Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 6

We are officially in the second half of the 2018 General Assembly session! Each house has now completed work on all legislation introduced in its own house and is now working on legislation introduced in the opposite house.  The only exception to this is the budget bill.  The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees will report out their respective budgets on Sunday afternoon and floor debate will take place on the budget bills next Thursday.

The House has had a successful and productive first half of the Session, and I’d like to share with you some of our accomplishments.

House Bill 1558

Before I touch on our accomplishments of this Session, I want to address a piece of legislation that many of you are interested in. Over the last few weeks hundreds of you have contacted me about your opposition to House Bill 1558, known by many of you as simply “The Dominion Bill.”

Proponents of this bill claim that it would unwind the rate freeze passed in 2015 ahead of schedule and that customers would see monthly savings on their electricity bill.  The reality is, Virginians have been overcharged on their electric bills since 2015 and will continue to be overcharged if this legislation passes and is signed by Governor Northam.  

The 2015 “rate freeze” legislation was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor McAuliffe in large part because of fears of the potential negative impacts on constituents’ electric rates because of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  I opposed the 2015 “rate freeze” legislation at the time because I felt we were freezing rates at an artificially high level.  This turned out to be accurate.  

This year, electric companies are willing to end the freeze without having to refund all the money that Virginians were overcharged. House Bill 1558 is backed by the utilities and will return only a small portion of the over earnings and makes it highly unlikely that the SCC will be able to return the excess earnings either.  Instead, it allows utilities to use over-charges to fund infrastructure improvements. It also eliminates the SCC’s authority to evaluate more affordable options for consumers.  The SCC themselves have indicated that this legislation could potentially result in billions of dollars of additional costs borne by customers.

For this reason, I voted NO on House Bill 1558, just as I did the 2015 legislation.  While I do believe we should end the rate freeze, I would like for us to do this with legislation that ends the rate freeze, refunds Virginians that were overcharged, and restores the constitutional authority of the SCC.  

Combating the Opioid Crisis

In recent years the opioid crisis has been a top priority of House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle.  This crisis is taking hold of our communities and nearly everyone is touched by this epidemic in some way.

We lose an average of over three Virginians a day from this devastating crisis and no one is immune from this addiction. This year the House took a proactive approach to helping curb this deadly disease by passing seven pieces of legislation to help end the crisis.

These bills include legislation to help with caring for substance exposed infants, legislation to create teams to review overdose deaths to help develop enhanced prevention, intervention and treatment strategies, and legislation to increase penalties for those who give someone a harmful drug that leads to their death.

For more information on the House’s efforts to combat this crisis, visit https://virginiahouse.gop/combating-the-opioid-crisis/.

Addressing the Teacher Shortage

Virginia is privileged to have a top-notch education system, in large part due to our excellent teachers. Unfortunately, however, we are seeing more and more of our teachers leaving the classroom for administrative positions.  This, combined with the retirement of teachers from the baby-boomer generation, has led to a significant teacher shortage as fewer young people pursue the career. Thus current teacher supply does not meet the demand.

One of the reasons many students or otherwise capable professionals don’t bother to pursue the career at all is because of our significant barriers and obstacles to licensure.. This year, the House passed several initiatives aimed at addressing these barriers. Three different bills specifically address streamlining the teacher licensure process. The bills will allow great teachers to enter a classroom sooner and will help keep these teachers in the classroom.  

My House Bill 2 not only works to solve the teacher shortage but also supports our military members by removing burdens that spouses of military members were facing when they move to Virginia and want to continue teaching. HB 1125 provides broader reciprocity for licensed teachers that come to Virginia from another state and do not have any deficiencies on their record. Last but not least, HB 215 will allow an individual that has teaching experience in higher education to become licensed for one year to teach at the high school level, provided they meet certain other requirements. 

The House is committed to providing individuals an easier path to achieve their career goals, and these bills are just a few steps in that direction.

Additional Accomplishments

The topics I have already mentioned are just a few of the many accomplishments we have made in the House over the last few weeks.  To read about the many things we’ve worked on this year, click here.

Visitors

This was a busy week so we saw fewer visitors this week. We were happy to see representatives from Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County, as well as Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald and Supervisor Gerald Garber.  I was also glad to see Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith and Lt. Gary Taylor.

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session. If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020. We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following me on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 5

Next Tuesday marks the official half way mark of the 2018 Session.  After Tuesday the House will only be able to consider Senate Bills, and the Senate will only consider House Bills, except for the biennial budget. Most committees have completed their dockets and some are working to finish them up today.   After Crossover we will begin work on the legislation passed by the Senate.

 Bipartisan Compromise Reached on Grand Larceny Threshold and Legislation to Protect Crime Victims

One topic many of you have reached out to me about this year is raising the larceny threshold.  Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker Kirk Cox announced a bipartisan compromise to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 and adopt into law legislation to ensure that crime victims are paid the restitution duly owed to them.

The General Assembly will pass and the Governor will support and sign a package of legislation introduced by Delegate Les Adams and Senator David Suetterlein that will raise the felony larceny threshold to $500, as well as legislation introduced by Delegate Rob Bell and Senator Mark Obenshain to ensure that restitution ordered by the courts is collected from defendants, and legislation to ensure that restitution collected will be delivered to the victims.

The restitution legislation may seem like a no brainer, but it is significant. A Crime Commission study recently found that there was over $230 million in unpaid and overdue restitution owed to victims across the Commonwealth. This comprises all money defendants owe to victims for things like medical expenses. Even more recently WRIC8 reporter Kerri O’Brien found that there is approximately $8 million in restitution that was collected from defendants but never delivered to the crime victims.

The House has previously been reluctant to pass an increase in the grand larceny threshold, but the commitment to reforming the process by which victims receive restitution provided members with the confidence needed to increase the threshold, which at $200 currently is the lowest in the nation.

This compromise package incorporates two critical policy goals and is a huge step forward in commonsense criminal justice reform. We are maintaining our tough position on criminal theft, while modernizing the law to fit current times.

Last year, the House and Senate passed a bill introduced by Delegate Rob Bell to address the unpaid restitution but Governor McAuliffe vetoed it. The commitment from Governor Northam to sign this piece of legislation is a significant step for crime victims. I’m grateful that Governor Northam and Speaker Cox could work together to find common ground and produce a commonsense and bipartisan solution to a real problem.

Regulatory Reform Legislation

One of my biggest priorities has always been ensuring there is less government intrusion on the everyday life of Virginia citizens. On Monday, Governor Northam and Speaker Cox announced a bipartisan agreement to establish a regulatory reform pilot program with a goal to reduce or streamline regulatory requirements by 25% over the next three years.

This bipartisan legislation will help unleash Virginia’s economy by removing bureaucratic red tape that hinders the creation of good paying jobs.

We’ve seen positive effects of regulatory reform on our national economy during the last year, and Virginia has the potential to reap the same positive benefits through this pilot program. Not only will this program remove burdensome regulations, but it will help grow our economy and increase government efficiency. 

I am very excited about this program and I look forward to it removing many of the barriers that holds back development and job creation.

Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues

 The House of Delegates has now passed the three major pieces of the “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues” agenda. House Bills 1, 2, and 3 were top priorities of the House and the passage of these bills strengthens our commitment to advancing practical solutions to everyday issues.

Last week I shared with you that my House Bill 2, which will allow a spouse of any member of the armed forces who has a valid out-of-state teaching license to enjoy licensure reciprocity in Virginia, passed in the House of Delegates.  This legislation was a top priority of the House of Delegates and will show our commitment to not only fixing the teacher shortage but also to remaining one of the most military friendly states in the United States.

House Bill 1 will protect sensitive data, such as the email address and telephone number, of students enrolled in Virginia public colleges and universities from being released to the public without their consent.  This solves a problem that was brought to light last fall when media outlets across the Commonwealth reported that some political campaigns were targeting students by accessing their personal information without their knowledge.  With the passage of HB 1, students must provide consent before their personal information can be shared with any outside individual or organization.

House Bill 3 ensures that students who attempt to cut down on the cost of college by completing dual enrollment courses in High School will receive the credit they are due. This legislation directs the State Council of Higher Education to establish quality standards for dual enrollment courses, including standards for instructors, materials, and content. Courses that meet or exceed these standards will be certified as “Universal Transfer Courses” and satisfy course credit at any public institution of higher education.   This will save students time and money by ensuring that dual enrollment programs work as intended and allow students to earn credits while in high school.

All three of these bills have passed in the House and are now headed to the Senate for final consideration.

My Legislation

This week the House unanimously passed my House Bill 84, which requires any school division that does not offer any elective courses in American Sign Language to allow students to take ASL courses through a community college or online provider and count successful completion toward the fulfillment of their foreign language requirements for graduation.

This expands upon previous legislation that I have sponsored regarding American Sign Language. In 2011, I sponsored legislation that required institutions of higher education to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language for their entrance requirements. In 2017, House Bill 1512 expanded this to allow ASL to fulfill the foreign language course credit requirements at their public college or university.

I am thrilled that House Bill 84 has passed out of the House unanimously. I have spent much of my time in the House of Delegates working to expand access to American Sign Language classes for high school and college students. I believe that expanded access to ASL classes will encourage more students to take an interest in American Sign Language and will open a host of educational opportunities for both hearing and deaf students. I look forward to continuing the discussion on this legislation when it crosses over to the Senate.

Visitors

This week we had several visitors drop by from home. Dr. Frank Friedman was here with a group of students from Piedmont Valley Community College. Highland County Supervisor David Blanchard visited with his daughter Mary Winters, who served as a House Page last year.  We were visited by representatives from Virginia 2021, who came to Richmond to advocate for redistricting reform. We met with Tom Woodworth from Parker Bows in Staunton. Last but not least, the Augusta County Board of Supervisors visited with County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald. 

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session.  If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly.  I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

 

 

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 4

It’s hard to believe, but we are already into February! Crossover is just a little bit over a week away. As a reminder, crossover is the deadline for all bills to be considered in their House of origin. After crossover the House will only consider bills passed by the Senate and the Senate will only consider bills passed by the House. This means our floor sessions are getting longer as legislation is still working its way through the process.

Reforming State Board of Elections

On Thursday, we passed legislation reforming the State Board of Elections to guarantee the nonpartisan administration of elections in the Commonwealth.

The State Board of Elections currently is made up of three members; two from the party of the Governor and one from the party who has the next highest number of votes. This means currently the board is 2 Democrats and 1 Republican.

The bill increases from three to six the number of members on the Board, requiring three to be from the party that won the most recent gubernatorial election and three from the party receiving the next highest number of votes. This essentially means the Board would most likely always be made up of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

Why is this important? During this last election cycle the State Board of Elections delayed Delegate Bob Thomas’s election certification on a party line vote. It took a federal judge intervening to force the board to declare Thomas the rightful winner. If the board was evenly split those decisions would not be partisan.

All voters should be confident in the electoral process and be able to trust elections are conducted in the most fair and transparent way possible.  This is one more step in improving that process.

 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Given recent news reports across the country regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, this year the Speaker of the House and House Republicans have made sexual harassment prevention a top priority.  Delegate Roxann Robinson introduced legislation that will require all General Assembly members, their legislative staff, and other legislative employees to take sexual harassment prevention training every two years.  The extensive course will be administered by the Clerk of the House and the Clerk of the Senate.  

Delegate Robinson’s bill ensures that the General Assembly takes proactive steps to educate General Assembly members and staff on appropriate standards of conduct and reporting procedures to ensure the safety of everyone while on Capitol Square.

My Legislation

This week the House unanimously passed my House Bill 2. This bill will allow a spouse of any member of the armed forces who has a valid out-of-state teaching license to enjoy licensure reciprocity in Virginia. This means that an individual who is currently a licensed teacher in another state and married to a member of the military could seamlessly transition into a Virginia classroom if their family is transferred to Virginia.

Addressing the significant teacher shortage in Virginia is a top priority of the Virginia House of Delegates this year. We have one of the largest military populations in the country and this legislation will remove obstacles for licensed and qualified teachers to get a job in Virginia as soon as possible.  This not only helps strengthens our commitment to our active duty military and veteran populations, but also will make it easier for our local school divisions to find and hire qualified teachers for our public schools.

House Bill 2 was referred to the House Committee on Education, where it reported out unanimously on January 24.  It passed in the full House with a vote of 99-0.  It will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

In addition to House Bill 2, I had two other bills pass in the House this week that related to pawnbrokers.  They were HB 206 and HB 26.

Visitors

This week we had many visitors drop by to visit.  Julia Billingsley stopped in for “Hokie Day” at the Capitol, and we were also visited by a group from the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.  Jill McLaughlin visited representing “Decoding Dyslexia” and Dr. Bob Gunther visited the Capitol along with many other pediatricians from across the Commonwealth.  We were visited by Gayl Brunk and a group representing the Valley Association of Independent Living and General Teresa Djuric and cadets from the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin University.  Janice Kitts visited with the Virginia Nurses Association Lobby Day, and we were visited by Marilyn Blagg from Highland County.  Last but not least we were visited by Joyce Dull, as well as a group from Nelson County representing SEIU.

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session.  If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly.  I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 3

We’ve just concluded the third week of the 2018 General Assembly Session.  We’re in full swing and legislation is working its way through the process.  Several important bills have already passed in the House, including legislation focusing on several key issues we are working hard to address such as adoption reform.

Adoption Reform

The House of Delegates this week passed three important adoption bills that are aimed at helping more children find loving adoptive parents. House Bills 241, 227, and 291 all passed through the House with bipartisan support.

One of these bills, HB 241, shortens from three to two years the period that a child must live with a close family member before adoption proceedings can begin.  Another bill, House Bill 291, simplifies access to adoption files regarding court orders for adoptees and/or adopters so they can more easily obtain personal vital record.

The third bill, House bill 227, requires courts to consider the results of a national criminal history background check conducted on the prospective adoptive parent. The was proposed in response to a case in Virginia Beach where a young female died as the result of an overdose. The investigation revealed that her adoptive parent had a long felony criminal history.

Our hope is that this adoption reform legislation will help streamline the adoption process and make it easier to navigate for families in Virginia.  This in turn will allow children to be placed in safe and loving homes as quickly as possible.

House and Senate Leaders Announce Formation of Joint Subcommittee to Review Problems from 2017 Elections

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment announced the formation of a Joint Subcommittee on Election Review.

This subcommittee was formed to consider issues related to the conduct of elections that were brought to light following the November 2017 elections.  They will review issues and procedures with absentee ballots, voter assignment, split-precincts, proper procedures for recounts and the protocol for elections that end in a tie.  This subcommittee will broadly review these questions and determine what steps, if any, we should take.

One of the most sacred rights offered to the people of Virginia is the right to vote in a fair and free election.  It is important that the public is confident in our electoral system.  I thank Speaker Cox and Senate Majority Leader Norment for their leadership on this issue, and I will keep you updated with the findings of the joint subcommittee.

Proposed Tax Increases

Some of our colleagues across the aisle have unfortunately introduced three bills this year that would constitute major tax increases.  House Bill 1051 would implement a tax on video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.  House Bill 310 would reinstate the estate tax, perhaps more commonly known as the “death tax”.  Finally, House Bill 1356 would expand the 2% regional transient occupancy tax (hotel tax) in Northern Virginia statewide and use a portion of the money to fund the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and other transportation projects.

Over the past 15 years the House Republicans have defeated more than $30 million in new taxes and our commitment to do so continues.  I know that the residents of the 20th District do not need higher taxes on hotels, Netflix, and the assets of their family members.  What they need is more of their own hard-earned money in their own pockets.  I am committed to standing strong against these and other tax increases and I know that my Republican colleagues are as well.  

Visitors

This week we had many visitors drop in for a visit. Liesel Crosier stopped by with Mary Baldwin students Dianna Tran, Jay Cropper, and Jade Harris and Bridgewater College student Luke Morgan stopped by to thank the Virginia General Assembly for their support of tuition assistance grants for private college students in Virginia.  We were visited by Lori Epik representing the Virginia Governmental Employees Association, and Rachel Smucker representing Secure Futures in Staunton.  We saw Nikki Narduzzi, as well as Louise Whipple, Shelby Owen, and Donna Goble.  We were also visited by Eric Bond and John Ocheltree of Augusta County Public Schools and Jeff Cassell from Waynesboro City Public Schools.  Bruce Thompson from Dr. Pepper of Staunton dropped by, as well as Jay McIntire of the Shenandoah Valley Funeral Directors Association and Chrissy Johnston from Vector Industries.  We also visited with Sheri Laubach, Ginger Staron, Page Hearn, Annie Jacobs, and Gina Carroll who came to the General Assembly for Humane Society Lobby Day.  We also met with Craig and Jean Shrewsbury, Scott Crumpler, and Edward Page. Last but not least we were visited by Blue Ridge Community College President, Dr. John Downey and a group of students.

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session.  If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly.  I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Me

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session.  To reach us by phone, please call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will not be monitoring our District Office phone line.   We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 2

The first full week of the 2018 General Assembly Session is in the books. Due to the significant changes in the makeup of the House combined with the new building, things have started off a bit slower than normal. It took House leadership and committee leadership a couple of extra days to get our committees and subcommittees organized and to assign bills to the committees. Usually in the 60-day Session we deal with approximately 3,000 pieces of legislation but it appears that we might exceed that this year by a wide margin.

I will once again be serving on the Education Committee, Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, and the General Laws committee. I serve on two subcommittees for each full committee, and this year I am chairing one subcommittee in each of my three full committees. I look forward to these added responsibilities and to working with other members of each committee to advance practical solutions to everyday issues.

Now that subcommittees and full committees are fully organized we are in full swing. By mid-week this week we were having full subcommittee meetings and that legislation is going to continue to work its way through the process. Given the later start, I anticipate that we will have some very full dockets and very long days ahead of us. If you’re interested in watching the floor sessions online, you can do so online here. This year for the first time you can also stream full committee meetings. For directions on how to stream committee meetings online, click here.

The Budget

The biennial budget is the single most important piece of legislation we work on each year. The budget affects everyone and is our best chance to work together across the aisle to improve the lives of all Virginians. I will continue to work to be a good steward of your tax dollars. House Republicans are committed to being consistent with what we have done in the past and to working efficiently and in a transparent manner. The budget we pass will be structurally balanced and show a commitment to the core functions of government. You can view the budget and budget amendments put forth by members of the General Assembly online at https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/default/2018/1/.

Visitors

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session. If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.
While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. While we still monitor the voicemail on our District Office phone line, the quickest way to reach us by phone will be by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.

We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - January 12, 2018

On Wednesday at noon, the 2018 General Assembly Session was officially gaveled in. This year is a long (60 days) session.  We will primarily focus on the budget, but other top issues will include healthcare, the opioid crisis, education, and addressing the teacher shortage across Virginia.

It is no secret that the 2017 election cycle lasted longer than expected, but the House is now organized and ready for business. On Wednesday 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats were sworn in.  It was an honor and a privilege to stand with my colleagues and friends and take the oath for the 5th time.  I do not take the responsibility you have placed on me lightly, and I look forward to serving the residents of the 20th District for the next two years.  

After we were given the oath of office, the first item of business was to elect a new Speaker of the House.  Republican Delegate Kirk Cox was unanimously elected to be the 55th Speaker of the House. I know Kirk Cox to be a man of faith and integrity and I believe he is an excellent choice to lead the House at this critical time.  In stark contrast to the heated rhetoric from both sides over the last few months, Speaker Cox gave an opening speech that set a clear tone for the 2018 Session.  He pledged to focus on governing, work across the aisle to find common ground on issues that affect Virginians, and to lead with character and integrity.   

One of the next items of business was to pass the rules of the body.  The new rules expand the existing rule on proportional representation to both committees and subcommittees, and required the House to utilize electronic voting equipment to record votes in committee and subcommittee. The House will also live stream all full committee meetings. These changes, which build upon the work of the last several years to increase transparency and public access, were passed by the House unanimously.

Yesterday Speaker Cox announced committee assignments for the next term.  My committees remained the same; I will continue to serve on the Education, Health Welfare and Institutions, and General Laws committees.  There is, however, one significant change.  I was appointed by Speaker Cox to serve as the Vice Chairman of the House Education Committee. 

I’m pleased to have been appointed as Vice Chairman of the Education Committee. It will be privilege to work with Delegate Steve Landes to lead this committee and I am honored that we will be able to work together to represent the Shenandoah Valley in this way. I look forward to my new role and the challenges that come with it.  As a former educator and longtime education reform advocate, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of teachers and students across the Commonwealth.

Visitors

It was a short week this week but we were able to visit with some representatives of the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District in our Richmond office.

We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session.  If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly.  I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2017 Session.  To reach us by phone please call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will not be monitoring our district phone.   We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Spotlight on Education

Over the last few weeks there have been several comments and accusations coming from those who oppose my candidacy regarding my views on education policy.  While I don’t normally feel inclined to respond to every criticism that comes my way, I do feel the need to address this with you. 

As many of you are already aware, I am a retired special education teacher.  I taught for 18 years before I retired in 2010.

I’m extremely proud of my record on education.  My experience in the classroom, especially in special education, taught me that all children learn differently.  I loved working with those children and they are the reason I am so passionate about education reform in the Commonwealth. 

I believe that every child in our Commonwealth deserves the right to a top-notch education, regardless of their zip code.   There is no doubt that Virginia has one of the best school systems in the country, but many of our students are still being left behind.  Traditional public schools work well for the vast majority of our students, but I believe parents should have additional choices should they find that their child does not learn well in the traditional classroom environment.

Education is the gateway to opportunity and should be the great equalizer. No matter a student’s background, our education system should make anything possible for every child.  This is why my colleagues and I have worked to make sure that our education system meets the unique needs of every child, whether that means a traditional learning model, virtual education or access to a charter or private school.

While I am extremely supportive of homeschooling, charter schools, and other school choice initiatives that we’ve looked at over the past few years, my specific interest has been in full-time virtual education.  During the 2017 Session we worked on House Bill 1400.  This bill established the Virginia Virtual School. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, the bill would have required the School to be open to any school-age person seeking a full-time virtual education in the Commonwealth and to provide an educational program meeting the Standards of Quality for grades kindergarten through 12.

The virtual legislation has been a work in progress over the last several years, but I believe we have built a strong piece of legislation.  The bill did NOT take funding from public schools, but rather required the average state share of Standards of Quality per pupil funding for each enrolled student to be transferred to the School.  We modeled this legislation off the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton.  This idea has passed both Houses of the General Assembly the last two sessions, only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.  

My support for school choice initiatives does NOT, however, mean that I do not support our traditional public schools.  On the contrary, I believe that empowering parents and students with choices in education and improving our traditional public school system go hand in hand.

Our state constitution specifically requires the General Assembly to maintain not only a public education system, but one of “high quality.”  This is a core function of state government. Strengthening and improving education has been a top priority for the General Assembly each year.

This starts with recruiting and retaining the best and brightest teachers.  We have excellent teachers in Virginia and we have made it a priority to provide these teachers with the tools, resources, and flexibility they need to provide our children with an excellent education. 

We have provided four teacher pay raises in the last five years.  This includes a 2% raise in 2017, 2% raise in 2016, a 1.5% raise in 2015 and a 2% raise in 2013, for a total of $106 million.  The most recent raise passed by the General Assembly was fully funded by the state without the local match requirement. This will go into effect in February of 2018.

We have made major reforms to our Standards of Learning, reducing the total number of tests from 22 to 17. We’ve worked to eliminate burdensome red-tape that takes time away from what matters most: educating our children.  We included $193 million in the 2016 budget to reduce the unfunded liability in the teacher retirement account.  In 2013, I patroned House Bill 2151, which reformed the teacher evaluation system to create more accountability while clarifying contract status for existing teachers. This was a major bipartisan achievement, endorsed by Republicans and the Virginia Education Association. In 2013, as part of our initiative to attract and retain good teachers, we created the Teach for America program in Virginia.

Another common misconception is that we have continued to cut funding to K-12 education or that somehow public education is not fully funded.  This in fact is not true.  While there was some reduction to direct aid to public education a few years ago during the peak of the recession, we have increased funding every year since FY 2011 and education funding now exceeds its pre-recession levels by approximately $200 million.  The current budget invested an additional $18 million in K-12 beyond the Governor’s introduced budget.  Additionally, for the current budget we increased the amount of lottery money going back to schools to $191.3 million.  This money goes to schools with no strings attached, so they can use it to meet their most critical needs.

I’m proud of the work that my colleagues and I have put into education over the last several years.  I have personally patroned 39 education related bills during my time in the house that range from school choice initiatives, to school discipline reform measures, to legislation to improve educational rights for students who are deaf and hard of hearing and expand opportunities for learning American Sign Language. 

I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s still so much more to be done. My commitment to education reform in the Commonwealth is one of the reasons that I am running for re-election. I want to continue the work that we have started and continue improving our education system for our teachers, students, and parents.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - October 30, 2017

Virginians head to the polls one week from tomorrow!  If you haven’t yet been involved in the campaign, there’s still time!  There will be many volunteer opportunities over the next week and I hope you’ll consider giving a few hours of your time.  I’d like to share a few ways you can get involved this week and provide a couple quick updates from the campaign trail. 

Volunteer!

We are still looking for volunteers who are willing to go door to door for our campaign. We’ve hit thousands of doors already, but will continue to knock on doors all week.  We would love to get as many people out as possible to help us spread our message! If you’re interested in going door to door either one evening this week or next Saturday, we’d love to have you.

We also need volunteers for Election Day. If you’re willing to help us out by talking to voters outside of their polling location on Election Day, please let Savanna know what times you’re available. Every little bit helps, so even if you only have an hour or two to spare we can certainly use you.

Please email Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.com to get more information!

Endorsements

I have been honored to receive many important endorsements over the last few weeks that I want to share with you. 

They are:

  • National Rifle Association (A Rating)
  • National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
  • Virginia Realtor’s Association
  • Virginia Retail Merchants Association
  • Virginia Society for Human Life
  • Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia
  • Virginia Farm Bureau’s AgPAC

I am thankful to each of these groups for their support of my re-election campaign and look forward to continuing to work with them if I am re-elected in November!

The following organizations DO NOT endorse, but rate legislators based on their voting records:

  • The Family Foundation – 100% Rating
  • Virginia Chamber of Commerce – 98% A+ Rating

I have also received the following awards for my work during the 2017 Legislative Session:

  • Legislator of the Year for the Virginia Counselor’s Association
  • Catalyst for Change by The Arc of Virginia

House District 20 Televised Candidate Forum

Tune in to WVPT Thursday night at 9:00 pm for a 20th House District Candidate Forum hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.  A portion of the forum will be aired on WVPT and it will be available in its entirety online at www.woodrowwilson.org after 9:00 pm Thursday.

Ed Gillespie Get out the Vote Tour

I hope you will join me on Thursday November 2 at the Augusta Expo Center for a rally in support of my  friend and our next Governor, Ed Gillespie! The rally will be held this Thursday, November 2 at 5:30 pm at the Augusta Expo Center.  RSVP here! 

Bring your friends and family to wish Ed well as we approach election day.

Details may be subject to change as they work to finalize their tour. I will keep you posted on any changes to the schedule.

Election Night Party

After the polls close next Tuesday please join the Augusta, Staunton, and Waynesboro Republican committees at Queen City Brewery to watch the results come in.  We will be there from 7:00 – 10:00 pm.  Pizza and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. You’re welcome to bring a side dish or desert to share and attendees are encouraged to bring donations to help cover the cost of the food and drinks.  For planning purposes an RSVP is requested. You can rsvp to Savanna at savanna@bellfordelegate.com.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - There's still time to vote absentee!

We are 11 days out!

If you are unable to vote on Election Day there’s still time to vote absentee, but some important deadlines are approaching.

You can vote in-person absentee at your local registrar’s office or apply for an absentee ballot by mail.

  • The last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Tuesday, October 31. Your request must be received by the registrar by 5:00 pm.
  • The last day to vote in person absentee is Saturday, November 4.
  • Election Day is Tuesday, November 7. Polls will be open from 6:00 am – 7:00 pm

For more information on applying for an absentee ballot either online or by mail, please CLICK HERE!

If you have questions about your registration, absentee voting, or anything else related to voting, you can reach your local registrar’s office at the number below.

Thank you for your continued support! 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Help me finish this race strong!

We’ve reached the home stretch! We are just under two weeks away from Election Day! I’m so grateful for all of the support you’ve shown me through your volunteer efforts and contributions to my campaign. I need your help to finish out strong! 

This campaign has been very expensive. I have been consistently out raised by my opponent, with much of her support coming from out of the area and even out of state. I may be outspent, but I promise you I will not be out worked!

We are pounding the pavement, talking to voters and spreading our message of limited government, education reform, fiscal and personal responsibility, and reduction of taxes and burdensome regulations. We have been blown away by all the support! 

We need to keep spreading this message right up through Election Day, but need your help to do so. I must ask for your help one more time. 

Tomorrow marks the last campaign finance deadline of the 2017 Election Cycle. We need a strong showing on this report to give us the momentum we need over the next 13 days. Your financial support at this late stage in the campaign will also help me defend myself against any last minute attacks that may be coming. 

I know I have asked for a lot already, and I’m so grateful that you have come through for me every single time.

Can you donate $25, $50, or even $100 by midnight tomorrow night to help me finish this race strong? 

You can donate securely online at www.bellfordelegate.com/donate or by sending a check to Dickie Bell for Delegate, P.O. Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402. 

Thank you in advance for your continued support. Lets finish this race strong and be ready to celebrate in November!



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