There may not have been any snow on Capitol Square this week, but temperatures were low and the winds were high enough to make them seem even lower. Those who had to venture outside moved a lot more quickly as a result. Displaying good timing and cleverness, members of the Virginia Credit Union League – credit union employees from across the state – sported long red knitted scarves as they made their way around Capitol Square. The scarves were impossible to miss, making the credit union employees simultaneously notable and warm.
This year’s session is the usually referred to as the “short session”. That’s because it only lasts 46 days as opposed sessions in even years, which last sixty. Odd-year sessions are shorter because the General Assembly is only required to make amendments to the existing biennial budget. In long sessions, an entirely new budget must be constructed and approved.
Usually, amending the budget is a task that takes significantly less work than constructing one from scratch. But, the state’s budget shortfall makes amending the existing budget a lot more challenging than usual this year. Still, the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for this year on February 28.
My Legislation As I noted last week, there will be many other issues before us during this session than the budget. Among the hundreds of bills that will be discussed are several that I am submitting. One of them, House Bill 1942 is a measure to clarify the manner in which school boards may establish a single-gender class, program, or school in a school division. The bill provides that participation must be voluntary and the school division must provide a substantially equal coeducational school, class, or program. Mechanicsville Elementary School has one such program. School principal, Amy Woodward and teachers Laurie Walton and Kevin Layne came and testified on Monday to the success of the program when the bill was heard in sub-committee. They reported that 90 percent of students in the single-gender and coed classes passed last year's Standards of Learning tests. According to a recent article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Single-sex classes have been on the rise nationwide, though slower to take hold in Virginia. But of the state's approximate 12 schools that offer single-sex classes, five are in the Richmond area. The House Education Committee voted (17-3) to report the measure; it will now be discussed on the House floor.
97th District Page
I welcome Austin Timberlake to service as a Page in the Virginia House of Delegates during the 2009 General Assembly session. Austin Timberlake, 13, is an 8th grader at Elko Middle School who enjoys church youth group, computers, and Boy Scouts in his free time. In school, Austin enjoys math as his favorite subject and is on the Honor Roll. Austin has high future aspirations, including most notably his desire to focus on the development and use of new technology as a career. He has taken a number of introductory technology classes. Austin has also shown an aptitude for mechanics by fixing his grandfather's lawn mower independent of instructions.
As for being chosen to represent the 97th District, Austin mentioned "I am really truly grateful for the opportunity to work as a Page. I am looking forward to learning as much as I can at the General Assembly."
Austin is a smart young man with a bright future. I want to give him every opportunity to have this once in a lifetime experience. With a few members who were once pages, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the legislature one day.
Thankfully visitors also keep coming to our office. It is so refreshing to visit with old friends and meet new ones. This week we have had many friendly faces stop by including Margaret O’Donnell form the Career and Technical Education program in Caroline, Matt Danielson from New Kent, Carl Shuler, Robert Herron, Mark Matthews, Lou Simpson, Anthony Rinaldi, Sonny Sundaramurthy, and Bob Enroughty from the Virginia Citizen Defense League, Donald campen, Leon App and Herb Dunford from the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District, Helen Elliott and the Nelson Family representing the Family Foundation, Victor Golderos and George Slemp from New Kent, John Copeland from Caroline, General Registrars Danette Moen, Kellie Acors, and William Taylor, Patti Jackson from Mechanicsville, Herb Lux from Spotsylvania, Shawn Lawrence, Ellen Sears and a group from the Disability Resource Center in Fredericksburg, Grayson Jennings from Mechanicsville, Steve Nelson, VCU School of Business, Jamie Robin from Ruther Glen, Mary Devoy from Mechanicsville, Wayne Lauterbach and Chris Burgess representing the Credit Unions.
If you’ll be visiting Richmond during this year’s session, make sure to stop by our office, located in Room 715 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact us here by sending an e-mail to Delcpeace@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406. Or, if you just want me to know your opinion on a particular issue, you can call on the toll-free Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1.800.889.0229.
Have a great week, and look for more news from Richmond in this same place next week.