Yesterday officially marked the halfway point of session, otherwise known as “crossover.” It’s the last day that the House can consider legislation that originated in the House and the last day that the Senate can consider legislation that originated in the Senate (the exception being the budget bills).
While I still want to take this opportunity to offer some crossover highlights, I know what’s likely on most folks mind is the approaching winter storm. It is expected to impact the Shenandoah Valley beginning as early as Wednesday afternoon. Depending upon the track of storm, it appears that we will get 5+ inches with possible wind guest up to 20 MPH. For your convenience, I have provided some resources in the section below that I thought may be useful to you.
Before getting behind the wheel, call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information
You can also call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT’s 24-hour Customer Service Center
For more winter travel information, go to www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp
If you lose power, be sure to report the outage to your respective provider.
Dominion – 1-866-366-4357
Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop. – 1-800-234-7832
Harrisonburg Electric Commission – 540-434-5361
Please make sure to use 9-1-1 only for true emergencies.
For general information about the storm and the response effort, dial 211 or visit www.vaemergency.gov
Please stay safe!
SOL Reform Legislation Passes House
One prominent topic of this year’s session has been Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment reform. The new administration has stated that this is a priority for them, and it is something that many members of the General Assembly have made a priority as well.
When Virginia first adopted the SOL’s a number of years ago, we were pioneers in assessment and accountability. We set high standards, and created accountability among educators.
While I believe that our SOL’s have served us well, it has become apparent to educators, parents and legislators that some changes are needed. For that reason, Delegate Tag Greason introduced House Bill 930. I was pleased to sign on as a co-patron to this legislation. This bill has passed the House and will now move to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 930 was the result of many months of collaboration between teachers, education leaders, parents, and legislators.
This legislation has four main goals:
To reduce the number of SOL’s in grades 3-8 from 22 to 17. This is a 23% reduction in standardized testing. At this time we did not address SOL testing for high school students, due to complications regarding SOL’s as a requirement for graduation.
To improve the SOL’s by requiring the Department of Education to evaluate the multiple-choice and memorization aspects of the current tests, and move toward more problem solving and critical thinking aspects.
To allow teachers in subjects that do not require an SOL the flexibility to utilize performance assessments to locally evaluate how their children are learning.
To establish a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee made up of stakeholders who will be tasked with evaluating our SOL’s on an ongoing basis.
“Ben’s Law” Moving Forward
I am please to report that HB 976 (Cline) passed the House yesterday. I am the chief co-patron of this legislation, which will make accessory after the fact to a homicide a class 6 felony rather than just a misdemeanor.
You likely recall the recent tragedy of a local young man you was killed outside of an apartment complex in Harrisonburg. While the man that pulled the trigger received a lengthy sentence, the accomplice only received a one year jail sentence. This legislation seeks to require a more appropriate punishment for assisting a homicide.
At crossover I have six bills moving forward, in addition to the bill mentioned above.
Since my previous update, HB 960 has passed the House. This legislation would add computers to the list of items that would be tax exempt during the annual Back to School Tax Holiday. As an offset, the bill decreases the allowable clothing amount to a more appropriate level.
My legislation to prohibit school systems from dismissing teachers and other personnel simply for possessing a firearm in their personal vehicle passed the House yesterday. HB 786 will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Bea Morris, a retired teacher who always keeps me informed about issues of importance to teachers and retired educators stopped in for a visit last week. In addition, I was able to meet with Virginia Tech students from our area, members of JMU Student Government, and students representing Virginia 21.
I also had the opportunity to speak with several members of our Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. Yesterday was 4-H day at the Capitol, our local group from Rockingham made the trip to Richmond.