By Parrish Mort, VaHomeschoolers Executive Director
Virginia’s sports access bill, HB 1626, also known as the Tebow Bill, passed the Senate yesterday 22-13, with bipartisan support. In the six years that Del Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has submitted a homeschool sports access bill, this is the first time that any version has cleared the Senate or even the Senate Education and Health committee.
During debate of the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Martin offered a “friendly amendment,” which is one that the patron is agreeable to. In the case of this amendment, it was one that was agreed upon the day before by Del. Bell and VaHomeschoolers. The amended language explicitly states that the bill allows localities the right to “opt in” to allowing homeschooler participation in interscholastic activities, if they so choose. The amendment did not change the nature of the bill as it already allowed for local option. The amendment did, however, provide clarity which was enough to garner additional support from several senators, including a few Democrats.
Since the version approved in the Senate is different from the version passed by the House, the amended language will go back to the House of Delegates for their approval. This will simply be a formality as they will support Del. Bell’s wishes regarding the amendment. Once this occurs, the bill will move on to the Governor.
The Governor will have seven days to take action on the bill once it reaches his desk. At that time he will have a number of options. He may sign it in to law, veto it outright, or offer a line item veto. If he vetoes the bill, the bill would need a 2/3 majority of support to override the veto, which we do not have. If he submits a line item veto, the bill would go back to the House for reconsideration. If the Governor should not act on the bill in any way within the seven days, the bill will automatically become law.
VaHomeschoolers is hopeful that the amendment will make the bill more palatable for the Governor. In the fall, the Governor’s office told VaHomeschoolers that the Governor had no position on this issue. We have heard from several Democrats who oppose the bill that the Governor is likely to veto the bill. We cannot substantiate this, as the Governor’s office will provide no insight into his intentions. VaHomeschoolers believes we can make a difference by voicing our support.
This means we have a few days to a week to ask the Governor to support the bill. We are encouraging all families in support of this bill to write the Governor. Politely ask him to support HB 1626, remind him that this bill explicitly allows for a local option and that localities know what is best for their school divisions. You can find guidance on writing the Governor here. Encourage your family, friends and neighbors to express their support to the Governor as well.
VaHomeschoolers thanks all the families who joined us at the General Assembly to testify before the House and Senate committees, to everyone who wrote or called their Delegates and Senators asking them to support the bill, and to Del. Rob Bell for his relentless patronage of this bill.
Please take this final step and write or call the Governor today! Virginia’s homeschooled students are depending on YOU for a chance to try out.