2017 Legislative Survey Results

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Bell's Hate Crimes Bills Scuttled

Del. Dickie Bell’s legislation to expand Virginia’s hate crimes law to include police, firefighters and EMS personnel was tabled in a House Courts of Justice subcommittee earlier this week.

As a result, the legislation is effectively dead for the 2017 General Assembly session. The Criminal Law subcommittee voted to table the measure by voice vote, so no official tally by individual legislators was recorded.

“ It is a slap in the face to the people I had included in my bill,’’ Bell said of his bill's demise. He spoke to The News Virginian on Tuesday by phone.

Read More - Bell's Hate Crimes Bill Scuttled - The News Virginian

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School suspension caps move forward at legislature

Virginia elementary schools logged 16,000 student suspensions in a single school year, just for children from pre-K to third grade.

Legislation moved forward Wednesday to rein that in, forbidding suspensions longer than five school days in those grades except in extreme cases. Separate legislation generally capping long-term suspensions at 45 days at any grade level also cleared committee Wednesday, advancing a pair of high priorities for advocates pushing reforms on school discipline and juvenile justice.

The current cap is 364 days.
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New Virginia bills could change school suspension policies

Several bills going through the 2017 session of the General Assembly are focused on school discipline: in particular, school suspensions.

House Bill number 1534, proposed by Delegate Dickie Bell, would change the amount of time a student can be suspended from school. Right now in Virginia, a student can be suspended for anywhere from 10 to 365 days. If the bill passes, students will only be allowed a suspension from 11 to 45 days.

Read More - New Virginia bills could change school suspension policies - WHSV

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Bell eyes legislation to reform school discipline

One of the bills would reduce long-term suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days, and would limit them to the current grading period unless aggravating circumstances were present. The K-5 requirement would allow suspensions or expulsions only for drug or firearms' offenses, or for certain criminal acts.

The delegate, a former special education teacher, also has proposed a prohibition on expulsions solely for disruptive behavior, unless there is “a credible threat of physical injury to another person.”

Read More - Bell Eyes Legislation to Reform School Discipline - The News Virginian

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VA School Discipline Changes Could Limit Suspensions in Elementary Schools

WASHINGTON — Changes to school discipline in Virginia could ban suspensions for elementary school students for anything but drug or weapons offenses and limit the use of long-term suspensions.


The bills, introduced and supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, respond to concerns that Virginia is referring too many students to law enforcement for issues that could be handled in the classroom and that punishments for students can be too harsh.


Three proposals introduced in the House by Republican Dickie Bell of Staunton and in the Senate by Republican Bill Stanley of Moneta would restrict the length of long-term suspensions, require something more concrete than disruptive behavior before a student can face long-term suspension or expulsion, and ban most suspensions or expulsions for students from preschool through fifth grade.


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Bell will offer $250,000 budget amendment for local museum

The Staunton Republican confirmed the amount at a legislative breakfast sponsored by the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce. Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp said the state funds, if approved, could be used for engineering and design work on the museum.

News of the amount of the proposed amendment comes just one week after Waynesboro City Council reaffirmed its support for the museum. City Council passed a resolution Dec. 12 offering about $1 milliion in potential aid.

Read More: Bell Will Offer $250,000 Budget Amendment for Local Museum - The News Virginian

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Republicans Upbeat in Augusta County

STAUNTON - With the television tuned in to Fox News at the Republican election watch party at the Byers Street Bistro in downtown Staunton, the early election results kept the crowd "cautiously optimistic" in the words of Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.

But Landes noted the election results could go deep into the night, keeping everyone guessing until the very end.

"I think everybody is realistic from that standpoint," he said.

While everyone waited, drinks and food flowed freely into the evening, with the crowd comfortable in the thought that Donald Trump was leading in Staunton, which has leaned left in recent presidential elections. Hillary Clinton would eventually take Staunton, but that did little to dampen enthusiasm. Four years ago, the local Republican party knew earlier in the night that President Barrack Obama would prevail, and the festivities petered out swiftly. Not so Tuesday night.

Read More: Republicans Upbeat in Augusta County - The News Leader

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Bell Opposes Courthouse Move

Bell said he supports the efforts of the Augusta Citizens Coalition and Common Sense Courthouse Solutions to keep the courthouse in its current Staunton location.


Read More - Bell Opposes Courthouse Move - The News Virginian

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Area General Assembly members receive validation of conservative credentials

One of the local legislators, Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, achieved a perfect 100 percent rating by conservative organization. Cline earned a conservative excellence award.

Overall, the ACU said Republican Virginia legislators voted slightly more conservative in 2016, getting a score of 81.5 out of 100 as compared to 79.5 in 2015.

Read More - Area General Assembly members receive validation of conservative credentials - The News Virginian

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