CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Speaker Roger Hanshaw says dozens of bills will be introduced for education betterment, but a special session to consider them won’t go on and on.
“We know from what members have told us that we will have several dozen bills introduced by the time it’s over related to education,” Hanshaw said in an interview with Statehouse reporters. “That’s an entire session’s worth for a single committee.”
So on Monday, Hanshaw established four special committees to examine education issues. He said that doesn’t mean the committees will examine the bills for an extended time.
“We’re not going to have a prolonged, protracted committee process,” he said. “We’re not going to spend days here going through committee work. The purpose of the committees during this session is to look at these ideas, decide whether they are in an appropriate form to get to the whole House, then get ‘em down here and let’s vote on things.”
Hanshaw suggested the special session on education changes might last a week.
“We won’t make a protracted exercise out of this. It’s not going to be many weeks. It may well be one week, but it won’t be many weeks. We’re going to focus in on this issue, take votes and then go home,” he said.
“What passes passes, what fails fails and then we move on. But for this one isolated moment, we’ve got a chance to focus in on an issue in a way that we don’t have in the regular session.”
This all started when Gov. Jim Justice and members of the Republican majority promised a pay raise for educators last October.
During the regular session, the majority in the Senate then rolled the pay raise into an omnibus bill with other education issues, including some that were controversial. The House eventually tabled the bill.
The Senate majority is still talking about bundling education legislation for the special session, calling it the “Student Success Act.”
Hanshaw said the House will consider what the Senate passes, but a single bill is not the approach delegates want to take.
“We spent a lot of time on Senate Bill 451 during the regular session talking about things that were, at least in the minds of the members, things that they wanted to consider as standalone pieces,” he said.
“They wanted to consider charter schools as a freestanding concept. They wanted to consider the school funding formula as a freestanding concept. So that discussion is difficult to be had in the whole basket of a single bill.”
Hanshaw said committees A, B, C and D are not necessarily ordered by topic or theme.
“They’re just groups of people. We could have called them North, South, East and West if we wanted. We have to call them something,” he said. “None of them will focus specifically on any issue. One of the things we want to be sure that happens is that the full membership of the House gets to vote on issues.”
But he said some delegates specified bills they wanted to work on.
“Some said ‘A couple of us would like to work on this issue; a couple of us would like to work on something else. I’d like to be the chair of something.’ To some extent members self-selected and in other cases we just filled out the seats with 25 people,” Hanshaw said.
Lawmakers seem to agree they’ll be back in June to work on education bills, but the exact date remains to be set.
The outside date, Hanshaw said, would be the week of June 17 when lawmakers are scheduled already to participate in interim meetings.
“We already have a hard stop built in for when we’ll be back together,” he said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “When members have indicated they are finished crafting their individual bills for consideration, we’ll reconvene.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 21, 2019
Some delegates are still wrapping their minds around what’s ahead.
“I’m trying to figure out the intent as well,” Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, told WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”
“This is something I didn’t know about until I saw the letter on my desk assigning me to this committee, and there was very little explanation of it during the session.”
He is on Committee A. (“I’m on the A Team.”)
“We’ve been given very little information about what we’re going to do other than certain bills have been assigned to one of those committees,” Hansen said.
Hansen said consensus already exists for some education policy ideas.
“I think there’s a lot that we need to do, that we can do and, frankly, that there’s consensus to do among both parties,” he said. “To me, the challenge is that there’s a narrow agenda related to charter schools and education savings accounts that some of the leadership has and they’re holding the rest of the process hostage.
“I think there’s room for compromise, but we’re not getting anything done in the meantime.”