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Thrall ISD shows a positive impact from HB3 and the 86th Legislative Session; Thrall ISD has been identified as a Texas Fast Growth District from the past three-years enrollment data. The 86th Legislative Session ended in May and HB3 was passed to bring a significant amount of funding for Texas School Districts. view article arw

In their lawsuit, the Democrats contend Bonnen, Sullivan and state Rep. Dustin Burrows violated campaign finance laws and demanded that Sullivan produce a recording of the meeting that he has so far played only for select Republicans  Texas Democrats are suing over a June 12 meeting House Speaker Dennis Bonnenhad with one of his top lieutenants and Michael Quinn Sullivan, a hardline conservative activist, saying the three were engaged in serious campaign finance violations and demanding that Sullivan produce a full recording of the gathering that he has shared with only a small group of Republicans. view article arw

AUSTIN, TX — Of the three Texas representatives who have listened to the Michael Quinn Sullivan recording, two are recipients of an outsized amount of Empower Texans campaign cash and the third lost the contest for speaker to Bonnen and is alleged to be among those Republicans targeted for electoral defeat by the House Speaker. He might carry a grudge.  Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan alleges that in a secret, backroom meeting with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and State GOP Caucus Chair and Rep. Dustin Burrows, Sullivan’s Empower Texans news website, Texas Scorecard, was offered press credentials on the House floor next session if Empower Texans would target 10 Republican state representatives for defeat this election cycle. view article arw

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Director of Bands for New Deal ISD has announced plans to run on the Republican ticket for House District 83, challenging Republican incumbent Representative Dustin Burrows.  David Speer has more than 15 years experience teaching students in west Texas, starting as band director at Frenship High School in 2004.  Born in Austin, Speer graduated from the University of Texas and married his wife Tamara, a Texas Tech graduate, raising three children in Lubbock. view article arw

The chair of the powerful House budget-writing Appropriations Committee, state Rep. John Zerwas, will be the new executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System.  Zerwas, a doctor by training, announced Wednesday that he would retire from the Legislature effective Sept. 30, after representing Richmond as a Republican for more than a decade. He was first named the lower chamber's chief budget writer in 2017, and he previously chaired the House Higher Education Committee and served on the Public Health Committee. view article arw

A memo obtained by The Texas Tribune instructs DPS officers to cite and release suspects in misdemeanor marijuana cases "as appropriate." Officials said the goal is to continue enforcement even though some prosecutors aren't taking new pot cases.  Texas’ largest law enforcement agency is moving away from arresting people for low-level marijuana offenses. It’s the latest development in the chaos that has surrounded pot prosecution after state lawmakers legalized hemp this year. view article arw

Months before Texas district attorneys started dropping or delaying low-level marijuana cases, state lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hempwas going to complicate pot prosecutions. The warnings fell flat. In early April, members of the Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee sat through two hours of testimony supporting a bill to legalize and regulate hemp and its derivatives, like CBD oil. Most of the discussion focused on farming and regulatory procedures. Near the end of the hearing, though, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s crime lab director, Brady Mills, was brought up to the microphone to address any law enforcement concerns the legislators may have overlooked. view article arw

The ending will be the only way to judge what’s going on in the Texas House right now, after a political operative with a well-supported political action committee made an unsubstantiated claim that the Republican speaker offered House floor access in return for attacking 10 named Republicans in the 2020 primaries.  At the end of this escapade, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will either have the confidence of the members of the House or not, and the judgment of people outside the Capitol will probably flow from that. view article arw

As college costs and student debt have risen, more attention — at least among Democrats — has been focused on increasing federal support for higher education. A few years ago, the conversation centered on lowering interest rates for borrowers, and then on making community college free. But now several candidates aim to make four-year public colleges free for some or all students. Some go further, promising to erase existing debt. The plans are expensive, but draw support particularly from young people struggling to afford college. view article arw

Legislation that will give Texas teachers a pay bump and provide some relief from rising taxes for property owners will result in the Katy Independent School District offering full-day pre-kindergarten programs for eligible students beginning with the 2019-20 school year. Following the passage of House Bill 3 and its signing into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, Katy ISD officials said they are transitioning from the previous half-day pre-K program they had offered. The number of district campuses offering pre-K is expanding in order to accommodate a full-day of instruction, officials said. view article arw

Brazosport ISD officials proposed lowering the district’s tax rate by about seven cents, meaning there should be some savings for taxpayers and slightly less revenue for the district. However, the district’s recapture payments to the state were substantially reduced by the new Legislature. The rollback tax rate is proposed at $1.1853 per $100 of appraised property value, down from $1.2553 last year, District Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Kelley said at Monday’s board of trustees budget workshop. This means a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 will save about $70 a year. view article arw

State lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hemp was going to complicate pot prosecutions. In an April hearing on the bill, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s crime lab director testified that DPS crime labs did not have a way to differentiate between what would become legal hemp under the bill and still illegal marijuana, writes the Tribune’s Jolie McCullough. view article arw

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has publicly denied allegations from a hardline conservative activist that he planned to target 10 GOP members during the 2020 primary elections — four days after the accusations surfaced.  Bonnen's statement, which was released Monday, followed an email he sent to House Republicans on Friday evening disputing a version of a June 12 meeting that Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of Empower Texans, made public Thursday. view article arw

The Bonnen-MQS kerfuffle

July 3008:40 AM
 

As they say, pass the popcorn. Less than three weeks after state lawmakers wrapped up their 2019 legislative session, an unusual meeting convened with unlikely conferees from opposite ends of the Texas Capitol power structure. On one side: Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and top ally Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, both fresh off a first session that had left lawmakers trumpeting the no-nonsense, landmark school finance and property tax legislation set to soon become law. view article arw

Less than three weeks after state lawmakers wrapped up their 2019 legislative session, an unusual meeting convened with unlikely conferees from opposite ends of the Texas Capitol power structure. On one side: Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and top ally Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, both fresh off a first session that had left lawmakers trumpeting the no-nonsense, landmark school finance and property tax legislation set to soon become law. view article arw

[T}exas took a big step in improving public education when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 3, which included $6.5 billion in new public education spending. The governor called it a “monumental moment” given such generous support to public education without a court order. Texas families should be appreciative that Republican and Democratic lawmakers were able to advance a funding bill that provides additional support to public schools, which includes opportunities for increased teacher pay based on performance and incentives for teachers to work in high-needs and rural schools that are often difficult to staff with high-quality teachers. view article arw

Local state officials discussed everything from school finance to property taxes to Hurricane Harvey at a legislative wrap-up event July 23. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston; Rep. Dennis Paul, R-Houston; and Rep. Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, gathered in front of an audience of dozens at South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center for a forum hosted by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. view article arw

STUDENTS HARASSING TEACHERS

July 2408:37 AM
 

Texas just made it easier to punish students who harass teachers. The new law narrowly passed through the state legislature in May, and will go into effect in September, reports the Tribune’s Aliyya Swaby. view article arw

Legislators across Texas entered the session with a well-intentioned list of priorities focused on public schools. Specifically, the leaders in Austin planned to address school finance, property tax relief, school safety, pre-kindergarten and to keep the Teacher Retirement System afloat. Prior to the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed for a $5,000 pay raise for teachers. This announcement, along with recent school shootings, set the tone surrounding school district supports. Although the outcomes fell short of the Lt. Governor’s early ideas, still the most sweeping legislation in over 20 years occurred in the arena of school funding. view article arw

The race for U.S. Senate is starting to heat up, with multiple Democrats announcing their campaigns to challenge incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in recent weeks. North Texas native and State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) is expected to formally launch his Monday. West is scheduled to make what a press release referred to as a "major announcement" Monday at Dallas County Democratic Party headquarters. view article arw

As you know, there’s been a lot of action not just in the Houston City Council races but also in the 2020 election races. That doesn’t mean things have been dull in HISD and HCC, which of course have elections this November as well. I’m going to bring you up to date on who’s doing what in HISD and HCC, which as always deserve more attention than they usually get. We will refer to the Erik Manning spreadsheet for the names, though there will be some detours and some plot twists. Settle in and let’s get started. There are four HISD Trustees up for election this cycle: Rhonda Skillern-Jones (district II), Sergio Lira (III), Jolanda Jones (IV), and Diana Davila (VIII). Lira, running for his first full term after winning in 2017 to succeed the late Manuel Rodriguez. He has no declared opponent at this time. view article arw

Three major school finance laws were passed during the Texas Legislature's 2019 session. One of them, Senate Bill 500, focuses on revamping retirement for teachers. Section 83 of the bill moves $589 million from the state's economic stabilization fund to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). That money is designated for a one-time additional payment to retirees.  view article arw

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, recently introduced the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019, a bill that establishes federal grant programs for public schools to first to identify then mitigate vulnerabilities in their security-related infrastructure. “In the greatest country on earth, no parent should fear sending their child to school, and no child should fear for their own safety in the classroom,” Williams said in a press release. “The time has come to provide schools with the funds and resources necessary to conduct vulnerability assessments and correct security shortfalls on their campuses.  view article arw

Lawmakers entered 2019 with high hopes that they could change Texas' bail procedures, death penalty laws and drug policies. But the legislative session ended this summer without major reforms in any of those issues. Trying to prevent a similar outcome in 2021, a bipartisan group of House representatives has banded together to form an uncommon, issue-based caucus in the Texas Capitol: one targeting criminal justice reform. view article arw

The Corsicana ISD Board of Trustees met this week for its regular July meeting. The Board approved an 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. full day Pre-K schedule for the 2019-2020 school year at Drane Learning Center in Corsicana. Elmer Avellaneda, Assistant Superintendent of Special Programs, presented the benefits of the full day schedule. Already high language, math and writing skill metrics as well as social and emotional learning opportunities are expected to improve with a full day of instruction Avellaneda said. view article arw

LUBBOCK, Texas - One of the biggest highlights of this year's Texas legislative session: School finance reform. "This one law does more to advance education in Texas than any law I have seen in my adult lifetime in the state of Texas," Gov. Abbott said  At the heart of House Bill 3 is funding set aside for full-day pre-K.  view article arw

A law legalizing hemp changed the definition of marijuana, causing district attorneys across the state to drop low-level possession cases and stop accepting new ones. Weeks after Texas prosecutors began dropping hundreds of marijuana cases and stopped actively pursuing criminal charges because of complications that arose from legalizing hemp, the state's leaders have stepped into the fray. view article arw

You've got to spend money to make money. But that's not the way Texas, and a handful of other states, are looking at the 2020 census. Officials in Texas have decided not to spend any money or make statewide plans for the census, despite the fact the state experienced massive population growth in the past decade.  With federal dollars at risk, the state's major cities, business leaders and even non-profits say they are being forced to step-in instead. view article arw

Democrat Eric Holguin has announced his candidacy for Texas State House for District 32. He will challenge for the seat held by incumbent Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) in the upcoming election. House District 32 includes part of Nueces County -- 54% of Corpus Christi, including Flour Bluff & Padre Island, and the City of Port Aransas. view article arw

Republican Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has launched a political action committee to help defend the GOP majority as Democrats push to take the lower chamber in 2020. Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, has started the group, Texas Leads, with $3 million from his campaign account, his team announced Monday. The political action committee will focus exclusively on reelecting GOP members to the House — a move consistent with Bonnen's insistence that incumbents do not campaign against one another. view article arw

SEATTLE (AP) — Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch’s powerful network that’s known for influencing state policy is now targeting education issues like school choice as the movement battles a new wave of hostility from Democrats who oppose charter schools and private school vouchers that use taxpayer money.  Koch in June announced the Yes Every Kid initiative as the latest addition to his sprawling network of wealthy donors, political groups and tax-exempt advocacy organizations best known for pushing anti-regulation, small-government policies. Its political arm, Americans for Prosperity, has made waves supporting the tea party and fighting former President Barack Obama’s health care law. view article arw

Apparently, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus still has a few things to say — and $2.5 million to amplify his voice. Straus, the San Antonio Republican who served 14 years in the House, and 10 of them as the guy in charge, is taking money left over from his campaign account to fire up a political action committee to promote pro-business and "non-discriminatory" candidates and policies. “We are launching this effort because I believe Texas needs leaders who are forward-looking and dedicated to bringing creative, problem-solving ideas to the new challenges our state faces as our population rapidly grows,” Straus said when he announced the formation of the PAC Texas Forever Forward. view article arw

When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks.  A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected. view article arw

Texas took a big step in improving public education when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 3, which included $6.5 billion in new public education spending. The governor called it a “monumental moment” given such generous support to public education without a court order.  Texas families should be appreciative that Republican and Democratic lawmakers were able to advance a funding bill that provides additional support to public schools, including opportunities for increased teacher pay based on performance and incentives for teachers to work in high-needs and rural schools that are often difficult to staff with high-quality teachers. view article arw

State Budget Recap With the legislative session recently concluded, this a good time to update you on the budget and important bills that passed in the General Assembly, and how they might affect you. As there is much to cover from this five-month session, I will do this in two parts. This first op-ed will focus on our state budget and initiatives that have a fiscal impact. The next op-ed will highlight key legislation that addressed issues regarding public safety, public health, education, human services and our environment; among others. view article arw