Thursday, March 3, 2016

Update from the Money Committees

Senate Finance Committee - Right after the House Education Committee yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee took up a lengthy docket which included HB8, the virtual school bill, and HB389, the Parental Choice Savings Account bill.

HB8 (R. Bell) establishes the Virginia Virtual School as a full-time virtual school program. Additionally, it requires that any student who enrolls full-time shall have the average state share of the Standards of Quality per pupil funding be transferred to the School. The committee amended the bill to: 
  • place a cap of enrolled students to 5,000
  •  delay the implementation date by one 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. 
With these amendments, the committee reported the bill on a 10-4 vote.

HB389 (LaRock) creates the Parental Choice Education Savings Account that allows a parent of students with disabilities to receive 90 percent of the SOQ per pupil state funds to use for education-related expenses of the student, including tuition, deposits, fees, transportation and required textbooks at a private, sectarian or nonsectarian elementary or secondary school or a public higher education institution. After a lengthy discussion and testimony, the committee placed a reenactment clause on the bill, which reads "that the provisions of this act shall not become effective unless reenacted by the 2017 Session of the General Assembly." With the reenactment clause, the 9-5 vote reflected bipartisan opposition. 

House Appropriations Committee - A bill that we have been working on for several years was considered by the House Appropriations Compensation and Retirement subcommittee yesterday. 

SB364 (Chafin) gives the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) the flexibility to create a statewide health insurance plan similar to the state employee health plan for local school divisions and local governments, giving local school boards an option to assist with controlling runaway health insurance costs. The subcommittee unanimously reported the bill and a few minutes later the full committee did the same. SB364 now heads to the House floor on the uncontested calendar.

Thank you to Senator Chafin for his diligent work and all of our members who were very active and engaged over the past few years on this legislation.