Governor McAuliffe Signs Delegate Bell's Bills

STAUNTON, VA – Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) announced today that Governor McAuliffe has signed into law a number of House Bills that he patroned for the 2015 General Assembly Session.

The bills signed into law include House Bills 324, 1443, 1679, and 2114.   

House Bill 324 establishes a new Virtual Virginia School and creates a Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency under the Secretary of Education (SOE). The School will offer both online classes and virtual school programs to students in Virginia. The Virginia Virtual School will be responsible for all federal and state accountability requirements applicable to those students enrolled on a full-time basis.  The bill has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2016, and will only become effective if reenacted by the 2016 Session of the General Assembly.

“I am thankful that Governor McAuliffe has approved House Bill 324.  This is a huge step forward for virtual education in Virginia” said Delegate Bell.  “There is no doubt that we still have some work to do on this legislation, but I’m grateful that with the Governor’s approval we will have more time to continue this process.  I look forward to continuing discussions with all stakeholders in the interim and bringing back the best legislation possible for the 2015 Session.  There are many students across the Commonwealth that would be benefitted by a full-time public virtual program, and with the Governor’s signature on House Bill 324 we are one step closer to making that a reality.”

House Bill 1443 came at the request of the Commission on Youth, and requires the Board of Education to adopt regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth.  It also requires that these regulations be consistent with Guidelines for the Development of Policies and Procedures for Managing Student Behavior in Emergency Situations and the Fifteen Principles contained in the U.S. Department of Education's Restraint and Seclusion.

 “I’m glad to see House Bill 1443 get the Governor’s final stamp of approval” said Delegate Bell. “Virginia is currently one out of only ten states that rely solely on voluntary guidelines in public schools.  We know from the testimony of countless parents who testified before the Commission on Youth and House and Senate committee hearings that these voluntary guidelines are not working.  Therefore mandatory regulations are necessary to ensure that seclusion and restraint are only used as a last resort, and to ensure that parents are always notified when their child must be forcibly restrained.”

House Bill 1679 requires each local school board to (i) annually post on the school division's website information describing the educational and other services available through the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, the Department for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, and the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired to students who are identified as hearing impaired or visually impaired, (ii) inform parents of its availability, and (iii) ensure that packets of such information are available in an accessible format for review by parents who do not have Internet access. Current law requires distribution of physical copies of such information.

“This bill is a common sense measure that will help ensure that parents of blind, deaf, and hard of hearing students have easy access to information on services available for their child. I am grateful that the Governor saw fit to sign this bill into law, and believe it will be helpful to many families throughout the Commonwealth.” said Delegate Bell

House Bill 2114 provides schools in the Commonwealth with exemptions from federal regulations that effectively prohibit students from holding fundraisers that sell snacks and food not compliant with the federal school lunch program.  It allows school divisions to allow up to 30 school-sponsored fundraisers per school per year during which food that does not meet the federal nutritional guidelines can be sold to students. 

“By signing this bill, Governor McAuliffe has allowed school divisions the flexibility to allow fundraisers for student groups.” aid Delegate Bell. “The federal “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” championed by First Lady Michelle Obama gives states limited flexibility to allow fundraisers that sell foods not offered as part of a school breakfast or lunch program, but the Virginia Department of Education has not yet adopted regulations that allow it.  With the passage and approval of this legislation, sports teams, clubs, and other school sponsored organizations will be able to hold bake sales and candy sales to raise needed funds for uniforms, trips, and other organization needs.” 

In addition to these bills patroned by Delegate Bell, Governor McAuliffe also signed into law House Bill 2020, a bill patroned by Delegate BaCote and chief co-patroned by Delegate Bell.

House Bill 2020 allows retired teachers in critical shortage areas to teach and continue to receive their retirement allowance.  Currently retired teachers are already able to do this, but the sunset on that program ends in 2015.

Unless otherwise indicated, these laws will go into effect July 1, 2015.

Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes parts of Nelson and Augusta Counties, Highland County, and the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro.

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