As the 2013 General Assembly session draws to a close, the overwhelming majority of Governor Bob McDonnell's 2013 legislative agenda passed with strong bipartisan support, leading to the passage of the first sustainable and long-term transportation funding and reform package in 27 years, and sweeping K-12 education reforms. Eighty-eight percent of his initiatives passed the House of Delegates and the State Senate and now await his signature. Highlights include:
"Virginia's Road to the Future" transportation funding and reform measures that provide an additional $3.5 billion in new statewide funding generated by 2018 for new construction, mass transit and rail needs and continue the administration's efforts to ensure greater accountability and transparency in Virginia's transportation entities. This session of the General Assembly, Governor McDonnell pledged to take on the issue and get a long-term sustainable transportation funding plan passed into law. That effort has led to a conference report that provides the first, long-term transportation funding solution in Virginia in 27 years. This long-term transportation plan will generate thousands of jobs, create millions in economic activity and provide the Commonwealth with the transportation infrastructure necessary to grow and prosper in the decades ahead. As a result of this plan, thousands of construction and maintenance projects around the state will be funded, from widening I-64 between Newport News and Williamsburg, widening Route 28 in Northern Virginia, bringing down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and advancing the Silver Line, bringing Amtrak service to Roanoke, and helping to build the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. It will also eliminate the current unsustainable practice of taking money meant for new construction just to fund paving and pothole patching, and establishing a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding. The quality of life and job creation potential for Virginians improved today.
The game-changing "All Students" K-12 education reform agenda generated numerous successful bills focusing on increasing teacher pay, improving the ability to reward good teachers and increasing accountability for poor performing teachers, establishing the Governor's Center for Excellence in Teaching and the Governor's Academies for Excellent Teaching, bringing Teach for America to the Commonwealth, creating transparent school report cards to provide parents and educators with clear A-F grading measures, reducing red tape for local school divisions, supporting teacher innovation and staffing, guaranteed long-term support for students to achieve key learning milestones in reading and mathematics to strengthen their education, helping students stuck in chronically failing schools by creating a turnaround entity to ensure schools dramatically improve and reach accreditation, providing parents with more public school choice, and continuing to recognize that excellent teaching is key to a great education. Today we move closer to our goal of ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to learn from a great teacher in a great school, regardless of his zip code.
Continued major higher education reforms and investment to prepare Virginians for top jobs, boost job-creating research and innovation, make college degrees more affordable for students, and advance the governor's goal (now in statute) of having 100,000 more Virginians earn degrees over the next 15 years, and investing an additional $31 million in higher education, in addition to the $350 million in new money proposed by the governor over the last 3 years, to make college more affordable. It has worked to create the lowest increase in college tuition in more than 20 years.
The Governor's Taskforce on School and Campus Safety met with a sense of urgency during the 2013 legislative session to discuss recommendations to improve the security of Virginia's schools and college campuses. After reviewing the Task Force's recommendations, Governor McDonnell sent down several legislative initiatives that were well received by the General Assembly. The General Assembly passed legislation to create threat assessment teams in schools, require lockdown drills in schools, improve the school safety audit process, and increase the penalty for those who perform "straw purchases" of firearms.
Building on our achievements over the last three years to make government more efficient and effective, we enacted several measures to make government leaner, eliminate red tape and relieve mandates on localities. This session, we passed legislation to merge agencies in order to deliver better services to our citizens and small businesses, eliminate and merge boards and commissions, and cleared the way to repeal unnecessary regulations.
The Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development agenda focused on ensuring Virginia remains the best place in the United States in which to start and run a business. This legislation will make it easier for the private sector to create jobs, and easier for Virginians to get training in the skills necessary for those jobs. By improving the online Business One-Stop system, making the Commonwealth friendlier to entrepreneurs, and making sure that students graduate from our K-12 and college systems career-ready, we will continue to expand jobs and opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, we have a community of entrepreneurial individuals who in spite of the very real risk of failure put their energy and sweat and savings into creating opportunities for themselves and others. Virginia is an incubator for good ideas and we have the right tax, regulatory and business climate for entrepreneurs to turn those ideas into job-creating businesses.
Speaking about his 2013 legislative agenda, Governor McDonnell said, "While this is the last full regular General Assembly session of my administration, we did not rest on our laurels or defer on taking action on several of the major challenges still facing our recovering economy and quality of life in Virginia. We laid out bold initiatives to lay the foundation for Virginia's future economic growth, and proposed historic legislation to permanently address Virginia's longstanding and long-neglected transportation funding crisis, dramatically improve K-12 education with more resources, choice and accountability ensuring that every student receives a world-class education regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status, and place the Commonwealth on sound financial footing to ensure our economic recovery and continue to reduce our unemployment rate, now the 2nd lowest east of the Mississippi.
"This bold agenda has enjoyed broad bi-partisan support in the General Assembly, and has garnered support from business groups, industry leaders, teachers, educators and the citizens of Virginia. We have demonstrated our continued focus on the issues that impact every Virginian. That means passing policies that help the private-sector create good-paying jobs, increase access to higher education, further improve our high-quality K-12 education, build a transportation system that serves its users, make government smaller and smarter, help our veterans here at home, and ensure our citizens are safe and secure.
"The hallmark innovative education legislation that we have worked hard to pass this year ensures that every child has access to great teachers, sets clear and high standards for our schools, and fosters success and opportunity for every student in Virginia regardless of geographic location, zip code or economic status. We have made clear that schools failing to provide a world-class education to our students will not be tolerated, nor will their poor performance be hidden from parents and community members by arcane and bureaucratic rating scales. And we will not settle for treating underperforming educators the same way as our highly professional and outstanding teachers who make a difference in the lives of their students every day. We will give administrators the tools to recognize greatness in the classroom and address teachers who are failing to provide our students with the best possible education.
"The annals of history will recognize this session as the year that vital transportation funding reforms, substantively ignored since 1986, were enacted to address the decades-old issues that have left Virginia unable to maintain our existing road, rail and transit infrastructure and unable to pay for needed new transportation services. Our citizens told us loud and clear that now is the time to get something done on transportation, as we answered that call through hard work, focus and cooperation. Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have heard directly from businesses, community groups, elected officials, chambers of commerce and organizations of all kinds offering their support for our efforts to solve this challenge, and we have delivered with a compromise transportation program that will jump start our economy and reinvest in our neglected transportation network. We've put in place a sustainable long-term transportation funding plan for Virginia.
"We have accomplished other significant reforms in enhancing school safety, streamlining and reforming our government and investing in economic development. In this short session, we have accomplished much.
"I thank the members of the General Assembly for embracing these reforms and for their support of these critically important core services of government and for their partnership to make this session a productive and substantive one. These are initiatives that will greatly improve the quality of life in Virginians today while also investing in the future of the Commonwealth."
Governor McDonnell's 2013 Legislative Agenda at the Conclusion of the 45-Day 2013 Session
TRANSPORTATION: VIRGINIA'S ROAD TO THE FUTURE
HB2313 (W. Howell): Transportation Reform and Investment. Eliminates the 17.5 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, increases the state sales portion of the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent. Together, this should reduce the tax on gas at the pump by one-third for most drivers. The bill adds a 3.5 percent motor fuel tax at the wholesale level and a 6 percent diesel tax, dedicates revenues for the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund and the Intercity Rail Operating and Capital Fund, and dedicates increased revenues for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund. Provides regional self-help provisions allowing localities to address their own specific transportation issues by raising funds independently.
Provides regional self-help provisions allowing localities to address their own specific transportation issues by raising funds independently.
HB1828 (Villanueva): Allows the purchase of land for the construction of railway lines by the Department of Rail and Public Transportation for the purpose of alleviating traffic congestion on highways.
HB2116 (Garrett) / SB1209 (Stuart): Amends the powers and duties of the Commissioner of Highways and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to create new efficiencies and streamline procedures by granting the Commissioner greater authority over administrative operations, matters involving the practice of civil engineering, and interaction with stakeholders.
SB1140 (Petersen): Implements performance-based funding for mass transit for revenues generated above $160 million in 2014 and after. Creates the Transit Service Delivery Advisory Committee to advise the Department of Rail and Public Transportation on the distribution of such funds and how transit systems can incorporate the metrics into their transit development plans.
Empower Excellent Teachers:
HB2151 (Bell, R.P.) / SB1223 (Norment): Educator Fairness Act. Makes several fundamental changes to the processes by which teachers and certain administrators are hired, evaluated, and terminated, and streamlines the grievance process and permits a clear removal process for a teacher who has one failing evaluation. This major reform ensures that underperforming teachers are not tolerated, and that a longer probation period is put in place.
HB2083 (Cox) / SB1185 (Vogel): Strategic Compensation Fund. Creates a fund to award competitive grants to school divisions for the design and implementation of a supplemental compensation program for teachers that provide incentives that are tailored to each participating school division's strategic goals and objectives. The grants would allow school divisions to award incentive payments to effective teachers who meet the school division's strategic compensation criteria, or to reward effective teacher leaders assuming additional responsibilities or priority assignments. For example, the grants could reward teachers who help students make significant academic progress; reward teacher leaders assuming additional responsibilities, such serving as teacher mentors; pay incentives to effective teachers with needed expertise willing to transfer to hard-to-staff or low-performing schools; or reward effective teachers who are assigned to teach critical shortage areas, such as mathematics and special education.
Budget amendment for a 2 percent teacher pay raise.
Innovation and Accountability:
HB1999 (Greason) / SB1207 (Stanley): A-F School Report Cards. Creates a pathway for the DOE to report individual school performance using a grading system in addition to the standards of accreditation. Simplifies the current school accountability system to an easy to understand A-F grading system. This school grading system will help parents to fully understand the performance of their child's school. The A-F report cards will make school performance clear and easily communicated to the public. The new A-F grading system will update the current system that is often too convoluted to understand. The new report cards will recognize schools for challenging all students to reach high levels of achievement. They will also give schools a tool to encourage more parental and community involvement. When parents and community members have a clear understanding of school performance, all students benefit.
HB2084 (K. Cox) / SB1175 (Ruff): Teach for America Act. A significant achievement gap still exists between our students. While the task will not be easy, TFA has been successful in working with schools to close the achievement gap. Teach for America recruits and trains the best and brightest recent college graduates from across the country to accept full-time teaching assignments in hard-to-staff schools. This legislation will allow for TFA to operate in Virginia and begin placing teachers in hard-to-staff schools starting in the 2013-2014 academic year.
HB2098 (Tata) / SB1189 (Martin): Red Tape Reduction Act. This legislation strengthens the ability of school divisions to request waivers from the State Board of Education from certain state requirements. Local school divisions may be released from Board of Education-approved regulations and standards of quality requirements.
HB2066 (Peace) / SB1172 (Blevins): Additional Staffing and SOQ Flexibility for Local School Divisions. Currently, the Standards of Quality legislation prescribes the number of librarians, school counselors and school-based clerical staff required for each school. This legislation provides flexibility for school divisions to assign staff to schools with particular needs and areas of focus, rather than blanket mandates.
HB2144 (Landes): Reading is Fundamental Act. Reading proficiency by third grade is an important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Governor McDonnell's legislation will improve reading achievement for students reading below grade level by creating additional instructional time for reading specialists to work with them. The additional time will be granted through SOL testing waivers. Allows waivers from third grade standards of learning assessments for schools testing below 75 percent on the SOL assessment.
HB2068 (LeMunyon) / SB1171 (Blevins): Algebra Readiness Initiative. Success in algebra is a key indicator success in STEM-H disciplines; Governor McDonnell supports legislation to embed Algebra Readiness and the Early Intervention Reading Initiative in the Standards of Quality. This bill adds kindergarten and grades one and two to the requirement that local school divisions provide early intervention services to students in grade three who demonstrate deficiencies based on their individual performance on diagnostic reading tests.
SB1194 (Alexander): Truancy Reduction Act. Provides that in certain cases when a juvenile is truant and the juvenile has not previously failed to comply with compulsory school attendance laws, the intake officer shall defer filing of a petition alleging that the child is in need of supervision for 90 days and shall instead refer the child to the family assessment and planning team for the development of a truancy plan.
Public School Options:
SB1324 (McDougle): Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI). The OEI will focus on turning around chronically failing public schools in the Commonwealth. Consistent with the Constitution of Virginia, "it is desirable for the intellectual, cultural, and occupational development of the people of the Commonwealth . . . . to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained for all students throughout the Commonwealth," This law establishes a statewide Opportunity Educational Institution to provide a high quality education for children attending any failing public elementary or secondary school. The Opportunity Educational Institution will be uniquely positioned to turnaround failing schools and provide all students the opportunity they deserve. While this model is new to Virginia, it is proven nationally. States like Louisiana and Tennessee have created Recovery and Achievement districts and the results are positive.
HB2076 (Stolle) / SB1131 (McWaters): Local Approval of Public Charter Schools. This legislation to eliminate the requirement that local school boards who originate a charter school application must apply for authorization from the state Board of Education. Currently, school boards who wish to start a public charter school in the Commonwealth must first submit their application to the state Board of Education. This legislation will eliminate the process of receiving state Board of Education approval in addition to the consent of the local school board. Several Virginia localities are interested in establishing public charter schools, however, the best providers in the country have policies that conflict with multiple approval requirements for expansion.
HB1996 (Massie) / SB1227 (Stanley): Improves the Virginia Scholarship Tax Credit Program. Makes several changes to the Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit and Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits program, which encourages businesses, trusts and individuals to make donations to approved 501(c)(3) organizations for the benefit of low-income persons.
INNOVATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
HB2101 (Ramadan) / SB1248 (Black): High School to Work Partnerships. This program will strengthen local partnerships between K-12 education and industry. It directs the Board of Education to develop guidelines for the establishment of High School to Work Partnerships between public high schools and local businesses to create apprenticeships, internships, and job shadow programs in a variety of trades and skilled labor positions.
HB1760 (Ramadan) / SB1137 (McWaters): Full Integration of the Business One Stop System. Requires the State Corporation Commission to fully integrate processes and forms into the Business Permitting Center administered by the Department of Business Assistance and to process all forms within 48 business hours from the time the applicant submits the form electronically. This legislation will ensure a streamlined and efficient business formation process for Virginia small business owners.
HB1790 (Garrett) / SB1138 (McWaters): Establishes the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority to facilitate collaboration among Virginia's nuclear energy industry, including colleges and universities, research and development facilities and the private sector. The Authority will make the Commonwealth a national and global leader in nuclear energy and serve as an interdisciplinary study, research, and information resource for the Commonwealth on nuclear energy issues.
HB2154 (Byron) / SB1177 (Ruff): Strengthens the Virginia Workforce Council. Directs the Virginia Workforce Council to provide recommendations for postsecondary vocational education activities authorized under the federal Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act and on policies, plans, and procedures for other education and workforce development programs, to develop Workforce Investment Act incentive grant applications and approve criteria for such grants, to develop and approve criteria for the reallocation of unexpended funds from local workforce investment boards, and to review budgets by agencies conducting certain education and workforce development programs.
HB2137 (Byron): Reduces Local Mandates. Raises from $500,000 to $2 million the cost threshold at which a locality will be required to obtain an environmental impact report for a highway project. The bill also exempts the sale of deicing agents containing urea from the current prohibition on sales for use by a political subdivision at a municipal airport.
HB2191 (Helsel): Reduces Local Mandates. Modifies requirements for court-appointed guardians of incapacitated persons to file the annual report of all money and other property received, chargeable, or disbursed to reduce the burden on these guardians.
SB1201 (McDougle): Regulatory Reform. Removes the requirement that the Board of Education promulgates regulations concerning the process for submitting proposals for the consolidation of school divisions and temporarily employed teachers.
HB1845 (Loupassi) / SB1178 (Ruff): Improves the Fraud and Abuse Whistle Blower Reward Fund and incentivizes whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, and abuse.
HB2095 (Ramadan) / SB1203 (McDougle): Provides Flexibility in Establishing the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
HB 2114 (Landes) / SB1176 (Ruff): Audit Function for the State Inspector General. Grants additional powers to the State Inspector General so that this office can better target fraud, waste, and abuse in the state government.
HB2048 (Sherwood) / SB1279 (Hanger): Transfers the existing responsibility for the administration of regulatory and water quality programs to the Department of Environmental Quality to enhance coordination of water quality goals and provide a one stop shopping experience for citizens without expanding or changing current authority.
SB1350 (McWaters): Creates the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity by consolidating the powers and duties of the Department of Business Assistance and the Department of Minority Business Enterprise.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND PRISONER REENTRY, SCHOOL AND CAMPUS SAFETY
HB1684 (Bell, R. B.) / SB1010 (Stanley): Elevates from a Class 6 felony to a Class 5 felony committing identity theft with the intent to sell or distribute the information if there are five or more victims and in cases in which the offense resulted in the arrest or detention of the victim. Identity theft involving 50 or more victims is also elevated from a Class 5 felony to a Class 4 felony.
HB1682 (Bell, R.B.): Provides protections for those with mental incapacities from those who would otherwise take advantage of these individuals for personal gain. Violations of the new provisions are punishable as larceny.
HB1847 (Albo) / SB1205 (McDougle): Expands the list of criminal street gang predicate offenses.
HB1746 (Gilbert) / SB1214 (Stuart): Adds certain crimes to the list of violent felonies for sentencing purposes.
HB1862 (Sherwood) / SB1032 (Reeves): Adds certain crimes to the list of offenses that require a person to register on the Sex Offender Registry.
HB1606 (Hugo) / SB1015 (J. Howell): Provides additional Class 6 felony charges for the solicitation of prostitution from a minor over the age of 16 and younger than 18 and an additional Class 5 felony charge for the solicitation of prostitution from a minor younger than the age of 16.
HB1745 (Gilbert) / SB1031 (Reeves): Prohibits the use of communications systems or electronic means to propose sex offenses involving a child.
HB2061 (Bulova): Provides that anyone operating a truck stop in the Commonwealth must post notice of the existence of a human trafficking hotline, a national toll-free number which receives tips, connects callers with anti-trafficking services in their area, and provides training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources upon request.
HB2065 (Peace) / SB1033 (Reeves): Imposes the same penalties for offenses committed by persons confined in a juvenile correctional center as currently exist for persons who commit such offenses in an adult facility.
HB2343 (Sherwood): Establishes the School Security Infrastructure Improvement Fund and the Local School Safety Fund. The fund will be used to make grants and loans to local school divisions for capital infrastructure improvements related to school safety and security.
HB2344 (Cole): Requires local school divisions to establish policies and procedures for the establishment of threat assessment teams in each school, to be overseen by a division-level committee.
HB2345 (Yost): Requires the Virginia Center for School Safety, in conjunction with the Department of State Police, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and the Department of Education, to develop a model critical incident response training program for public school personnel and those providing services to schools.
HB2346 (Ransone): Requires each school safety audit committee to conduct a school inspection walk-through using a standardized checklist. The results, as well as school crisis, emergency management, and medical emergency response plans, will be made available to the local chief law enforcement officer upon request. Additionally, the bill requires each public school to conduct at least two lock down drills during every school year.
HB2347 (Ramadan): Provides that, in addition to disclosures of juvenile law-enforcement records that may already be made by chiefs of police and sheriffs to school principals, those same records (involving violent crimes, arson crimes and firearm crimes) may also be released by the principal of the school to threat assessment teams established by the local school division.
SB1376 (Martin): Provides that any person who, in good faith and without malice, reports, investigates, or causes an investigation to be made into the activities of any person relating to conduct involving bomb threats or other explosives or alcohol or drug use at a school or institution of higher learning or in connection with a school or institution activity shall be immune from all civil liability that might be incurred as a result of making such a report or investigation.
SB1378 (Garrett): Prohibits "straw man" purchases of firearms. Provides that any person who sells, barters, gives, etc., any firearm to any person he knows is prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm under Virginia law is guilty of a Class 4 felony.