of opinion, but I will not tolerate any form of communication that is threatening or embarrassing to me or my staff.

Visitors

This week we were visited by several members of the Augusta Health Board, as well as the Augusta County Association of Realtors.  We also saw City Councilman Jim Harrington who stopped by with two Mary Baldwin graduate students.  Last but not least, we had the opportunity to meet with Janet Harvey of the Waynesboro Learning Tree.

Please feel free to stop by if you’re in Richmond over the next few weeks!

Contact

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.

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commented 2013-12-31 02:15:35 -0500 · Flag
Thank you
published this page in Newsletter 2012-02-17 16:32:29 -0500