Monday, February 8, 2016

VA: Stupid Lawmaker Tricks

Mark Obenshain is a lawyer/legislator in Virginia who has all sorts of cool ideas for laws to pass.

Back in 2009, he proposed a law that would require all women who had a miscarriage while not right near a doctor to report that miscarriage within twenty-four hours. He was reportedly trying to respond to a case in which a woman threw her dead child in a dumpster; he wanted a law that would allow her prosecution, but he came up with something so broad and ill-considered that it was untenable.

Not thinking things through seems to be an Obenshain specialty. He ran for Attorney General and lost. His "Support Team Obenshain" website hasn't had a new post since August, 2015, when he happily announced his gig as Virginia Campaign Chairman for Scott Walker. Oopsies.

Obenshain also likes to take a hard-right swing at education. Like any good conservative values politician, he would like to strip local school boards of their power, so he's proposed a charter school law that would give the state board of education the power to authorize charters. But local school districts already have that power, and the state of Virginia just isn't clamoring for charters-- it's almost as if they find their public system plenty okay. Putting authorization of charters out of local hands of course creates issues for local taxpayers-- someone else puts up a charter school in your community and you have to pay for it whether you want it there or not. And actual conservatives have a soft spot for local control. Obenshain is apparently not one of those conservatives.

But also at the top of his Haven't Really Thought This Through list is SB 737. This is a pretty straightforward bill:

Payment of public employees for time away from their official duties; employee organizations; penalty. Prohibits public employers from paying leave or benefits to any public employee to directly or indirectly work for or on behalf of an employee organization, professional association, labor union, or labor organization. A violation is a Class 5 felony.  

No doubt Obenshain was intent on stopping teachers and other public employees from drawing a paycheck while they were off cavorting with their damnable unions. And that's obnoxious enough. But Obenshain is perhaps unaware that many teachers belong to "professional associations" that are non-union in nature.

For instance, a band or choir director who was taking students to a district band or choral event sponsored by the Virginia Music Educators Association would be barred from being paid by this law. Coaches that go to training events by a coaching association. Principals and superintendents who attend training and educational sessions sponsored by any number of professional groups. Teachers and staff who attend professional gatherings of any sort at the direction of a district that might want to send a teacher to a convention to pick up new professional skills. And that's before we even get to the question of what constitutes "indirectly" working for any groups.

And it's a Class 5 felony. Which means that the possible penalties are

a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

It's a particularly odious law because all of those people already donate huge mountains of hours to their districts-- most teachers do.

But mostly this is just dumb law writing, so broad and sloppy that the Law of Unintended Consequences will have a field day trashing all sorts of things that not even an unreasonable faux conservative values legislator with a bad tooth would want to see trashed. If you're in Virginia, contact a legislator and explain why this is a dumb idea.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention, the time we spend cavorting with our unions does count as fulfilling our "professional duties." What does he think we do at union meetings? Actually, I don't want to hear the answer to that.