Richmond Free Press Column: General Assembly Session Update -Sine Die Edition

A message from Senator McClellan

The 2017 General Assembly Session adjourned sine die Saturday, February 25th after completing work on thousands of bills and resolutions and closing a $1.26 billion shortfall in the budget. The $107 million budget adopted by the General Assembly avoids cuts to K-12 education, restores pay raises to state employees, provides the state share of a raise to teachers, and invests in mental health reform, while creating a $35 million cash reserve to be used to close future shortfalls.
Three of my bills passed the General Assembly and now await action by the Governor.

First, SB 1475 adds to the family life education curriculum age-appropriate information on the value of family relationships in addition to marriage and instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity. The bill also changes the focus of instruction from an individual avoiding sexual assault to deterrence of sexual assault. This bill builds on legislation passed last year to ensure the family life education curriculum include effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. This bill was requested by student advocates from the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, which seeks to eliminate sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy and support to men, women and children.

Second, SB 1493 establishes a public-private partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and a Virginia-based entity to develop and implement computer science training and related professional development activities for Virginia public school teachers. Last year, Virginia became the first state in the nation to pass sweeping Computer Science education reform, mandating that every Virginia child will receive access to Computer Science literacy – to include coding – from Kindergarten through graduation. SB 1493 builds on that legislation by expanding and standardizing the necessary training for K-12 teachers and establishing an advisory committee to support the computer science training and professional development. This bill was requested by CodeVA, which provided training for over 600 K-12 teachers in over 50 percent of Virginia’s public school districts. This bill will ensure Virginia has the capacity to expand this training statewide.

Third, SB 1494 establishes a legal framework to allow companies such as UZURV to pre-arrange rides with transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, or to request specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites. This bill was requested by UZURV, which was founded and is headquartered here in Scott’s Addition, when it became clear the current TNC laws did not authorize a broker to arrange such rides. I worked with UZURV, DMV, UBER, Lyft, and the insurance industry to ensure the law provided the same consumer protections for individuals reserving rides through UZURV as the current TNC law provides for customers directly using UBER and Lyft.

The Governor has until midnight, March 27th to sign, amend, or veto these and the over 800 bills that passed this session. On Wednesday, April 5th, the General Assembly will return for Reconvened Session to consider the Governor's amendments and vetoes. I look forward to providing an update on the Veto Session.

I hope you have enjoyed these General Assembly Updates. It is never too early to start thinking of legislation for the 2018 session! If you have any ideas, know of any individuals or organizations that should be commended next year, or need assistance on any state government matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov. In the meantime, to sign up for email updates or learn how you can follow me on social media, visit www.jennifermcclellan.com.