CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael wants to spend this Saturday on the Student Success Act, a new version of the omnibus education bill.
Carmichael released a draft version of the 144-page education bill on Friday, saying he hopes senators can read it, consider it, propose amendments and be ready to act.
“I’m asking them as a courtesy to the taxpayer of West Virginia to make those decisions on the bill and at least allow us to come to special session on Saturday and act on this bill,” Carmichael, R-Jackson, said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Carmichael sent a note to senators on Friday, urging them to be ready for a Saturday session.
“Our intention is to begin and complete senate action on these measures on Saturday, June 1, 2019,” Carmichael wrote. “Obviously, this will require a high degree of coordination and cooperation within Senate membership. I look forward to working with you to achieve this goal.”
.@SenCarmichaelWV joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the ongoing work in the special session on education and his proposed “Student Success Act”. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/ntLuLm2IMN
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 28, 2019
The bill is similar to an omnibus education bill that was considered during the regular legislative session, but it is not exactly the same.
Education savings accounts, a voucher-style concept that was controversial in the regular session, is not in this bill. Charter schools would be authorized in the new bill, but some of the details are different.
Some concepts — like counties receiving education funding from the state in the form of block grants — are newly-introduced.
Another new twist is expansion of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, which provides education to at-risk youth in a quasi-military environment.
Despite the variations in the bill, Carmichael said he hopes senators can reach agreement in one day.
Doing so would require four fifths of the senators to vote in favor of suspending the rules that require reading bills on three separate days before passage.
The West Virginia Senate has 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
“It will require cooperation because, as you know, it takes a super-majority vote to suspend that rule,” Carmichael said. “So there are those that if they are not prepared or unwilling, or if they just simply want to waste taxpayer money, then they can do that.”
Democrats in the Senate introduced seven individual bills last week when the Legislature was in special session for one day to consider other matters.
The Democrats pushed for those bills to go ahead for consideration, but they were assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
Senator Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, objected to considering the bill in one day.
“That is the Senate President’s intention. He said he wants amendments done before hand, he doesn’t want a lot of debate. He wants this to all happen within one day,” Baldwin said on “Radio Roundtable” on WJLS.
Baldwin advocated for consideration of individual bills.
“They have chosen once again to undercut the process and shove an omnibus bill,” he said. “We can do some positive things to impact student achievement in West Virginia, and we refuse to do that because we keep entering into this political process.
“There are good things we can all agree to. I think we should vote on those individually. It is troubling what’s been thrown in this omnibus.”
The House of Delegates is taking a different approach.
Delegates are dividing among four select committees to consider individual bills. At least 10 have been introduced in the House of Delegates already, but Speaker Roger Hanshaw has said dozens will be considered over about a week.
Delegate Jeff Pack, R-Raleigh, said he favors taking some time during special session to focus on education policy.
“I feel like we will be deliberative,” Pack said on WJLS.
“We’ve spent all this time listening. We’ve been to all these forums. We’re into a special session. We owe it to ourselves, to everybody to at least give it a fair shot. I, for one, am not in particular rush.”