CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate didn’t have enough votes to pass an omnibus education bill in one day, so it’s back again.
The bill includes a variety of proposed changes to the education system, including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael wanted to pass the bill in one day during special session, but that would require a four fifths supermajority of senators present. The motion to do so failed by an 18-15 margin with one absence.
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.
Governor Justice then called for a special session on education “betterment.”
The Senate is set to reconvene at 2 p.m. Sunday. Here’s what’s happening:
5:17 p.m. The Senate is adjourned until 9 a.m. Monday.
4:37 p.m. Senators took a recess. Meanwhile, the Rules Committee met and moved the education savings account bill to the floor.
There was some sort of parliamentary issue where no action took place yesterday on the ESA bill.
So today, Majority Leader Takubo moved that it be read a first time.
The ESA bill is now a day behind the omnibus education bill in its consideration. Not sure where this goes.
4:12 p.m. Senator Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, has an amendment saying that if a county board wants a charter school there should then be a vote of citizens.
Senator Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, now rising in opposition. Saying elected school board members should be trusted. “Folks trust their county boards of education when they elect them to make decisions on their behalf.”
Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, also speaks in opposition. She cites cost to have a local election.
Hamilton: “The people need to decide.”
Hamilton’s amendment is rejected on a voice vote.
3:36 p.m. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump has a proposed amendment having to do with what happens in instances of a work stoppage/strike.
“I think what we need is a clear expression in the law, by the Legislature, that there be no strikes or work stoppages,” says Senator Trump, R-Morgan.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, rises and disagrees with the proposed amendment. He says it’s important for teachers to be able to get to the Capitol. “Those days are made up. They’re paid to teach X number of days.”
Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, chimes in: “This is retribution.”
There was more back-and-forth on that notion.
Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell: “Is there any element of revenge here?”
Senator Trump: “Not on my part.”
“It is intended to prevent strikes or work stoppages in the future,” Trump says. “What is in my heart is to say the students need to be in school.”
Senator Trump’s proposed amendment is adopted 17-14-3.
3:35 p.m. The Education Savings Account bill, which still has not been through 1st reading, has been referred to the Rules Committee. So it’s parked for the moment.
3:12 p.m. Gov. Jim Justice caucused with both Republicans and Democrats and then spoke publicly with reporters.
Justice said there’s no point in continuing on the current trajectory of the special session.
He objected to three aspects of the omnibus education bill: the unlimited number of charter schools, downplaying the role of seniority in layoff situations and canceling extracurricular activities in instances of strikes.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) June 2, 2019
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) June 2, 2019
1:31 p.m. The session, which was supposed to start at 2 p.m., has moved back to an anticipated 2:30 start time.
That’s because Gov. Jim Justice is here and wants to caucus first with Republicans and then with Democrats.
12:12 p.m. There are already eight proposed amendments to the omnibus bill.
The bill is SB 1039, “The Student Success Act.”
Two of the proposed amendments are by Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker and two by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump.
There are one each by Senators Bill Hamilton, Ryan Weld and Eric Tarr.
The only Democrat with an amendment at this point is Senator Mike Woelfel.
8:57 a.m. Democrats and Republicans negotiated changes to the omnibus bill before it was introduced in Saturday’s floor session.
Those talks resulted in several changes.
One of the most significant was the removal of language explicitly forbidding pay during strikes or work stoppages.
Also, there have been concerns about higher education institutions establishing charter schools. At this point, the bill continues to allow that, but makes it clear that a higher education institution can’t apply to establish a charter school and also authorize the same charter.
The changes do not limit the number of charters possible.
Despite those concessions, Democrats still didn’t vote in favor of suspending rules to consider the bill all in one day. I didn’t manage to talk to Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, right after the floor session. But the Gazette-Mail got some interesting comments.
“We were up until last night talking to each other,” Prezioso said Saturday. “Mitch and I talked this morning and we were just exhausted then.”
Prezioso said, “We thought we were making strides, but when you go back to your respective caucuses, that’s a lot of times where things break down.”