Austin, Texas: (Monday, January 14, 2019) State Representative Shawn Thierry (D - 146) announced three pieces of legislation tackling public school safety and addressing the mental health needs of Texas' children. The impetus for the bills is the alarming rise in student suicide and school violence in Texas.  As the mother of a six-year old child attending a Houston area public school, Representative Thierry said she deeply identifies with the fears parents now face on a daily basis, as they drop their children off at school. “Most would agree that children are our most treasured assets. They should be able to learn and thrive without the fear that at any given moment, they may be the next next victim of a school shooting. I am striving for school environments that support mental wellness and are free from lethal weapons entering the building,” remarked the Rep. Thierry. view article arw

Repost!  The initial House budget has been released and true to the commitment of incoming Speaker Dennis Bonnen, public education has been made priority one. The budget calls for $9 billion in new state funding for public education over the next two years contingent upon legislation passing that "...increases the state share of the Foundation School Program, enhances district entitlements, reduces recapture, and provides local property tax relief, while maintaining an equitable system of school finance." The budget language specifies that a portion of the new funding will be used to provide local property tax relief; however, no specific amount is provided. It should be noted that the proposed $9 billion increase is above the $2.4 billion appropriated for student enrollment growth and the $2.2 billion included for the increase in the Golden Penny Guaranteed Yield, which increases to $126.88 in 2020 and $135.92 in 2021. You can view the proposed 2020-2021 House budget. The relevant language regarding the increase is located in Article III on page 27 in Rider 77.    read more arw

As Texas kicks off another legislative session, the Legislature is under the microscope in a way this state hasn’t experienced in years.  Whether you pore over November election data or simply listen to the chatter around the state Capitol, the conclusion is clear: Next year, state legislators are likely to face the most competitive elections they’ve seen in a decade, and those elections will be shaped by policy decisions they make this year. view article arw

It's been in place for a quarter of a century, and it's named after a story hundreds of years old. However in West Texas, one lawmaker isn't too sure the Robin Hood Plan is all good. That's why for this legislative session, he's hoping to get it repealed. "I think the time for Robin Hood, has come and gone," says State Representative Brooks Landgraf. "Robin Hood especially here in the Permian Basin, it hurts students, it hurts teachers and it hurts taxpayers." view article arw

In hockey and soccer a hat trick is accomplished when a player scores three goals in a single game. The Texas Legislature, now into its first week of the current biennium, is promising a hat trick of its own by crafting laws that will (1) rein in property taxes, (2) increase funding for public education, and (3) balance the state budget. view article arw

Incentive programs, transportation and education among their legislative agenda items If Texas business leaders wanted an excuse to slack off during the just-started legislative session, they might point to the state’s historically low unemployment rate, solid economic growth and robust job creation and opt to sit this one out. Instead, they’re gearing up to convince state lawmakers that those trends didn’t happen by accident. “The ‘Texas Miracle’ came about because we had a plan of action,” said Jeff Moseley, president of the Texas Association of Business, using a term coined early this decade to describe the state’s strong economy. “There is competition (nationwide) for high-wage, high-benefit jobs, and we better be prepared” to fight for them. view article arw

A group of state leaders with huge influence over what public services receive funding said Friday they were prepared to make a significant withdrawal from the state’s savings account. At a public hearing, House and Senate leaders listed myriad needs they could pay for out of the savings account, including leftover costs from Hurricane Harvey, a bill coming due for retired teachers’ pensions and unspecified public school safety improvements. That savings account, known formally as the Economic Stabilization Fund and colloquially as the rainy day fund, is projected to reach an unprecedented $15 billion in the coming budget cycle if left untouched. view article arw

As Texas kicks off another legislative session, the Legislature is under the microscope in a way this state hasn’t experienced in years. Whether you pore over November election data or simply listen to the chatter around the state capitol, the conclusion is clear: next year, state legislators are likely to face the most competitive elections they’ve seen in a decade, and those elections will be shaped by policy decisions they make this year. view article arw

As Texas’ Republican leadership calls for property tax cuts and a school finance overhaul, the Texas House on Monday pitched a bold proposal: Pump roughly $7 billion more state funds into public schools — but only if lawmakers can satisfactorily overhaul the school finance system to slow the growth of property taxes.  Budget documents published Monday evening show the House has offered up a whopping 17 percent increase in K-12 public education funding so long as lawmakers achieve a few lofty goals in reforming how the state pays for public schools view article arw

The Republican era in Texas government got its real start 40 years ago this week, when Bill Clements became the first GOP governor of the state since Reconstruction. He wasn’t the first modern Republican in statewide office — that was John Tower, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1961. But Clements was the trailblazer for the party that now dominates state government, holding all of the elected statewide offices.  It took two decades for the GOP’s candidates to gain full control of the executive branch, but they swept those elections in 1998 and never looked back. Starting with Clements, Republicans have won nine of the last 11 gubernatorial elections, Democrats only two. view article arw

Faced with the prospect of stagnant or declining state aid amid increasing operating costs, Spring and Klein ISD officials said they are looking to the 2019 legislative session for proposals to provide more money for schools. Officials in KISD, which failed to win voter support for a proposal to increase its property tax rate last year, and SISD, where flat enrollment numbers mean state aid will not increase substantially, have said the current funding system is not sufficient to keep up with annual costs. view article arw

A group of state leaders with huge influence over what public services receive funding said Friday they were prepared to make a significant withdrawal from the state’s savings account. At a public hearing, House and Senate leaders listed myriad needs they could pay for out of the savings account, including leftover costs from Hurricane Harvey, a bill coming due for retired teachers’ pensions and unspecified public school safety improvements.  view article arw

State Representative Brooks Landgraf has file legislation to repeal the Robin Hood plan. The Robin Hood plan sends a portion of funds from property wealthy school districts to other schools throughout the state. view article arw

Happy New Year! During this legislative session, as a way to help you keep up with important issues, I will be writing this column once a week to share things I hope are of interest to you which are happening at your Texas Capitol each week.  Here are five things happening at your Capitol this week: view article arw

The state leader discusses property tax reform and school finance changes. view article arw

The “bathroom bill” won’t be back this session, its loudest champion suggested Wednesday morning. At a Governor’s Mansion press conference on the second day of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who last session was the top state leader championing the measure, which would have regulated the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans — suggested there’s no need to bring back the divisive proposal that headlined the last legislative year in 2017. view article arw

WHAT WE REPORTED The Clear Creek ISD board of trustees in July approved a slew of recommended school safety improvements. The most significant recommendation was to hire an additional 15 school liaison officers and an additional 15 student-support counselors, one each for the district’s five high schools and 10 intermediate schools. The district has since hired these employees. view article arw

A bill to be entitled an act relating to the issuance of specialty license plates for classroom teachers and retired classroom teachers; imposing a fee. view article arw

Between jokes about Californians and playful swipes at political discord, Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Thursday dug his heels into his commitment to prioritize school funding this year, adding that lawmakers who say they care about kids can’t wait and let generations go unprepared. "If there is a school that is failing, why are we not more willing to fix it?” Bonnen, R-Angleton, told several hundred attendees at a breakfast in downtown Austin hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. view article arw

Following an uncharacteristic quiet spell after the general election, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appears to be back in form, back in the news and in the middle of the state’s political conversations. But with new leadership in the Texas House and a governor who appears ready to spend some political capital on a couple of big issues, Patrick might not be the agenda-setter he was two years ago. Newly elected House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, replaces Joe Straus, the San Antonio Republican who had become Patrick’s foil. Gov. Greg Abbott — helped by legislative studies that have been in the works since the last session — has been trying to build momentum for school finance and property tax remedies, hoping to rebalance formula funding for schools and students while either cutting property taxes or at least curbing the growth of those unpopular levies. view article arw

Every two years, The Texas Tribune compiles the demographics of the Texas Legislature. Every two years, the headline is the same.  Once again, the disparities between the makeup of the Legislature and the people they are elected to represent are stark: In a state where people of color are in the majority, almost two out of every three lawmakers are white. And not even a quarter of them are women.  Meet the 86th Legislature, starting with its newest members: view article arw

The Texas legislature began its 86th Legislative session this week by swearing in 19 Republican and 12 Democrat Senators, and 83 Republican and 67 Democrat Representatives. Lawmakers in Austin are expected to address several important topics during the 140-day session; among them are property taxes, school finance, Harvey relief funding, drivers licenses for non-citizens, and marijuana decriminalization. view article arw

Governor Greg Abbott held a joint press conference with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to talk about their priorities for the 86th legislative session. The trio reaffirmed their commitment to working together to advance solutions to the challenges facing the Lone Star State. “As we head into the legislative session, Texans can rest assured that we are prepared to work together to take on the challenges facing our state.” said Governor Abbott. view article arw

Amid continued scrutiny over how lawmakers handle reports of sexual misconduct by their colleagues, members of the House on Wednesday approved a measure that will strengthen the way the chamber addresses complaints of sexual harassment.  As part of a unanimous vote on the House's standard housekeeping resolution that governs its operations, the chamber approved a new internal policy that would move investigative duties for complaints of inappropriate behavior to a legislative committee with subpoena power. It also cements the use of independent investigations of elected officials. view article arw

Robin Hood under attack

January 1108:25 AM
 

This year, the Comal Independent School District has budgeted to return about $7.2 million in property tax proceeds to the state under the Chapter 41 plan, which since 1993 has redistributed proceeds from property-rich public school districts to fund poorer districts. On Thursday, District 73 State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, filed House Bill 729, a measure that would redefine that provision of the school finance plan, commonly called “Robin Hood.” view article arw

The “bathroom bill” won’t be back this session, its loudest champion suggested Wednesday morning.  At a Governor’s Mansion press conference on the second day of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – who last session was the top state leader championing the measure, which would have regulated the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans – suggested there’s no need to bring back the divisive proposal that headlined the last legislative year in 2017, but failed to reach the governor's desk. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that legislation targeting Houston ISD is "nothing that I'm contemplating" as lawmakers begin their biennial session this week. Abbott's comment comes one week after he blasted HISD's leadership as a "disaster" and retweeted two posts highlighting state Sen. Paul Bettencourt's pledge to file legislation that would change the way HISD trustees are elected. view article arw

The “bathroom bill” won’t be back this session, its loudest champion suggested Wednesday morning.  At a Governor’s Mansion press conference on the second day of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who last session was the top state leader championing the measure, which would have regulated the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans — suggested there’s no need to bring back the divisive proposal that headlined the last legislative year in 2017. view article arw

Heading into the 86th Texas Legislature, there's a sense of optimism among Abilene's education leaders. Whether it's school finance changes, adjustments to accountability, attention to various aspects of student and staff security in the aftermath of the Santa Fe High School shooting in May, there's a sense positive governing might be coming. "Two years ago, we might have been sitting here and the big thing to watch was what wasn't going to happen," Abilene Independent School District Superintendent David Young said. "It's quite a bit different now. I'm cautiously optimistic." view article arw

A bill to be entitled relating to the equalized wealth level under the public school finance system. view article arw

Moments after he was elected House Speaker on Tuesday, Rep. Dennis Bonnen’s voice cracked as he repeated his late father’s advice to leave the House and Texas better than he found them. “In a state as big and diverse as Texas, there are plenty of ideas about what we should do on any one issue and these ideas often point in different directions. It’s our job to reconcile the differences,” said Bonnen, R-Angleton, contrasting the state with dysfunction in Washington, D.C. He called for members to mentor one another and “invest in our relationships.” view article arw

Governor Greg Abbott said they were united to solve a voter mandate: increasing state funding for public schools while lowering property taxes. “It's something we have to get done." view article arw

Our pretty decent revenue estimate

January 1008:35 AM
 

We’ve seen much worse. At a time when legislators are vowing to spend more money on public schools and slow the growth of Texans’ property tax bills, the state should have enough money at its disposal to do just that. That is, if its newest predictions hold true. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Monday offered a cautiously optimistic outlook for the Texas economy, telling lawmakers they will have about 8.1 percent more state funds available to budget for public programs — primarily schools, highways and health care — in 2020 and 2021. view article arw

With energy and ideas from first-time legislators and lots of newly engaged Texans, we're at the beginning of an exciting and critically important Texas legislative session. Now is the time for Texas to invest in our most valuable resource — our own people. view article arw

For the first time in a decade, the Texas House of Representatives elected a new Speaker and across the rotunda, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, missed the ceremonial first day after attending a meeting at the White House. “To be very honest, this is a little bit of a weird experience for me. I never dreamed or planned to be in this position,” said the new Speaker, Dennis Bonnen. view article arw