General Assembly Legislation of Note: Education, Schools and Health

by James C. Sherlock

As bills affecting education, educational institutions or health get filed and make their way, or not, through the General Assembly in 2021, I will occasionally make note of them here.  I will certainly not list them all, but will highlight the ones of interest to me and I hope to our readers.

Education and Educational Institutions

As of this afternoon, these are the education bills I find interesting.  There are no bills yet filed under the heading educational institutions.

Del. Terry L. Austin, R-Buchanan, has introduced two bills to ensure professionalism and regional representation within the Board of Education (not a minute too soon).

  • The first is HB 1826 Education, Board of; qualifications of members. Requires the nine-member Board of Education to include at least one member with experience or expertise in local government leadership or policymaking, at least one member with experience or expertise in career and technical education, and at least one member with experience or expertise in early childhood education, all of whom are appointed by the governor. My take: good idea. Not sure that special education should not be added. It is a bigger deal than the other specified qualifications.
  • The second is HB 1827 Education, Board of; geographic representation of members.  Requires the nine-member Board of Education to include at least five members, appointed by the governor, who each reside in different superintendent’s regions in the Commonwealth. My take: good idea long overdue.

Sen.William M. Stanley, Jr., R-Glade Hill, has again submitted his annual bills to rehabilitate school buildings. These are SB 1106 Public School Assistance Fund and Program; created. Creates a fund to repair or replace roofs. And SB 1109 Voter referendum; issuance of state general obligation bonds for school facility modernization. My take: good ideas long overdue.

Stanley and Del. G. “John” Avoli, R-Staunton, have sponsored SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 275, proposing amendments to Section 1 and Section 2 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia, relating to public schools of the Commonwealth; equal educational opportunities.

Amend Section 1 and Section 2 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia as follows: ARTICLE VIII EDUCATION

Section 1. Public schools of high quality to be maintained.

The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools with equal educational opportunities for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.

Section 2. Standards of quality; State and local support of public schools.

Standards of quality for the several school divisions shall be determined and prescribed from time to time by the Board of Education, subject to revision only by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality, shall ensure that all children of school age are provided with equal educational opportunities, and shall provide for the apportionment of the cost of such program between the Commonwealth and the local units of government comprising such school divisions. Each unit of local government shall provide its portion of such cost by local taxes or from other available funds.

My take:

  • The words “high quality education” already in the Virginia constitution are sufficient for Virginia’s attorney general to sue the governor, the Board of Education and Virginia’s worst school districts for failure to provide such an education where testing shows consistent failures, and that hasn’t happened. So. I am not sure the offered change will have any practical effect at the constitutional officer level.
  • The Board of Education is already in full flight to provide equal outcomes, so I am not sure they will even notice the change.
  • As for the legal profession, the words “equal opportunities” will certainly mean different things to different people. The change will launch a thousand lawsuits. So will failing to make the change.

Health

Stanley also filed SB 1107 Medical malpractice; limitation on recovery. It eliminates the cap on the recovery in actions against health care providers for medical malpractice. My take: last thing the medical profession needs; but it also reminds that the health professions need to do a better job of policing themselves. As for Stanley, a practicing attorney, introducing it, I’ll leave it to his constituents to judge.

Sen. Mamie E. Locke. D-Hampton, filed SB 1138 Sexually transmitted infections; infected sexual battery; repeal. Repeals the crime of infected sexual battery. The bill also repeals the crime of donating or selling blood, body fluids, organs, and tissues by persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus and the provisions regarding the testing of certain persons for human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis B or C viruses. My take: unprintable.

Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Lynchburg, filed  SB 1116 State Health Commissioner; powers during an epidemic, vaccinations, religious tenets or practices.

SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:

Allows a parent or guardian to object to the vaccination or immunization of a child on the grounds that the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with his religious tenets or practices, even if an emergency or epidemic of disease has been declared by the State Board of Health, which is not allowed under current law.

The bill also provides that nothing shall preclude the State Health Commissioner from requiring immediate immunization of all persons in the case of an epidemic of any disease of public health importance for which a vaccine exists other than a person, including a parent or guardian on behalf of a child, who objects on the grounds that the administration of the vaccine conflicts with his religious tenets or practices.

Under current law, the only exception to the Commissioner’s power to require immediate immunization of all persons in case of an epidemic of any disease of public health importance for which a vaccine exists is for a person to whose health the administration of a vaccine would be detrimental as certified in writing by a physician licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth.

My take: This bill is intended to bring this law in line with the sponsor’s interpretation of existing religious protections in the constitutions of both the United States and the Commonwealth. Opponents will be concerned that the practical effects might prevent herd immunity because all vaccination opponents will claim religious objections.  If the bill is not passed (prediction – it won’t be) we will see this issue in court. Perhaps that is the place for it.

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35 responses to “General Assembly Legislation of Note: Education, Schools and Health

  1. Already sent out about SB 1138. I’d say lots are negative. SB 1116 vaccinations supported that already.

  2. Board of Education membership criteria–These make some sense. I doubt if the changes would result in much change in the Board, however.

    Stanley’s bills on school construction–Why should the state be providing assistance for school capital projects? Shouldn’t that remain a local function? In the last couple of years, two rural counties, Halifax and Mecklenburg, received authorization to increase the local sales tax by one percent, if approved by referendum, with the proceeds dedicated to school construction or renovation. That seems a more responsible way to go. There is a dirty little secret on this issue. Many years ago, the Literary Fund was a source of low-interest loans for school construction, but then most of the balance in the Literary Fund was siphoned off to be used to pay part of the state share of teacher retirement costs, thereby freeing up state general fund revenues for other uses.

    Amendment of SOQ–guaranteeing all students “equal educational opportunities” could become a morass. Does that mean that the state would have to ensure that students in Giles County, for instance, have all the educational opportunities that students in Fairfax have, including the same AP courses, language courses, lab equipment, etc.? Currently, the SOQ is a minimum that the state has to require and fund; this proposal would change that.

    SB 1138–This is a strange one and, on its face, I would agree that it is a bad bill. However, after many years following the legislature, I have learned that bills that seemed ridiculous to me often had a legitimate purpose that I was unaware of. So, I would like to hear the patron’s justification for this one.

    SB 1116–Freedom of religion is not an absolute right. Why should my health or that of my family be jeopardized because of someone’s religious beliefs? I have raised this issue before on this blog: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/get-the-shots/

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Maybe it is time to spread the local school budget wealth of Loudoun and Fairfax more equitably. Halifax and Mecklenburg operate their school budgets with over 50% state aid. I bet they would put a contribution from Loudoun and Fairfax to a good use. Maybe even the playing field a bit. Just saying.

    • “Does that mean that the state would have to ensure that students in Giles County, for instance, have all the educational opportunities that students in Fairfax have, including the same AP courses, language courses, lab equipment, etc.?”

      Before or after they are sued to do so? Generally the answer to such questions is “yes”. When has the State ever been able to provide programs or equipment in one district and not another? If they do, it lasts only until the first parent finds out.

      • But localities can now exceed the SOQ by using local funds. Therefore, the kids in those some localities gave more opportunities than kids in poorer localities.

        • Ah yes, now I see. Using non-State funds. Hmmm, well, I suppose we’re going to have to stop that.

          “If you don’t have enough to share with the rest of the class, Mr. Hall-Sizemore, you’re going to have to put that away.”

          Are we going to find one district suing another à la Texus v. Pennsylvania?

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          If you have the right zip code this is good. The time could be coming where every zip code is providing each and every school exactly the same.

          • I think this is part of the equity argument. If you’re a kid in a school and you’re bright but these other courses are not offered… later on, you lack the foundation of these courses to compete against kids that did have access to them.

            You’re a teacher. what’s your view?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            My views are unimportant and don’t really matter. I am out of that game now. But what I am describing above could become a reality. Much sooner than you think. Is it good or bad? Again unimportant and doesn’t matter. Nothing can stop what is coming.

    • School construction: I think the count on the local option sales tax extension is up to about ten localities. I expect it to go statewide slowly. OPM is always the first choice, though. And that use of the Literary Fund is hardly a secret, as I’ve watched that game for decades. Putting it fully back to its purpose is an important step.

      • The use of the Literary Fund money may not be a secret to you or me, but I bet most of the members of the General Assembly are unaware of it and I am sure the general public is unaware of it.

        • As a member of the general public, Liberty Fund is short for Liberty All-Star Equity Fund to me.

        • There was an interesting conversation at the BOS level a few years back when that fund was still an option but the boards financial advisors said that other sources were better because they could re-finance at lower rates when interest rates dropped of xomd such logic. They did go that way, and several times, they took advantage when interest rates dropped and claim they did better than way over the longer run.

  3. re: ” Amendment of SOQ–guaranteeing all students “equal educational opportunities” could become a morass. Does that mean that the state would have to ensure that students in Giles County, for instance, have all the educational opportunities that students in Fairfax have, including the same AP courses, language courses, lab equipment, etc.? Currently, the SOQ is a minimum that the state has to require and fund; this proposal would change that”

    Yep. Or could it be on a school district basis – i.e. if they offer something at one school in the district, other schools have to offer it also? Sounds like a money issue for sure.

    Agree on the vaccinations… but sure there will be counter views.

  4. “Repeals the crime of infected sexual battery.”

    Not familiar with the current law. If its current wording includes intent and prior knowledge then she’s out of her mind. Only if it can be shown that a person with infection unknown to them has been charged/convicted with this would I agree with a repeal/change. This ain’t an accidental weapon discharge we’re talking about here.

    BTW, I’m one removed from Ms. Locke by more than a few people. Consensus among them is she’s BS crazy.

    • Now, now. Locke represents the shipyard territory, thousands of our employees. Policy differences aside I always enjoyed working with her. I’d go over to her office at Hampton U. Sherlock’s favorite senator in that region, Louise Lucas, I get along with great. He better send me if he wants her vote on something. 🙂

      We should talk offline Cap’t about who is going to be watching and writing about what. I’d hate for one of us to be deep into writing about a bill and the other posts something.

      • Hey, I have no opinion. I should add though that most of those contacts were from long years back. I cannot say that such consensus would be current.

        Time, as they say, wounds all heels.

        As a bit of an interloper, nah, write separate opinions. It’s more fun to reconcile differences with the rest of us throwing peanuts.

        • The best read piece of 2020 was based on an incorrect reading of a bill. Hugely viral and wrong. No fingers pointed but there is no review, no editing. If we are changing things up around here, I’d like some better coordination. Dreamer, I know….

    • As friend once said many years ago, “Dang, when we were kids, you had syphilis and gonorrhea. Okay, so a couple of cc’s penicillin and you’re good to go. Then, they came up with herpes. Ya can’t get rid of it, but it doesn’t kill you. Now, there’s AIDS. What’s next, is it gonna explode on contact?”

    • It is, as I suspected, more complicated than it seems. One needs to go beyond the summary prepared by Legislative Services.

      Current law makes it a Class 6 felony for anyone infected with HIV, syphilis, or Hep B to have sexual relations with another person with the intent of transmitting the virus. The bill would repeal this section. It would be very difficult to prove that someone had sex with another person with the express purpose of infecting that person. I am guessing that no one has been charged with this offense, much less convicted. That may be the reason for repealing the statute.

      The bill also repeals a section that could requires a person charged with sexual assault to submit to a test for HIV, or Hep B or C. It is hard to imagine the justification for repealing this section.

      Currently, the law requires persons convicted of prostitution or possession/sale of injectable controlled substances to undergo tests for HIV and Hep C. The proposed bill would make it optional of such persons to be tested for any sexually transmitted disease.

      Finally, the bill would repeal the section that makes it a crime to sell or donate organs while knowing that the donor has HIV. This may be another one of those cases in which no one has been charged or convicted of the offense.

      This legislation has all the hallmarks of being introduced at the request of the administration or some interest group.

      • Would this bill involve anyone who knew they had a contagious disease – interacting with others and them getting infected?

        We’ve had a couple of incidents where people who knew they had an infectious disease still got on a plane and others apparently did get infected.

        • The section being repealed concerned only HIV and Hep B. Even if that bill had included any contagious disease, it would be a crime only if the infected person got on the plane with the intent of infecting the other persons on the plane. If his purpose was to fly to the destination of the plane, then he would not be guilty of the offense.

          • Good point. And that’s dang near impossible to prove unless they did a social media thing.

            I still enjoy re-runs of Law & Order where sometimes they contort themselves to bring “justice” by finding the right law to charge someone with and sometimes it’s a real stretch, but then again, it’s a TV show!

      • “Finally, the bill would repeal the section that makes it a crime to sell or donate organs while knowing that the donor has HIV. This may be another one of those cases in which no one has been charged or convicted of the offense.”

        This one was the first to come to mind. I can easily see a person in need of a transplant to save their life, and their sibling and closest biological match providing the greatest chance of success, being HIV positive. Oops.

        I can also see where those companies that harvest and supply organs wanting to incease their viable supply lobbying for the repeal since I think HIV donor to HIV patient can make such transplants viable. Just gotta remember to mark the box.

  5. Legitimizing and empowering those who endanger society, and worse, the health of their own child, with religious belief as their reason will always be an issue.

    Pity the nation of full beliefs and empty of religion.

  6. The measure of a law is not the good done when applied as intended, but the evil done when not.

    • Another measure, often used in the House Courts of Justice Committee, is the unintended consequences, i.e. persons adversely affected by the legislation who are not the targets.

  7. News Flash –

    Some dozen or so high tech companies have just de-platformed the sitting President of the United States.

    News Flash –

    After an all night assault, Nancy-Naive has just seized and reportedly now occupies Bacon’s Rebellion after more than 20 consecutive comments that commenced shortly after midnight and now continue unabated, interspersed only with a few furtive attempts to comment before dawn to reassert control by S. Haner and D. Sizemore who may be barely hanging on to outer premises of Bacon’s Rebellion. The whereabouts of Jim Bacon and Captain J. Sherlock are currently unknown. Don Rippert is also missing in action. Is Virginia’s Governor involved?

  8. During the last redistricting of school boundaries in Stafford, some opposition was based on concerns that some schools did not offer courses that other schools did. There was discussion that some schools did not have enough kids to form a full class. There was talk of teachers of some courses doing round robin and other discussion about transporting kids to classes in other schools just for those classes.

    One thing about General Assembly legislation that Steve well knows is that what they look like on first introduction and how they look when they end up, can be huge – if they survive.

    You can be the lobbyist types are all over some of the bills.

    Steve undoubtedly has unique insight into the actual process!

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