Do you think there are 1,840 things wrong with Virginia? That’s how many bills legislators filed for this year’s General Assembly session. Every one of those bills proposes some change to the Code of Virginia, the laws that govern our commonwealth. Every bill, however, will not become law. If you think the number of bills is particularly high, you may want to know that the total is actually 20% lower than it was in 2007, the last previous 46-day “short session.” In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1995 to find a session where legislators submitted fewer bills than they have for this session.
The reason for the reduction is the new House of Delegates policy that limits to 15 the number of bills each delegate can submit. So, while the number of bills submitted by senators this short session actually increased by 8%, the number introduced by delegates declined by 32%.
The reduction of bills in the House is especially dramatic. Every legislative session beginning with 1994 can be tracked online at the Legislative Information System (http://leg1.state.va.us). The number of bills filed by delegates this year is the lowest of the 16 years for which statistics are available through that site.
The total number of bills filed by the 100 members of the House still exceeded the total filed by the 40 senators. But, these new limits have had the effect they were supposed to have, returning the character of odd-year sessions to what was originally intended by the Constitution of Virginia. Legislators are now focusing their attentions on making amendments to the biennial budget – especially critical considering the current multi-billion-dollar shortfall – and considering a limited number of bills.
So, are there 1,840 things wrong with Virginia? Of course not. But, there are a lot of things legislators would like to see changed. Many of the bills that are considered each session pass unanimously or near-unanimously. That’s because there are often small adjustments that have to be made to the Code and changes that enjoy widespread agreement. Those bills rarely receive attention in the media, as items on which there is widespread agreement aren’t as “newsworthy” contentious ones. After all, when was the last time you saw a headline that read, “Everyone Agrees!”
I am proud to report that another of my bills, House Bill 1940 passed the House by a vote of 98-0. This measure requires the State Board for Community Colleges, in consultation with the Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to develop a competitive grant pilot program to provide grants to community colleges to establish open education resource centers in the Commonwealth.
The main purpose of establishing Open Education Resource Centers is to provide centralized clearinghouses open education courses, course materials, research, and professional training. According to the website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page , “Open educational resources (OER) are an Internet empowered worldwide community effort to create an education commons.
The term "open educational resources" was first adopted at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute. Open educational resources include:
Learning content includes full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals. Tools used are software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
The Center would be required to:
o Develop a model for the creation of OER course content and use; o Develop two elementary, secondary, or community college courses using open education resources. All courses would be developed to meet SOL requirements; o Develop a professional in-service training and development course that introduces faculty, staff, and course developers to OER; o Conduct a two-year study that compares OER with non-OER courses and materials with regard to quality and cost, and evaluates the efficacy of the pilot program for statewide replication. The study report would be submitted to the General Assembly no later than July 1, 2011; o Provide outreach to school districts and community colleges at regional and state educational and technology conferences to support the establishment of local OER centers.; and o Recommend a sustainable funding stream for Open Education Centers.
It was a busy week for visitors to the General Assembly. I am always pleased to see friendly faces from the 97th District “family,” and new faces stop by and visit. Folks that stopped by are: Elizabeth Beatley, Adelaide Lewis and Katy Greer with the Virginia Counselors Association, Kristine Hadeed, Allen Alegro, Ashley Overholser, Betty Jackson, and Gordon Diehl from Germanna Community College, Eugene Rivara on behalf of the King William PTA, Sharon Straus from Hanover ARC, Bill Frazier, William Lane, Wickham Coleman, and Matt Faulconer from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Elaine Smith from the Richmond Dietetic Association, The Honorable Harry Whitt, King William County Treasurer, The Honorable Laura Ecimovic, New Kent County Commissioner of Revenue, The Honorable Scott Harris, Hanover County Commissioner of Revenue, Steve Scheibe on behalf of Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity, Tim Bowring and Heather Antill on behalf of Hanover Habitat for Humanity, The Honorable Sally Pearson, King William County Commissioner of Revenue, Bill Newborg from Metro Cast Communications, Joshua Gemerek for Bay Aging, Henry and Nancy Barlow, Lynwood and Becky Broaddus, and Sue and Park Dodd on behalf of the Caroline Farm Bureau, Bob Winsor, Roland Winston and Bob Enerson on behalf of Equality Virginia, Laura Gentry on behalf of Virginia Small Farmers, Robert Massey on behalf of Spotsylvania Farm Bureau, Ron Thompson from Virginia Tech, Jennifer Harrison from Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets, Ross Luck from Luck Chevrolet, Bobby Whitten from Whitten Brothers, John Ayers from Marks and Harrison, Ben Owen from the King William Department of Social Services, Chris Giacobone and Peter Meyer from Fas Mart in Mechanicsville, Norman Faulkner from VA BioDiesel, Debbie Preston from the Masonic Home of VA, Becky Massey, Lois Smith of Spotsylvania on behalf of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, Courtney Macon, New Kent resident and students at Maggie Walker Governor’s School,
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.