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2017-5-3

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Polarization over guns leads to surge in legislation

By Tyler Woodall and Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

The 2016 presidential election was one of the most polarizing election cycles in recent memory, as supporters from both sides of the aisle expressed their distaste for the opposing party’s candidate and hot-button issues rose to the front of the United States’ collective political mind.

With tragedies like the Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub and San Bernardino shootings littering the past several years, the fight to crack down on guns has risen to the forefront of the American political landscape.

According to the Pew Research Center, gun policy was among the five most important issues to the American populace during last year’s election – more important to voters than even immigration, Social Security and education.

However, while guns remained a hot-button issue among Americans, there were some topics that supporters of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were able to agree upon.

For example, according to Pew, at least 75 percent of both candidates’ supporters agreed on mandated background checks at gun shows. At least 82 percent of each group also saw eye to eye when it came to restrictions on gun ownership for people with mental illness.

Even so, voters remained sharply divided over many other gun-related issues.

Nearly 75 percent of Clinton supporters endorsed restrictions on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, while only 34 percent of Trump supporters shared that viewpoint.

 

 

 
 

The distance between the two parties on guns has increased dramatically in recent years. According to Pew, there was a 20 percentage-point difference between the supporters of Al Gore and George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race when it came to controlling gun ownership versus protecting gun rights. That gap more than doubled to 41 points in the 2012 race and ballooned to a 70-point difference between Trump and Clinton supporters last year.

The country’s overall viewpoint on gun rights has flipped since the 2000 election. That year, 66 percent of voters supported restricting gun rights, with only 29 percent looking to protect gun ownership. By 2016, those figures had reversed, with more than half of voters supporting gun ownership.

In addition, Pew found that a majority of the public believes that gun ownership in the United States does more to protect citizens from being a victim of crimes. A little over a third think guns are putting the public in greater danger.

These trends have led to a flood of gun-related legislation at both the state and federal levels.

In Virginia, 111 weapons-related bills were introduced to the General Assembly in 2016 – a 170 percent increase over the previous year. Of those bills, only 14 were signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

 

 

 
 

During his four-year term as governor, McAuliffe witnessed this increase in gun legislation first-hand. McAuliffe’s predecessor, Republican Bob McDonnell, saw 171 weapons-related bills introduced during his time as governor. McAuliffe has seen 300.

With the 2017 governor’s race heating up, the state’s gun policy hangs in the balance. With a Republican-led General Assembly, a GOP gubernatorial win in November could lead to an expansion of gun rights over the next four years.

Even if a Democrat is elected governor, the trends indicate gun regulation will remain at the forefront of the local and national political landscape.

KAINE LEADS BIPARTISAN BILL TO REDESIGN HIGH SCHOOL WITH GREATER CTE FOCUS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), founding member of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, led U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Todd Young (R-IN) in introducing the CTE Excellence and Equity Act to support re-designing the high school experience to include courses more relevant to the 21st century workforce to better prepare students for future careers. The bill would provide federal funding forpartnerships between school districts, employers, and institutions of higher education in Virginia and other states that integrate high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs into high schools. These partnerships help students earn industry recognized credentials or credit toward a postsecondary degree or certificate and an understanding of the relevance of coursework in the context of a future career. According to the nonpartisan organization Achieve, nearly 80% of college instructors and 60% of employers indicate that public high schools fall short in preparing students for postsecondary education.

“At schools across Virginia, I’ve seen innovative approaches to deliver high-quality CTE programs to students. This bill would support schools as they redesign coursework to create engaging CTE partnerships between industry and higher education,” said Kaine. “Preparing our students for the careers of tomorrow gives them a better shot at getting hired for good-paying jobs and having the skills needed to excel in them.”

“My top priority in the United States Senate has been to promote policies that help create and foster an environment that leads to job creation and economic growth,” Portman stated.  “Career and Technical Education gives students the opportunity to gain skills and experience to become college and career ready.  The CTE Excellence and Equity Act will benefit millions of high school students across the country by expanding access to high quality CTE programs which lead to college credit, workplace skills, and opportunities for internships and apprenticeship programs.” 

“In Wisconsin, I’ve seen how strong public-private partnerships can meet our workforce readiness challenges effectively and Congress should work across party lines to strengthen these programs,” said Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will help us do a better job of supporting career and technical education students so that they are better equipped for the high-skilled jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“As West Virginia undergoes an economic transition and grapples with high unemployment, it is critical that we take steps to equip our workforce with the right skills for today’s jobs. I’m pleased to join with my colleagues to introduce the CTE Excellence and Equity Act, which supports necessary partnerships between higher education and employers and will improve career and technical training in our high schools,” said Capito.

“Strong CTE programs are a critical part of equipping students with the skills they need today to be able to compete in tomorrow’s workforce,” Young said. “This legislation is a positive step forward in closing the skills gap by supporting high-quality CTE programs that are aligned with the needs of our local communities.”

TheCTE Excellence and Equity Act would provide federal funding through a competitive grant programto support innovative approaches to redesigningthe high school experience for students as schools develop curriculum, assess student performance and teach workplace skills through job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships. The bill would amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

“The CTE Excellence and Equity Act provides data and research to address funding support for the much-needed redesign of more equitable CTE high school experiences that will help prepare more students to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said Richmond Public Schools Career and Technical Education Instructional Specialist Jorge Valenzuela. “In order for our students to truly be successful throughout life after high school, CTE must be integrated into the instructional models of school divisions throughout our entire country.”

"Senator Kaine has been a fighter and advocate for the equality and equity of public education his entire career,” said Norfolk Federation of Teachers Thomas Calhoun. “It's no surprise that he is one of the recognized leaders for quality CTE schools in the country!"

“This bipartisan legislation works to address the growing gap between the traditional high school experience and the expectations of higher education and employers by connecting business, school districts, colleges, and others with a stake in the quality of the nation’s high school graduates,” said Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former Governor of West Virginia. “It also provides students with an opportunity to learn by doing, making the high school experience more engaging and more relevant to today’s job market while setting students up for individual success—a key component to the nation’s economic growth.”

Kaine, Portman, Baldwin, and Capito introduced an earlier version of this legislation in the 114th Congress.

The CTE Excellence and Equity Act is supported by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Advance CTE, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Committee for Children (CfC), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the National Skills Coalition (NSC), Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

A one-page fact sheet on the CTE Excellence and Equity Act can be found here.

SVCC ALUMNUS TO SPEAK AT COMMENCEMENT MAY 13

Stephen E. Parker, Director, Education and Workforce, National Governor’s Association (NGA), is a proud graduate of Southside Virginia Community College.  He will deliver the commencement address at the SVCC graduation ceremony on May 13, 2017 at the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville, Virginia.  The event begins at 9:30 a.m.

 Parker directs policy and advocacy for education and workforce issues, including: early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary education, workforce development and child nutrition. He is responsible for the development and implementation of governors’ strategic priorities through the Education and Workforce Committee. Parker is the liaison between governors and the federal government on education, human services and workforce issues.  

Parker led the process to create the governors’ plan to re-design the federal education system, released in 2015. He developed and executed NGA’s campaign to re-write federal K-12 education policy, which ultimately resulted in passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and governors’ first endorsement of any federal legislation in twenty years.

Parker also managed governors’ partnership with Congress to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, updating federal job training policy for the first time in 16 years. He also worked with Congress to increase governors’ direct federal workforce funds by more than $500 million over the past 3 years.

Prior to working for the nations’ governors, Parker served as Senior Special Assistant to Governor Timothy M. Kaine where he managed statewide public awareness campaigns across more than 15 agencies and managed the development of the Governor’s legislative priorities. He also served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard.

Parker serves on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans' Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach. He also serves as a member of the Hopkins House Programs and Assessments Committee, where he helps increase access to early childhood education in Alexandria, Virginia.

He serves on the SVCC foundation board. He also received his bachelor’s degree at Longwood University, and completed postgraduate work in political leadership at the University of Virginia and public policy at the College of William and Mary.

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