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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus ordered House committees Thursday to research a list of issues related to Hurricane Harvey so lawmakers could be prepared to tackle them during the next legislative session. The Legislature meets every two years for 140 days and isn't scheduled to meet again until 2019. In the periods in between sessions, the House speaker and lieutenant governor typically direct committees of the House and Senate, respectively, to research a list of policy issues. view article arw

Driving down the streets in disaster- stricken neighborhoods and seeing the mounds of debris piled outside flooded homes, all of us can now bear witness to the hard work that lies ahead. Homeowners must do their best to replace the wrecked furniture and the ruined appliances, contractors must haul away the soaked carpet and spoiled sheetrock, and neighbors will help neighbors recover from Hurricane Harvey. view article arw

House Speaker Joe Straus is asking three House committees to wade into issues related to Hurricane Harvey, including how the state can maximize federal funds and whether to rethink how to grade schools affected by the storm this year. Straus issued five interim charges Thursday, focused largely on education issues, like the scope of damage to schools and figuring out how to help districts absorbing students displaced by Harvey. He also wants lawmakers to look at student testing and accountability to "prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts."  view article arw

Several state senators and representatives of the Fort Bend Delegation predict challenges or the next legislative session. Legislators gathered for a panel Tuesday, hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and Central Fort Bend Chamber at the Safari Texas Ranch in Richmond. Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, as well as Reps. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, all agreed during the panel that the 86th legislative session will confront the affects of Hurricane Harvey on school and property taxes. view article arw

On Monday, Allan Parker stood outside the San Antonio Independent School District’s David G. Burnet Center and asked everyone gathered to imagine Caitlyn Jenner’s dead body.  Not that Parker wants Jenner dead or anything. But, he clarified, just think of how befuddled police would be by the discovery of her corpse. Parker, a lawyer and president of the San Antonio-based Christian legal advocacy group The Justice Foundation, mused: “Bruce Jenner, who calls himself Caitlyn Jenner, would be identified as a white male in the police report by his DNA. That’s what he is. He is not a woman. He’s a white male dressing as a woman and using a woman’s name.” view article arw

New information came to light, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday, having to do with Duke's 13 counts of tampering with a governmental record. Those were based on allegations that Dukes made false entries on travel vouchers to obtain money for expenses she was not entitled to. Moore said the fresh information on those vouchers "has created a need for further investigation by this office and the Texas Rangers."  view article arw

Tracking the hustle and bustle of state legislation can be difficult for even the most involved spectators. Now that the 85th Legislative and subsequent special session concluded late last month, I would like to highlight a few of the bills passed this year that impact Leander ISD. The formula our state uses to fund public school districts has been a topic of conversation and concern for many years – it topped the list of legislative priorities set by our Board of Trustees last November. It also dictates the amount of operations dollars LISD has available to pay teachers and to support students. view article arw

SAN ANGELO, TX —The Texas public school system is under attack from elected officials at the state level threatening Texas’ ability to provide a consistent educated workforce according to State Rep. Drew Darby (R), San Angelo.  Darby was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s monthly San Angelo Chamber of Commerce luncheon held in the ballroom of the Cactus Hotel.  He spent most of his time discussing the successes and failures of the regular legislative session, the special session and the massive repercussions of hurricane Harvey.   view article arw

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has yet to draw a consequential Democratic challenger, has a lock on out-polling George Soros next year.  Soros, a Hungarian-American New York benefactor of liberal causes, won’t even be on the ballot.  Regardless, Abbott this summer repeatedly singled out Soros, most publicly while kicking off his re-election effort with a speech that mentioned the non-Texan more often than California’s Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic U.S. House minority leader who has long been bandied to rouse conservatives. view article arw

Alvord School Board members last month approved keeping the district’s tax rate the same as last year’s. The district will levy an interest and sinking rate of 18.4 cents per $100 valuation in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Superintendent Dr. Randy Brown said the district would dip into its fund balance to cover its debt. view article arw

Seliger discusses legislative session

September 1408:25 AM
 

State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) gave his insights on this year’s legislative session during a town hall in Clarendon last Wednesday, September 6, at the Bairfield Activity Center. The senator said this session was one in which a lot of people wanted the state to dictate to local governments. view article arw

Lawmakers and advocates say "David's Law," which Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June, will allow school districts and prosecutors to fight cyberbullying on multiple fronts. Just months after her son David took his own life, Maurine Molak began to organize.  She and her husband, Matt, who live in San Antonio, founded David’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to cyberbullying victim advocacy. Maurine said they met with lawmakers, law enforcement officials, district attorneys, school administrators, school board presidents, mental health providers and school counselors. view article arw

SCOTUS issued two orders on Tuesday, temporarily blocking both lower court rulings that invalidated parts of Texas' state House and congressionalmaps earlier this year. (Long story short, a panel of federal judges in San Antonio found that the maps discriminated against Latino and black voters in the state.) So the justices decided to stay the lower court's rulings — which would have required new maps — as they consider Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's appeal, which asks that the current maps remain intact for the 2018 elections.  view article arw

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus urged business leaders Tuesday to keep up the fight following the failure of legislative efforts this year to pass a "bathroom bill" that many of them opposed. "Texans rejected name-calling and scare tactics, and as a result, we avoided a major mistake that would’ve cost our economy greatly and divided us unnecessarily," Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a speech to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. "Now is not the time to walk away from the table. Going forward, working together we can do more than just avoiding mistakes." view article arw

Weigh in on local tax rates, budgets

September 1308:15 AM
 

Do you know how much to budget for your city, county, or school district taxes? Do you know what your city council or school district plans to spend in the coming year, and what they’ll spend it on? By law, they must hold public hearings on budgets and tax rates for taxpayers to have their say. Here’s who, what, when, and where the public hearings and meetings will take place (all tax rates are per $100 of taxable value, unless specified otherwise): view article arw

Texas has the biggest emergency fund of any state in the U.S. but has not committed to using the $10 billion piggybank even as Harvey shapes up to become one of the costliest disasters in the nation's history. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has applauded Congress for swiftly approving $15.3 billion in disaster aid that President Donald Trump signed Friday. But Abbott has been noncommittal about using the state's rainy day fund — which now has a record balance — saying it is too early to decide whether to raid those dollars. view article arw

State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, is retiring from the Texas House after eight terms.  Phillips will not seek another term in 2018, according to his chief of staff, Sara Hays. "Serving the people of District 62 has been an honor that I have enjoyed immensely. However, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2018," Phillips said in a released statement. "Together I think we have helped make Texas a better place." view article arw

A compromise on the public school funding formula and inaction on property tax reform left some local legislators, school districts and public education advocates disappointed that a bigger overhaul could not be achieved during a special session of the state Legislature this summer. When the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 21 on Aug. 4, it included $1.8 billion in additional funding for school districts, including millions of additional money for Humble and New Caney ISDs. However, the Senate’s version of the bill removed about $1.5 billion of the bill’s funding. view article arw

The proverbial “rainy day” has come for Texas. The tens of thousands of children affected by Hurricane Harvey now need functional schools, accessible health care and safe places to live. Texas cannot wait until the 2019 Legislature Session to act. The children of the Gulf coast deserve an emergency special session of the Texas Legislature that focuses on their needs. Gov. Greg Abbott should immediately call the Legislature back to Austin to use a significant portion of the state’s so-called rainy day fund — which as of 2016 was the largest in the nation — to help the children left homeless, hungry, and without schools by Harvey. view article arw

In the context of the Texas public education funding formula, a district’s property value changes everything. A 1993 state law divided school districts into two main categories: those who are “property-rich” and those who are “property-poor.” view article arw

Legislators recap 85th session

September 0708:15 AM
 

“Sound bites are easy. Sound policy is hard.” For Rep. Travis Clardy, that’s the job he and his fellow lawmakers were elected to do, crafting sound policy in Austin for the whole of Texas. That’s not always what happens, he said last week. view article arw

State House Rep. Pat Fallon officially announced his candidacy for Texas Senate District 30 Tuesday in an interview with Weatherford Democrat news staff and criticized his opponent, incumbent Craig Estes, as “an absentee landlord.” “Where have you been? You’ve been an absentee landlord. You’ve been asleep at the switch,” Fallon said of Estes’s 17 years in the Senate. “If you haven’t been around for years and you suddenly start showing up because you’re in a contested primary, people are going to see through it. It’s very transparent. He has squandered his incumbency because he has not been anywhere. At forums, I’m going to look him right in the eye and ask him: ‘Where have you been?’” view article arw

Cindy Burkett announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for Texas Senate saying she will work hard to turn the conservative values “we share into the principles our State lives by.” She will challenge Republican State Senator Bob Hall. She says, “Our families need property tax relief. I will deliver results. Our kids need us to fix our broken school finance system. I can get it done. Liberal courts are now trying to undo the Sanctuary City Ban and every part of my groundbreaking pro-life legislation. But I am more confident than ever that we will prevail. view article arw

With a Senate and House espousing vastly different philosophies in how Texas should be governed, the most recent session of the Texas Legislature and a follow up special session produced far less than it might. State Rep. Lance Gooden (District 4) of Terrell reviewed some of the work of legislators recently as well as frustrations with things that couldn’t get done because the two bodies were so far apart. view article arw

The historic level of damage and suffering caused by Harvey requires that we tap into our state’s Rainy Day Fund. Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to not call a special session of the Texas Legislature to access emergency funding will worsen the long-term economic effects of one of the most powerful storms to ever land on our shores. view article arw

A week after Hurricane Harvey began menacing the coast, Texans and state and federal officials are just beginning to get a sense of what could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Meanwhile, more than 650 new state laws are set to go into effect — unless they're currently tied up in court. Here's what you need to know: view article arw

A texting and driving ban, sword-carrying rights and permission to hunt wild hogs from hot air balloons are just some of the many new Texas laws going into effect Friday. Others ban a long-standing practice of allowing children under 16 years old to marry, give faith-based child welfare organizations authority to deny placing children with gay parents, and make it harder to fight insurance companies that give homeowners lower-thank-expected damage estimates. view article arw

If somebody you know got stopped seven or eight times for driving drunk, would you think they had a problem?  Texas lawmakers have now been popped by federal judges seven or eight times in recent years for intentionally discriminating against minority voters in voter ID and redistricting legislation.  Think they’ve got a problem? view article arw

The responses from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to their failures in the recently ended Special Session are telling. Both men are acting like the proverbial spoiled child after getting their agenda mostly blown out by the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Joe Straus. Abbott blamed Straus of “dilly-dallying” on initiatives such as lowering property taxes and the bathroom bill. Patrick likened Straus to a coward in battle: “Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo. He (Straus) might have been the first one over the wall.” Straus countered that the House “worked diligently in the special session, passing legislation that was in the best interest of all Texans.” view article arw

If Harrison County Extension Agent Louraiseal McDonald receives a text while driving, the sender automatically gets the message: she's "driving, can't text. Sent from My ALTIMA." The feature is something McDonald decided to activate in October 2015, as a matter of safety. "It came with the car," McDonald said. "I had an option to automatically send somebody a message while I'm driving because my phone is synched to my car. view article arw

Clergy split on bathroom bill

August 2508:15 AM
 

During a special legislative session that began last month, Texas Republicans in both the House and Senate introduced a series of bills to regulate bathroom use. The bills, including HB 46 and HB 50 and SB 3 and 91, were introduced as privacy bills that would require students at public high schools and higher education institutions to use the restroom and locker room consistent with their birth sex and prevent local government from adopting policies related to restroom use. view article arw

Over social conservatives’ objections, the House, divided against itself, did stand down a special-session “privacy” bill that would have controlled transgender peoples’ restroom use. That loss, coupled with a failure to push through property tax legislation, helped dash Gov. Greg Abbott’s hopes of a “20 for 20” agenda win and prompted him to say simply that “this special session has produced a far better Texas than before.” view article arw

The so-called bathroom bill failed to gain traction in the Texas legislature, and ultimately was left on the scrap heap of the special session, but there is some fallout now that kids and their parents are headed back to school, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports. The heated debate over limiting bathroom use to someone's birth sex has some parents now questioning whether their children go to class with a transgender student. Northside ISD Superintendent Dr. Brian Woods, who was a vocal opponent of the legislation, says they're ready if that question comes up. view article arw

A federal judge in Texas has again thrown out the state's controversial voter ID law, which required voters to show one of several approved forms of photo ID to cast a ballot.  U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued a permanent injunction against the law on Wednesday. In her ruling, the judge wrote that changes made to the law did not "fully ameliorate" practices she said were "enacted with discriminatory intent — knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of hispanic and African-American voters." view article arw