Several bills from Del. Dickie Bell pass House of Delegates

dickie bellDelegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) announced today that House Bills 1361 and 1437 and House Joint Resolution 490 have passed in the House of Delegates.

Delegate Bell’s House Bill 1364 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 all public, private and home- schooled children 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.

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.

Since 2010, Delegate Bell has worked on legislation to help develop a way to ensure that all students in Virginia to have access to public virtual school programs. House Bill 1361 is nearly identical to House Bill 324, which passed in the House last year. House Bill 324 was carried over by the State Senate Committee on Education and Health in 2014 and in 2015 was reported and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance where it is waiting to be heard.

“This is another huge step for school choice in Virginia. I’m thankful that the House has once again overwhelmingly voted to advance this legislation” said Delegate Bell. “We know that many students thrive in the traditional classroom, but we also know that there are many who do not. I am pleased that the House of Delegates has passed a bill that will help ensure that every student will be able to grow and learn in the environment that best meets their needs. Virginia is a leader in so many areas and virtual education should be one of them. I look forward to continuing this discussion in the State Senate.”

House Bill 1361 was initially referred to the House Committee on Education, where it was reported and referred to the House Committee on Appropriations, where it was reported out on an 18-2 vote. It passed in the House today with a vote of 62-38.

In addition to House Bill 1361, House Bill 1437 also passed in the House of Delegates today. This bill provides that a public body may, by ordinance, resolution, or policy statement, adopt a policy to permit public invocation prior to the meeting of the body. The invocation can be delivered by a chaplain elected by the public officials of the body or by an invocation speaker selected on an objective and rotating basis from a wide pool of the religious leaders serving the local community.

This bill does not require local government bodies to have public prayer, but rather provides guidance to those localities who are interested in doing so. Additionally, it assures local governments that should they follow these guidelines, the Attorney General or his designee will defend them in court should they be sued.

“I am pleased that House Bill 1437 has received bipartisan support in the House of Delegates” said Delegate Bell. “The Court has consistently upheld the right of public bodies to begin their meetings with prayer, yet many localities still have concerns over the manner in which they are able to do this. This bill will provide clarity and reassurance to those public bodies throughout the Commonwealth who choose to adopt a policy for public prayer. I look forward to continuing this discussion with members of the State Senate.”

House Bill 1437 was initially referred to the Committee on Courts of Justice where it was reported out with a vote of 13-6. It passed in the House today on a final vote of 69-30.

House Joint Resolution 490 passed in the House yesterday. This resolution 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 House Joint Resolution 490, the Right to Work amendment, has gained a great deal of support in the House of Delegates” said Delegate Bell. “The Right to Work law is vital to the success of Virginia’s workforce, and is an important 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 ensuring that it will stay part of Virginia law for many years to come.”

House Joint Resolution was initially referred to the committee on Privileges and Elections where it was reported out on a vote 16-6. It passed in the House yesterday on a vote of 64-29.

In addition to these bills, House Bill 2020, a bill that Delegate Bell chief co-patroned, passed in the House today. House Bill 2020 was patroned by Delegate Mayme Bacote, and would eliminate the sunset provision in the Code section which 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. This bill extends it to 2020. This legislation was initially referred to the Committee on Education where it was reported out and re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations. It was reported out of the Appropriations committee on a vote of 17-2. It passed in the House of Delegates today on a vote of 97-0 with 2 abstentions.

Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, portions of Augusta and Nelson Counties, an

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