2018 General Assembly Session - Update 3

Week three of the 2018 General Assembly Session has ended, and February is right around the corner. I have so much to report that I'll just get right to it! 
The good news this week was that the Virginia Senate passed several bills that I am co-sponsoring.  First, in a victory for equality, the Senate passed two bills expanding Virginia's anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity on 29-10 votes. SB 202 (Ebbin) prohibits such discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation and codifies for state and local government employment the current prohibitions on discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran. SB 423 (Wexton) adds discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as an unlawful housing practice. 
The Senate also passed SB 252 (Dance) "banning the box" by removing criminal background questions from the initial job application for state employment and allowing localities to do the same. You can read more about this "ban the box" bill in this article in the Henrico Citizen.  
The bad news was that the Senate Education and Health Committee killed a package of bills expanding Medicaid, including one sponsored by Republican Senator Emmett Hanger . You can read Richmond Times Dispatch coverage of the committee action here. The Committee also defeated three bills that would have protected women's reproductive health rights from interference from legislators and other politicians, including my SB 292 and SB 910, the Whole Women's Health Act

The Senate Transportation Committee defeated SB 621(Surovell) authorizing issuance of driver privilege cards.  All of these bills were defeated on a one-vote-margin, party-linevote.  

VLBC Works to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Yesterday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to highlight several measures to address the school-to-prison pipeline.  You can watch the full video here.
I have written several op-eds on similar measures in the past, which 
you can read here and here.  A recent study released by JustChildren demonstrates that Virginia schools continue to use exclusionary discipline with very young students at an astonishing rate, issuing over 17,300 short-term suspensions and at least 93 long-term suspensions just to children in pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) through third grade alone. The majority of suspensions were issued for minoroffenses, with approximately two-thirds of all suspensions given for behavior offenses, such as possession of cell phones, minor insubordination, disrespect, and using inappropriate language.
Perhaps most disturbing is that Virginia schools continue to disproportionately suspend African American students and students with disabilities. The suspension rate for African-American students was 3.8 times larger than for Hispanic and white students. Students with disabilities were suspended at a rate 2.6 times larger than that of their non-disabled peers. When examining the effects of race, sex, and disability, the results are especially troubling: African-American male students with disabilities were almost 20 times more likely to be suspended than white female students without disabilities.
The bottom line: We cannot continue to use access to education as a punishment for student conduct and expect positive results from either students or schools.  
The VLBC highlighted several bills to address these measures, including:
HB 1600 (Del. Bourne) reducing the maximum length of a long-term suspension from 364 calendar days to 45 school days;
SB 170 (Stanley) and HB 296 (D. Bell) limiting suspension and expulsion for students in preschool through 3rd grade;
HB 445 (Foy) and SB 476 (Reeves) providing school principals with more discretion on what misdemeanors they must report to law enforcement;
HB 688 (McQuinn) requiring local school boards to provide alternative education programs for suspended students; and
My budget amendments providing public schools necessary resources to address behavioral issues:

Item 135 #6s helping schools struggling with overuse of
suspension and expulsion to begin to chart a better way to decrease discipline referrals, improve disparities by race and disability, and implement alternatives that not only prevent out-of-school time for students, but also improve school climate and academic outcomes for all students. It would allow more schools to access the resources they need, and implement evidence-based programs with fidelity, while reporting on outcomes so we can learn more on how to make these improvements statewide. 
Item 136 #14s eliminating Virginia's cap on support staff funding for public schools as recommended by the Virginia Board of Education in their 2017 Annual Report on the Condition of Needs of Public Schools in Virginia. Such support positions included school social workers, school psychologists, counselors, maintenance and transportation staff, among others. The support cap has starved struggling schools and students of these critical supports, and put weighty pressure on teachers to be all things to all kids. Support positions are what enable schools to address the needs of struggling students and operate efficiently and safely.

My Legislation
Sen. McClellan presents SB 910

As I mentioned in my last updateSB 287 has already passed the Senate be heard in House committees after cross-over. Here is an update on what happened with my legislation this week.  

On Tuesday
SB 101 passed the Senate 37-2.  As amended, the bill requires FLE curriculum to include the consequences of nonconsensual sexual activity, conduct, or touching, and allows it to include age-appropriate instruction in (i) prevention, recognition, and awareness of child sexual abuse and (ii) the dangers and repercussions of engaging in sexually explicit texting or social media posts.  

SB 100 was defeated on the Senate floor by a 19-20 party-line vote. This bill entitles those defendants convicted of nonviolent felonies prior to the abolition of parole who were sentenced before the date of the Fishback decision to a new sentencing hearing. The Fishback decision held that juries should have been instructed that parole had been abolished during sentencing. I will work with the Northam Administration to see if these individuals can be reviewed through his clemency powers. 

Three of my bills reported out of committee and will be voted on by the full Senate this week:

SB 291 codifies electronic services that the Department of Motor Vehicles created pursuant to budget authority granted since 1991 to provide simple, fast, efficient, and secure titling and registration of vehicles for customers and lienholders.  SB 291 reported out of the Transportation Committee unanimously, and you can watch the committee hearing here.

SB 359 allows the DMV Commissioner to authorize retired local law enforcement personnel with the proper training and qualifications to teach driver education. Current law only allows the Commissioner to allow retired Virginia State Police officers to teach drivers education.  SB 359 reported out of the Transportation Committee unanimously, and you can watch the committee hearing here.

SB 456 requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and make available annually to each public elementary and secondary school teacher in the Commonwealth a voluntary and anonymous school personnel survey to evaluate school-level teaching conditions and the impact such conditions have on teacher retention and student achievement.  The bill also requires the Superintendent to report the results to the relevant General Assembly committees so they have the data available when making policy decisions on how to manage our teacher shortage.  

In addition, SB 455 authorizing a new provider to take over an existing methadone clinic currently located within 1/2 mile of a school or daycare in the City of Richmond was incorporated into SB 329 (Dunnavant).  SB 329, of which I am chief co-patron,  provides a similar exemption for a clinic in Henrico County.  SB 329 reported out of the Education and Health Committee unanimously.  
At my request, SB 355 was carried over to the 2019 General Assembly.  The bill designates the areas that constitute the service territory of the City of Richmond's natural gas utility. However, the City and Columbia Natural Gas, which serves adjacent territory, need more time to work on this bill. 

Finally, two of my bills were defeated in Committee last week on party-line votes.  
SB 358 removes advertising requirements for local registrars to attend voter registration events sponsored by another entity or at events at locations that are not open to the general public, such as public high schools. Despite no opposition, the bill was defeated in the Privileged & Elections Committee. You can watch the committee hearing here.     
SB 910 (The Whole Women Health Act) reverses some of the damage that has been done to reproductive health access in Virginia over the past few years and codify Roe v. Wade. I discussed this bill in my Richmond Times-Dispatch Op-Ed Last Sunday.  The bill was defeated on a party-line vote by the Senate Education and Health Committee.  You can view the committee hearing on this bill here
You can follow my bills and their progress through the General Assembly on the LIS websiteand you can read a summary of all of my 2018 legislation and view committee hearings for each on my website

I am eager to hear from you on issues you care about. To share your views on legislation, contact my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov. You can also stop by my office in the Pocahontas Building at 900 East Main Street. My offices are located in E512.
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by following me on Twitterliking my Facebook page, and following me on Instagram.
Jennifer L. McClellan
Senate of Virginia, 9th District

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