The state Senate has the chance to kick back and review Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin‘s education bill over the weekend following the decision to delay any vote on the measure until Monday.
Although the heavily-revised version of Senate Bill 359 was up for final approval before the full Senate Friday, discussion on the legislation was initially delayed until 2 p.m. Reconvening briefly at 3 p.m., Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkely, announced the Senate wanted to push back talks on the bill until next week.
“We’re close but not completely there,” said Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, following the afternoon meeting. ”Trying to push something through at the last minute, sometimes you’re better off taking a deep breath, taking a look at it…”
Kessler and other senators discussed the bill at length behind closed doors Friday. House leadership and the governor were involved in those talks, as were stakeholder groups, Kessler said. He didn’t name which ones, but he said talks behind closed doors can lead to more open discussion.
“You can have frank discussions. I’m not an educator, you can have educators in the room, the stakeholders in the room, and also the other folks from the other side to have a better idea of what can pass over there,” Kessler said.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a cooperative effort with all the stakeholders…we got together, tt’s the governor’s initiative, he’s been highly involved, along with the legislative leaders, to try to get together to get this thing done,” he continued.
Dispute over changes to teacher hiring practices, structuring the school calendar and allowing the Teach For America program full access to the state remain contentious, Kessler said.
The bill faced some heat in the senate–six different senators voted against the measure at the committee level–but it’s expected to pass. Kessler said he believes the bill will go to the House following a vote Monday. With any luck, the measure could be out of the entire Legislature well before the end of session.
“I think overall the basic tenants of the bill in the Senate are strong, and from talking with (House Speaker Rick Thompson) I’m convinced that he wants a strong bill,” Kessler said. “We’re all committed to having a bill that truthfully improves the quality of education in our state.”
The Senate is slated to reconvene at 11 a.m. Monday.