RICHMOND, VA – Following “Crossover” day at the General Assembly, Delegate Bell has 11 bills and 2 resolutions that have passed in the House of Delegates and will be considered by the State Senate. Tuesday, February 9, Crossover Day, is the official half-way point of the 2017 Session. From this point forward, the House of Delegates will only consider bills that originated in the Senate, and the Senate will only consider bills that originated in the House.
“I am pleased that the House of Delegates saw fit to advance 11 bills and 2 resolutions that I brought forward this year. I believe that we put together a strong legislative package for the 2017 Session.” said Delegate Bell. “I am encouraged by the support these measures have gained in the House of Delegate and I hope they will continue to gain support in the Senate.”
As a former school teacher and Chairman of the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, education is a top priority for Delegate Bell. This year, he filed two bills to reform school discipline by reducing long-term suspensions. House Bill 1534 redefines “long-term suspension” of students by narrowing the time frame to 11-90 days (current code is 11-364 days). Additionally, it provides that if the suspension stretches into a new grading period, the student may ask for a review of their case to present new information for possible re-admission to the start of that next grading period. House Bill 1536 limits prevents suspension of Pre-K – 3rd graders for more than 5 days. House Bill 1534 passed the House on a vote of 51-46 and House Bill 1536 passed on a vote of 47-45.
“Virginia public schools issued over 126,000 out of school suspensions to approximately 70,000 students in 2014-15 alone, including approximately 16,000 in Pre-K – 3rd grade. We find that students who are excluded from school are more likely to experience academic problems, mental health issues, substance abuse, and eventual justice system involvement, which is likely to be more costly to the government in the long term” said Delegate Bell. “Additionally, when these students are removed from school the change in daily structure from school to home can make things much worse. There is simply no evidence that suggests that suspensions or expulsions deter misconduct or improve school safety, especially in younger grades. I hope that by passing this legislation we will look at alternative ways to improve student behavior and performance while keeping them in school.”
Another bill relating to Education, House Bill 1512, provides that each public institution of higher education is required to count credit for successful completion of American Sign Language courses at institutions of higher education toward satisfaction of foreign language entrance, placement, and course credit requirements.
In 2011, Delegate Bell sponsored legislation that required institutions of higher education to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language for their entrance requirements. House Bill 1512 expands this to allow it to fulfill the foreign language course credit requirements at their public college or university. This legislation passed the House of Delegates 98-0.
“I believe that passage of this legislation will encourage more students to take an interest in American Sign Language and will open up a host of educational opportunities for both hearing and deaf students” said Delegate Bell.
Delegate Bell has also prioritized the safety of our children during his time in the House of Delegates. For that reason, he patroned House Bill 1485. This bill amends the current code relating to offenders who have been convicted of crimes that prohibit them from being within a certain proximity to children. Under current code, qualifying offenders are prevented from loitering or residing within 100 feet of any premises defined as a school, child day program, playground, athletic field or facility, or gymnasium. They are also prevented from working or engaging in any volunteer activity on the property of a school or daycare center. This legislation would expand the list of qualifying offenses to include any offense under the law of any other jurisdiction that is similar to such qualifying offense. This legislation passed in the House on a vote of 95-1.
The other bills patroned by Delegate Bell that passed by the House of Delegates this session include: HB 1400 (virtual education), HB 1440 (farm use vehicles), HB 1483 (OT – Licensure), HB 1484 (OT – qualified mental health professional), HB 1604 (foster care, reasonable efforts to prevent removal of child), HB 1795 (Adoptive and foster placements; Mutual Family Assessment home study), HB 2394 (pawn brokers), HJ 548 (National Suicide Prevention Week), HJ 780 (Self-Care month)
Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, portions of Augusta and Nelson Counties, and the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro. He is currently serving in his fourth term.
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