Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014

Tuesday, February 11 will be “crossover,” the official “halfway” point of the 2014 session.  All bills must have passed their house of origin by the time the House of Delegates and Senate adjourn on this day.  As a result of the number of bills which have been introduced, the House of Delegates will be meeting tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and may also meet on Sunday.  The Senate is scheduled for their next regular session at the usual time on Monday at 12:00 noon. 

Members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will be hunkering down to finalize their committees’ respective recommendations on the caboose bill and the biennial budget bill. These recommendations will be unveiled on Sunday, February 16.

This week, the Chancellor appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to present information on three bills:  SB 429 (Hanger), SB 628 (Ruff) and SB 663 (Ebbin).  These pieces of legislation,  other highlights from this week, and updates are described below. 

Community College Workforce Training Grant Fund Legislation Passes the Senate

Legislation expanding Virginia’s skilled workforce by establishing an incentive of $1,000 for each  Virginia student who completes both training and testing for an industry-recognized certification or licensure passed the Senate unanimously today.  SB 628 (Ruff) will allow Virginians to secure skilled jobs in today’s economy, and Chancellor DuBois urged members of  the Senate Finance Committee to support the bill when it was heard there on February 4. Senator Ruff has filed an accompanying budget amendment for $7.5 million to fund this program. An identical bill in the House of Delegates is HB 1225 (Marshall), which was assigned to the Higher Education Subcommittee of House Education but was tabled on February 4.

Transfer Grant Legislation Advances

SB 429 (Hanger) would convert the current transfer grant program into a partnership arrangement between community colleges and four-year institutions which would pay the difference between the costs of tuition and mandatory fees at a community college and the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution.  Eligible students will be able to use the transfer grant at either a public or private four-year institution. The original estimate for the program was $8.8 million in FY 2015 and $10 million in FY 2016; the revised estimate is $2.4 million in FY 2015 and $3.0 million in FY 2016.

George Mason University has had the largest number of Transfer Grant recipients to date. There were 887 transfer grant recipients in the fall of 2013 from all of Virginia’s community colleges who transferred to four-year institutions. 

Chancellor DuBois testified in support of SB 429 before the Senate Finance Committee on February 4.  The bill will be on third reading on the Senate floor on Monday, February 10. 

Community College Mental Health Legislation is Carried Over

SB 663 (Ebbin) was heard in the Senate Finance Committee on February 6 and was carried over.  The bill was first heard this week on February 4, and Chancellor DuBois informed the Committee about the policy adopted by the State Board in November 2012 and subsequent  2013 legislation, SB 1078 (Barker) and HB 2322 (Surovell), which established a process for each Virginia community college to develop and implement a memorandum of understanding with its local Community Services Board(s) for screening and referral of students needing mental health services. 

SB 663 would have required the VCCS to create a pilot program to establish a plan  or contract with community groups to provide mental health services to uninsured students and such other students as the System may identify at four community college campuses in the Commonwealth. The bill also required a central program manager for the pilot program, and the program would sunset by June 30, 2016 or whenever funding was exhausted.    The estimated fiscal impact was $1.9 million annually, which would have to be generated from increased tuition and fees. 

After the bill was presented on February 4, the committee’s recommendation was that it be referred for a recommendation to the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of Senate Finance, chaired by Senator Emmett Hanger.   The bill then appeared back on the docket for the full Senate Finance Committee meeting again yesterday.  Senator Ebbin had prepared a substitute bill to present yesterday which would have had the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services develop the mental health pilot programs and employ a central program manager to manage the programs at four Virginia community colleges.  However, prior to the start of the Senate Finance Committee meeting, the patron asked the  committee to carry over the version heard on February 4 until 2015. 

Legislation Granting In-State Tuition for Certain Undocumented Students Still in House Appropriations Committee

HB 747, which was re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee after being reported out of the House Education Committee, has not yet been called up for consideration.  This legislation would allow undocumented students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for in-state tuition. 

College Visits and Legislative Reception

Next week will be the final week for scheduled college visits to Richmond.  Because of the threatened ice storm this week and other logistical changes, next week’s Roundup will contain two weeks’ worth of  appreciation for our student and stakeholder delegations.  Look for some of the highlights of this week’s visits on our blog.'

Ellen Davenport

Ellen Davenport is assistant vice chancellor for governmental relations for the VCCS. She works with the Chancellor and Virginia's 23 community college presidents to advance the financial and policy priorities of the VCCS with the Virginia General Assembly and Congress.

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