Yesterday, it was education reform. Today, it’s prisons.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin‘s prison reform bill was introduced in the State Senate and House of Delegates today. As we reported last week, the Senate is expected to take the first crack at the bill before sending it over to the House.
I’ve been looking over the bill this morning and it appears identical to the draft we received at a joint judiciary committee meeting last week. Following its introduction to the Senate, Senate President Jeff Kessler assigned the bill to the judiciary and finance committees. Click here to read the proposed legislation.
West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin will speak to the House and Senate judiciary committees later today about the effectiveness of drug courts. According to a press release from the court, Benjamin will discuss the difficulties offenders have in completing these programs, but also plans to discuss how the programs reduce recidivism and save tax dollars.
That meeting is at 3 p.m. Follow me on Twitter for live coverage.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s rundown, Gov. Tomblin’s education reform bill was introduced in the Senate and House yesterday afternoon. The Senate is taking the lead on the legislation, and it’s scheduled to go before the Senate Education Committee this afternoon. Some legislators guess it could come out of that committee in some form or another within a week.
As Dave wrote in today’s Daily Mail, legislators, educators, unions and others were quick to carve into the 179-page bill, some heralding its achievements with others blasting its inconsistencies.
Tomblin proposed eliminating the portion of code focused on hiring teachers, instead replacing it with broader hiring practices. Judy Hale with the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers scoffed at the change, saying it gives counties leeway to ignore seniority or input from teachers. Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln and vice chair of the House Education Committee, acknowledged not everyone is going to be happy with the bill. But he thinks the governor presented the Legislature with an opportunity to shift standard practices.
“By striking out the way we do hiring now in West Virginia, I think he’s given us an opportunity to basically just rethink the way we hire
teachers in West Virginia,” Stowers said.
Teach For America, a nonprofit organization aimed at putting college graduates into schools in poorer communities, had a front row seat in
Tomblin’s bill. He offered a route to alternative certification through the program, something Dale Lee of the West Virginia Education
Association found hypocritical.
“In the same bill you allow Teach For America, and I could have a degree in fashion design, and you put me in an elementary program with
five weeks training,” Lee said. “How does that strengthen the profession? How does that improve student achievement?”
Hallie Mason, policy director for Tomblin, defended the bill. It takes a five-pathway approach to education reform and makes the changes
needed to improve slumping test scores. GOP lawmakers and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce also championed the bill.
The Senate Education Committee convenes at 2 p.m. this afternoon. Follow Dave on Twitter for live coverage.
My story in today’s paper focuses on the looming federal cuts that will go into effect if Congress does not pass a budget before Friday.The cuts are expected to affect the state’s national parks properties, the state’s U.S. Marshals office, federal courts within the state and the West Virginia National Guard.
West Virginia National Guard spokesman Lt. David Lester said sequestration cuts would immediately force the Guard to lay off 55 employees around the state, mostly from its staff of aircraft technicians.
“We’ve got guys, we’ll be able to cover the slack. But anytime you lose maintenance positions like that…it’s going to have an effect,” Lester said.
He said cuts would affect the Guard’s ability to respond to state emergencies.
“While our pay comes from the state, much of our equipment is bought and maintained with federal funding. So if that is cut, then we will have less resources to respond with ready and reliable equipment for emergencies across the state,” he said.
That’s all for today’s rundown. Join us tomorrow for another look at statehouse news.