SB 1, SB 10, and other bills on the move...
SB 1, SB 10, and other bills on the move...
SB 1, Texas budget for the next two years
Things are happening fast at the Capitol as the legislative session nears its conclusion on May 31. The Conference Committee to Senate Bill 1, the budget bill nearing passage, removed language requiring Governor Abbott to call legislators into special session to participate in the decisions about how to allocate remaining federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Governor Abbott had stated that he will call the members into special session in the fall to help make decisions about how the federal dollars will be spent in Texas, when the legislature convenes in a special session to redraw congressional, state senate, and state representative districts based on new U.S. census data.

But that promise was not enough. After bipartisan backlash from members of the Legislature over the stripping of this language, language was added to SB 1 to assure that only the Legislature can appropriate dollars coming from those pieces of federal legislation after this regular session is concluded. SB 1 passed yesterday afternoon. Its passage means that it will be sent to the State Comptroller of Public Accounts for certification and then to the Governor for line-item veto and signing. 

SB 10, taxpayer funded lobbying restriction, fails to pass 
Senate Bill 10, legislation to prevent and/or reduce taxpayer-funded lobbying had until midnight Tuesday to be passed. It failed to make the deadline.

The bill had been amended to add political subdivisions including school districts and other entities that levy taxes and/or that issue bonds. Public school districts are political subdivisions in this context. The bill was less problematic, focusing mainly on transparency but also prohibiting lobbyists from advocating for or against tax issues, than bills filed last session and this session by other legislators. The bill would have required school districts to post on the district’s website the amount of public dollars spent on membership fees or dues to a nonprofit state association or organization of similarly situated school districts that contracts with a lobbyist.

Other bills on the move 
We will provide a comprehensive report on Texas PTA’s priority legislation once the Governor’s veto period expires in mid-June, but here are a few notes for you.
Heading to the Governor 
HB 1603 by Rep. Huberty, relating to Individual Graduation Committees, was passed on May 24. One amendment was added to the bill allowing the TEA Commissioner to authorize an accreditation investigation when 10% or more of the students graduating in a particular school year from a particular high school campus are awarded a diploma based on the determination of an individual graduation committee. The bill makes IGCs permanent.  

SB 248 by Sen. Johnson, relating to the regulation of cigarettes, tobacco products, and e-cigarettes and administration of taxes.

SB 2050 by Sen. Menendez, relating to the prevention of and the reporting of incidents of bullying committed by public school students. It requires schools to adopt minimum standards for a school district’s cyberbullying/bullying policy. Districts are required to report to TEA incidents of bullying and cyberbullying.

HB 3979, by Rep. Toth, relating to the social studies curriculum in public schools. The bill changes requirements for civics instruction in public schools and restricts the award of course credits for participation in advocacy.

HB 30 by Rep. Talarico, relating to educational requirements for certain incarcerated students, requires the Windham School District, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s school district, to offer a high school program to incarcerated persons who are under 18 years of age.

HB 1080 by Rep. Patterson, relating to the eligibility for participation in University Interscholastic League activities of certain public school students who receive outpatient mental health services.

HB 2669 by Rep. Guillen, relating to the confidentiality of a child's criminal records related to certain misdemeanor offenses.

HB 4544 by Rep. Swanson, relating to the issuance of personal identification certificates to youths committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

SB 179 by Sen. Lucio, relating to the use of public school counselors' work time.

HB 725 by Rep. Patterson, relating to the eligibility of certain children who are or were in foster care for free prekindergarten programs in public schools.
Nearing passage
HB 5 by Rep. Ashby, the broadband expansion legislation that is a major priority of Texas PTA, is in conference committee to work out the differences between the House bill and SB 5 by Senator Nichols. We expect the final bill to be sent to both chambers soon for final approval.

HB 1252 by Rep. Moody, relating to the limitation period for filing a complaint and requesting a special education impartial due process hearing, is on the calendar for consideration in the Senate.

HB 4545 by Rep. Dutton, the bill that creates an Accelerated Learning Committee to support students who fail a STAAR test, removes retention requirements for 5th and 8th graders, and removes the requirement for students who fail STAAR to re-take the test multiple times, is eligible for consideration by the Senate. The bill does not have outcomes-based bonus language and Rep. Dutton, the bill’s sponsor, pledged to the members of the House that he would not concur in any changes to the bill that added an outcomes-based bonus. 

SB 168 by Sen. Blanco, relating to emergency school drills and exercises conducted by public schools, is the companion bill to HB 1016 by Rep. Ordaz Perez. The bill would establish active shooter drill requirements for school districts that choose to implement such drills. Policies adopted by school districts and charter schools must:
  • Prohibit active shooter drills from simulating actual shootings;
  • Provide notice to parents of the date and the content of the drill;
  • Require an announcement to faculty and students that a drill is about to start;
  • Establish age-appropriate standards for content that incorporate trauma-informed practices to address the wellbeing of students participating in the drill; and 
  • Provide for tracking data regarding efficacy and impact of active shooter drills including symptoms of indicators of trauma among student participants.

Legislation that did not survive 
Voucher - SB 1968 by Sen. Bettencourt, relating to the establishment of the Family Educational Relief Program and an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made for purposes of that program, creates a voucher. The bill did not make it out of the Senate. SB 1, the budget bill, contains language prohibiting the use of state dollars on voucher programs.

SB 10, legislation to prevent/reduce taxpayer funded lobbying had until midnight Tuesday to be passed. It failed to make the deadline.

HB 211 by Rep. Thierry, regulated and taxed e-cigarettes, but the level of tax on the products was not high enough to reduce youth e-cigarette use so Texas PTA opposed it.

HB 1783 by Rep. White raises the minimum age for criminal prosecution from 10 to 13. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

The 87th Session of the Texas Legislature ends on Monday, May 31.

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