Virtual Education Legislation Passes in State Senate

Virtual Education Legislation Passes in the State Senate RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Senate has passed legislation to establish a statewide virtual school to provide full-time virtual school programs here in Virginia.

This legislation, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), passed the House on February 16 with a vote of 58-40-1 and has now passed the Senate on March 7 with a vote of 23-17.

This legislation will establish the Virginia Virtual School, which is for full-time virtual only. Students who attend this school will be subject to the same Standards of Quality, including SOLs and standards of accreditation, of any other brick and mortar school.

Special education services for students needing it can also be received through the school. Most importantly, this bill allows any student in Virginia to enroll in the School should their parents choose, and gives the parents the flexibility to choose any approved multi-division online provider.

The Senate Finance committee made a series of amendments to the bill. These amendments change the membership of the board of the Virginia Virtual School, delay the start of the school until the 2017-2018 school year, and direct the Department of Education to review the statewide use of online learning, including virtual courses and programs and develop a proposed methodology for estimating the cost of fully online programs. They will report these findings to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees by November of 2017.

Delegate Bell requested today that the House reject the Senate amendments and request a committee of conference to hammer out the House and Senate differences.

“I am pleased that the State Senate has shown bipartisan support for full-time virtual learning here in the Commonwealth” said Delegate Bell. “This is a huge step forward for school choice and shows that the General Assembly trusts parents to make the best choices for their children. Every child is unique and we have a responsibility to teach them in an environment that best meets their unique needs. For some children this is virtual and I am pleased that we are on the right path. Over 30 states have already established statewide full-time virtual schools, and I believe Virginia should be next. While there are some differences in the versions of this legislation that passed in the House and Senate, I remain confident that we will be able to hammer out the differences, make compromises, and send the best bill possible to Governor McAuliffe’s desk.”

Delegate Bell carried similar legislation in the 2015 Session, which passed both Houses and was signed by the Governor with re-enactment language. Several improvements to the bill were adopted by the House Appropriations committee, putting the bill in a stronger posture.

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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State Senate Passes Right to Work Amendment

RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate have now both passed legislation to enshrine Virginia’s Right to Work law in the Constitution. The constitutional amendment, carried by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), prohibits union membership as a condition of employment.

Virginia already has a right to work statute, but including right to work in the Constitution solidifies this important pro-business policy.

“Enshrining our right to work law in the Constitution strengthens Virginia’s commitment to being a welcoming and pro-business state,” said Delegate Bell. “This amendment will also further protect hard working Virginians from forced unionization. Like the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the right to work is a fundamental right. It’s time that we finally enshrine this law in our constitution to ensure that it is no longer subject to the whims of the legislature.”

Now that the resolution has passed in the General Assembly, the amendment will go to the voters for final approval during the 2016 election.

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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Small Business Endorses Delegate Bell in 20th District Race

 RICHMOND, September 23, 2015—The National Federation of Independent Business, Virginia’s leading small-business association, has endorsed Delegate Dickie Bell in the 20th House District race.

The endorsement comes from the NFIB/Virginia SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members.

“Delegate Bell is clearly the best choice for small business owners, their employees and their families,” said Nicole Riley, state director of NFIB/Virginia.

“Dickie understands the challenges facing the commonwealth’s small businesses, and our members believe he will continue to take a fiscally responsible approach to managing state government and support legislation that helps our small businesses grow and create jobs.”

"It is an honor to once again be endorsed by NFIB,” said Delegate Bell. “Small business is crucial to the economy of the Commonwealth, and Virginia cannot succeed without the success of small, independent, businesses.  Throughout my tenure in the House of Delegates I have supported policies that will help our small businesses thrive, and this will continue to be a top priority if I am re-elected in November.”

The NFIB/Virginia SAFE Trust’s endorsement is critical to the Delegate Bell’s campaign. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of the campaign. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues. 

 

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NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals. Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small- and independent-business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business. NFIB’s powerful network of grassroots activists sends its views directly to state and federal lawmakers through our unique member-only ballot, thus playing a critical role in supporting America’s free enterprise system. NFIB’s mission is to promote and protect the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses. More information about NFIB is available online at www.NFIB.com/newsroom.

 

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Delegate Bell Endorsed by NRA

STAUNTON, VA – The National Rifle Association has announced their endorsement of Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) for the 20th District House of Delegates seat in the Virginia General Assembly.

The National Rifle Association posted this endorsement as well as an “A-” rating on the webpage of the NRA Political Victory Fund.  The rating is based upon Delegate Bell’s record of defending and upholding the Second Amendment rights of Virginia’s citizens.

“I am pleased and honored to once again receive the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.”  said Delegate Bell. “The right to bear arms is very important to many residents of the 20th District, and to me as well. Unfortunately, these freedoms have been under attack in recent years. I have made protecting the constitutional right to bear arms a high priority throughout my tenure in the House of Delegates, and will continue to do so if I am re-elected in November.”

The complete list of ratings and endorsements can be viewed online at https://www.nrapvf.org/grades/Virginia/.  

Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, Highland County, and parts of Nelson and Augusta counties.  Delegate Bell is currently serving in his third term.

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20th District Localities Awarded School Safety Grants

STAUNTON, VA – Several localities in the 20th District of the Virginia House of Delegates have been awarded a school safety grants this week by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. The grant is from the School Security Infrastructure Improvement Fund which was created by the General Assembly during the 2013 session.

 

Augusta County was awarded $60,116 for improvements to Craigsville Elementary, Fort Defiance High, North River Elementary and S. Gordon Stewart Middle.  Highland County was awarded $846 for improvements to Highland High School.  Nelson County was awarded $100,000 for Nelson County High School.  Staunton was awarded $53,302 for Bessie Weller Elementary, Robert E. Lee High and Shelburne Middle, and Waynesboro was awarded $63,554 for Berkeley Glenn Elementary and Wenonah Elementary.

 

“During the 2013 General Assembly Session recent tragedies, perhaps most notably the tragic events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, caused the General Assembly to examine school safety in the Commonwealth” said Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton).  “One area that we found needed some significant improvement throughout the Virginia was the security infrastructure within many of our schools.  Therefore, we passed legislation that established the School Security Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is an important step that will give localities additional resources that they need to ensure that every child, teacher, and staff member will remain safe at school.”

 

House Bill 2343 was originally proposed and written by House Republicans during the 2013 General Assembly session. The General Assembly authorized $31 million, including $6 million specifically for this program, for school safety and security in the 2013 state budget. That also included $1.7 million to hire additional school resource officers across the Commonwealth. The General Assembly authorized an additional $6 million for school security infrastructure improvements in the 2014 budget. 

 

“Our children deserve a safe classroom environment where they can focus on learning without fear of violence. I am proud of the steps that the General Assembly took in 2013 to help ensure this safety, and I am pleased to see the impact of these efforts right here in our community.”

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Delegate Bell Announces Endorsement from Farm Bureau's AgPAC

Delegate Dickie Bell(R-20) last week received the endorsement of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC, the organization’s political action committee, in the race for the 20th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Bell is among 115 candidates that VFBF AgPAC has endorsed for election to the General Assembly. Endorsements were made based on the recommendations of local committees of farmers.

Candidates who receive VFBF AgPAC endorsements “have demonstrated a clear understanding of the needs and challenges farmers are facing and/or have proven their support through their favorable voting records while holding positions in the General Assembly,” said Wayne F. Pryor, chairman of VFBF AgPAC and president of Virginia Farm Bureau. “We believe the endorsed candidates will help agriculture and forestry maintain its vitality as the No. 1 industry in Virginia.”

The non-partisan VFBF AgPAC was created by Farm Bureau in 1999 and employs in-kind contributions and endorsements to support candidates who can best support agriculture and Farm Bureau issues. A full list of candidates endorsed by the committee can be viewed online at VaFarmBureau.org.

With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group.

Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, parts of Augusta and Nelson Counties, and the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro.  He is currently serving in his 3rd term.

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Delegate Richard P. "Dickie" Bell Addresses America Legion Boys State

RADFORD – Richard P. Bell, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Staunton, this morning addressed select high school students attending the 73rd session of American Legion Boys State of Virginia being held this week at Radford University.

 

Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20), participating for his fifth consecutive time as an instructor in the Boys State program, spoke on "Virginia Government - Origins to Today."  He described the history and legislative process of the Virginia General Assembly including how a bill becomes law.  Bell also discussed his duties and challenges as a state Delegate along with various current policy and political issues facing state government in Virginia.  He answered several questions from the Boys State citizens.

 

The 2015 session of American Legion Boys State of Virginia opened yesterday with 660 delegates in attendance.  Outstanding rising seniors from high schools – public, private and homeschooled -- across Virginia have been chosen to participate in this annual educational program.

 

Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion in each state, is designed to instruct select high school students about state and local government.  Delegates to this intensive week-long session will hear addresses from various state and local officials including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, two cabinet secretaries, five members of the General Assembly, a state prosecutor and three local officials.

 

All delegates are assigned to one of sixteen Boys State cities named after famous military leaders, like Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Patton.  Each of the Boys State citizens are also assigned to either of the fictitious political parties -- Federalist or Nationalist -- for purposes of nominating and electing candidates for mayor of each city, the Boys State legislature, attorney general, lieutenant governor, and governor along with various other state and local offices.  Citizens elected to the various positions actually serve in those offices during the week and take on their respective duties and responsibilities.  Students attending Boys State learn citizenship and civic leadership through participation.

 

The first Boys State in the nation was held in 1935 in Illinois.  The American Legion Department of Virginia sponsored its first Boys State program in 1939.

 

Principal speakers for this week include: Attorney General Mark R. Herring (1:15 pm on Tuesday, June 23); Lieutenant Governor Ralph S. Northam (10:00 am on Wednesday, June 24) and Governor Terence R. McAuliffe (11:30 am on Thursday, June 25).

 

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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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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Delegate Bell's HB 324, HJ 490, Pass in the Senate

RICHMOND, VA – Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) announced today that House Bill 324 and House Joint Resolution 490 have passed in the State Senate.

Delegate Bell’s 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.

Earlier this week the Senate Finance committee heard the bill.  Together, Delegate Bell and the Finance committee made a number of substantive changes to the legislation that would ease the concerns of some of its opponents.  They added clarifying language ensuring that the School is only for full time virtual schooling, established an enrollment deadline and local enrollment cap, developed a model to pay for the administration of the program by charging providers a proportionate administration fee, and removed any costs to localities.  They also added a reenactment clause that requires the bill to be passed again next year prior to the bill being implemented. 

House Bill 324 passed the House in 2014 and was carried over by the State Senate Committee on Education and Health in 2014. In December it was reported and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.  The Finance committee adopted a substitute bill and reported it out 10-4. It passed in the Senate on February 19 on a vote of 22-16.  

“This is a huge victory for virtual education in Virginia.” said Delegate Bell. “While we still have some work to do, passing this bill in the Senate is a tremendous accomplishment.  I look forward to meeting with the stakeholders in the interim to ensure that next year we come back with the best bill possible.  There are many students across Virginia that need access to a public virtual school, and we are one step closer to being able to provide this for those families.” 

Delegate Bell began working on Virtual Education legislation in 2010.  In 2010, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1388, which required the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Board of Education to develop criteria for approving and monitoring multi-division providers of online courses and virtual school programs.  It also allowed localities to enter into contracts with approved private providers of such courses. 

In addition to House Bill 324, House Joint Resolution 490 passed in the Senate today.  HJ 490 is the first resolution to make our Right to Work laws part of Virginia’s Constitution. Current law provides that a citizen cannot be denied the employment or continuation of employment for failing to join a union or other labor organization.  This amendment would make Virginia’s Right to Work law more permanent by adding it to the constitution.

“I am pleased to see the Right to Work amendment pass in the State Senate.  This is the third time I have carried the Right to Work amendment, and this is the furthest that it has made it during my time in the House. ” said Delegate Bell.  “The Right to Work law is a crucial factor in Virginia’s continued high rankings as one of the best states for business.  By adding the existing Right to Work law to the Constitution of Virginia, we are protecting it from the whims of the legislature and thus ensuring it can remain in place for generations to come.”

In order to be added to the constitution, this resolution will have to pass again in the 2016 General Assembly Session. It will then be sent to the voters in the form of a referendum on the ballot for final approval.

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 third term.

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House Commerce and Labor Committee kills eminent domain transparency bill

HB1696, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) came before the full House Committee on Commerce and Labor on Thursday afternoon.  Despite testimony from land owners, constitutional scholars, and open government advocates, the committee voted to “lay the bill on the table.”  This is a parliamentary procedure that in fact kills the bill. 

Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) made and Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) seconded an initial motion that would have reported the bill out of committee and sent it to the full House of Delegates for consideration.  A substitute motion was then made to table the bill.  Delegates Cline and Rob Bell voted against the motion to table.  Three members of the committee abstained based on potential conflicts of interest.

Delegate Dickie Bell argued before the committee that if eminent domain authority is given to a private entity that entity should have to adhere to the same transparency requirements that government entities have.   

“I am disappointed that the Commerce and Labor committee did not see fit to advance this legislation. This was a common sense measure that would have increased the transparency of the eminent domain process.” said Delegate Bell.  “Our citizens have the right to know what is being done on or with their property. It seems only fair and right that when the authority of the government is given to a private entity that they be subject to the same oversight and accountability.”    

The genesis of House Bill 1696 stemmed from numerous discussions regarding the process by which Dominion Power utilized eminent domain authority for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The bill would not stop the pipeline, but it would have closed an oversight loophole in the process.  Dominion’s use of government authority to take land was not balanced with the transparency allowed by the Freedom of Information Act.

While HB 1696 is dead, State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) still has an identical piece of legislation (Senate Bill 1166) that is still working its way through the Senate process

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