After months of proposed legislation, negotiations, and passionate debate, the 86th Legislative Session has come to an end.
The decisions made and laws passed by the Legislature will direct our state for the next two years until the next legislative session in 2021. Until then, we will continue to work together to identify acute needs that must be addressed. I am proud to have passed several key pieces of legislation addressing a range of concerns including public safety, quality of life, and workforce development. These new laws will make a lasting, positive difference in our state.
Over the course of the next several months, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives will present each committee with their interim charges in preparation for the next legislative session. As a member of the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, and the House Committee on State Affairs, I look forward to working on your behalf during the interim on critical issues facing our state. As we seek to resolve real challenges, I am eager to advocate for District 143 and to work with you in preparing our policy priorities for the 87th Legislative Session.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. I welcome any and all suggestions on how we can better advocate for you. It has been and continues to be my pleasure to represent you in Austin.
Passing the State’s Biennial Budget
The Legislature approved a $250.7 billion two-year budget with House Bill 1, a 16% increase in spending over the last biennium. Some key highlights include:
– Over $100 million dollars for school safety improvements;
– $7.7 billion dollars for substance abuse services;
– $86 million in rate increases for community care and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) providers, pediatric home therapists and pediatric private duty nursing;
– $48 million for rate increases and cost growth for Early Childhood Intervention, $11.7 million for salary increases to hire and retain Adult Protective Services workers and support Community Based Care expansion for foster care;
– A 24.3% increase in women’s health funding over the previous biennium;
– $1.7 billion to develop a Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund and a Flood Infrastructure Fund to support long-term Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts;
– $6.1 billion to TXDOT for non-tolled highway construction;
– An additional $86 million for transportation maintenance;
– $223.7 million for the driver’s license program to reduce wait times, improve customer service, hire new employees, and add three additional driver’s license offices statewide;
– $500 million in formula funding increases for higher education institutions;
– An additional $5.9 million to support community college operating budgets;
– $219 million for various special education programs to comply with federal maintenance of financial support;
– $56.6 million to eliminate the rape kit backlog and increase crime lab capacity;
– $8.6 million for rape crisis centers and SANE nurses to the Office of the Attorney General; and
– $58.4 million in funding to address human trafficking across multiple agencies.
Additionally, the Legislature made supplemental appropriations to support educators through Senate Bill 500, which include:
– Dedicating $589 million to TRS to provide retired teachers with a $2,000 13th check on average;
– Appropriating $524 million to make TRS actuarially sound, which needed to happen before the state can provide a cost of living adjustment down the line; and
– Providing an additional $230.8 million to cover shortfalls at TRS and ensure retired teachers’ healthcare premiums do not increase.
Property Tax Reform
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 2, which requires cities and counties to receive voter approval before raising 3.5% more property tax revenue than the previous year. Community college districts, hospital districts, and local entities taxing at 2.5 cents per $100 valuation or less would need to hold an election to surpass 8% in revenue growth.
Public School Finance Reform
The Legislature also passed House Bill 3, a sweeping measure that devotes $4.5 billion to education reforms, $2 billion for dynamic teacher pay raises, and will reduce recapture by $3.6 billion. Additionally, the bill provides $5.1 billion in property tax relief by increasing the state’s share in education funding, mandating ongoing school district property tax reductions, and requiring districts to conduct efficiency audits to guarantee that taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly.
Public school funding in the bill will be utilized to support full-day Pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds, increase financial support for programs to educate students in low-income communities, improve dyslexia programs and encourage the creation of dual-language initiatives.
The bill also increases the minimum teacher salary schedule, and requires school districts to use a portion of the basic allotment increase on salary increases and benefits for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses, with any other additional remaining dollars to be utilized to support all employees as school district leadership feels is appropriate.
– House Bill 1702, creating a foster care liaison at institutions to help students who were formerly in the foster care system;
– House Bill 3906, reducing testing stress on teachers and students by allowing STAAR and end-of-course assessments to be administered in multiple parts over more than one day. Additionally, this bill limits the number of multiple choice questions that can be included on STAAR tests, eliminates the stand-alone writing tests in grades 4 and 7, requires the state to develop a plan to transition to electronic assessments, and establishes a pilot program to explore the possibility of replacing the STAAR with a different test; and
– Senate Bill 25, streamlining the transfer of credits between community colleges and general academic institutions.
SECOND PART ON SESSION WRAP UP, NEXT WEEK…