January revenue numbers due next week will influence revenue reforecast for the biennium
At some point during the latter part of next week, state officials will receive the January revenue report. The week of February 8, the Secretary of Finance will announce a revenue reforecast for the upcoming biennium, based upon the January report. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee will then base their respective budget recommendations—due out on February 21—on the reforecast.
Chancellor Speaks Before Senate Finance Committee’s Education Subcommittee
On February 2, VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois addressed the Education Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee. Chancellor DuBois stressed the recommended funding and accompanying legislation supporting his workforce credentials plan, and the importance of this initiative to Virginia’s workers and the state’s economy. Other proposed investments and new initiatives that were highlighted included the enhancement of services to veterans at seven community colleges which serve the most veterans, expansion of cybersecurity training, the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative, and priority capital projects.
Status of Workforce Credentials Legislation
The Governor’s introduced budget contains $24.6 million in the 2016-2018 biennium to make workforce credentials offered through the Virginia Community College System more affordable and available for Virginia residents. The House of Delegates and Senate recommendations on this funding will be revealed on February 21. It is important for VCCS stakeholders to continue emphasizing the importance of maintaining this amount of funding as meetings and contacts with legislators continue.
With one exception, no action has yet been taken on the five bills (HB 66, HB 792, HB 1206, SB 575, and SB 576 ) that offer varying policy outlines for distributing the workforce credentials funding. HB 1206 (Greason) was tabled in the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee on Feb. 2. Instead, Delegate Greason will be signing on as a co-patron to a substitute bill for HB 66 (Byron). HB 66 will likely be heard in the same subcommittee on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The Senate bills should be taken up in the Higher Education Subcommittee of Senate Education and Health on February 9. HB 792 has been referred to House Commerce and Labor, which will also meet on February 9.
Open Educational Resources Bill Goes To Joint Subcommittee For Further Study
A bill requiring the State Council of Higher Education to administer an Open Educational Resources Fund in order to provide grants on a competitive basis to public institutions of higher education will be studied further. HB 662 will be sent to the Joint Subcommittee Studying the Future Competitiveness of Higher Education, a group comprised of four members each from the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. The Joint Subcommittee will make an interim report on November 1, 2016 and a final report on November 1, 2017.
The VCCS has been a leader in Open Educational Resources; a $500,000 VCCS investment in the ZX23 Project has resulted in the release of over 100 new open courses and an estimated cost savings to students of $3 million, according to Dr. Richard Sebastian of the VCCS, who testified in favor of the bill. The openly licensed resources can be easily shared between faculty and institutions without copyright restrictions, and can be revised to reflect the most up-to-date knowledge.
Weapons bill now excludes higher education
HB 382 in its original form would have prohibited state agencies within the executive branch and boards of visitors or other governing bodies of public institutions of higher education from adopting any rule or regulation preventing officers or employees from storing a lawfully possessed firearm and ammunition in a locked private motor vehicle at their workplace. The bill has been amended so that institutions of higher education are no longer included in the bill. This means that the policy adopted by the State Board in January 2013 to prohibit the possession of weapons, including guns, in all VCCS campus buildings and events will still be in effect.