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11 Days and Counting!

Advocacy, TLA Membership

With just 11 days remaining in the 86th Texas Legislative Session, and deadlines looming in the House, it is crunch time for many bills. Saturday, May 18 is the last day for house committees to report senate bills and senate joint resolutions in order for them to have any chance of being placed on a house calendar.

HB 1 – Budget
A conference committee has been appointed and is meeting to work through the differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill. The House version includes funds for three of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s (TSLAC) exceptional items (records center expansion, cybersecurity, and staff salary increases).  The additional $4.2 million to add ebooks to TexShare and TexQuest is in Article XI, a sort of wish list that is not part of the budget.  The Senate included funding for TSLAC’s general counsel exceptional item request, but no others.

HB 3 – School Finance Reform
One of the most significant differences between the House and Senate bills is their approach to providing pay raises for educators.  The Senate included a $5000 raise for classroom teachers and librarians; the House  directs districts to give all school employees about a $1,850 pay raise. A conference committee has been appointed and is meeting.

SB 2 – Property Tax Reform
Both the House and Senate agreed to cap local cities and counties at 3.5% growth in property tax revenue per year (up from the 2.5% proposed in the original versions of the bill), unless an election is held and voters approve a tax increase beyond that threshold. A conference committee has been appointed and is meeting.

HB 402 – Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA)
This bill was passed by both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor for signature.

HB 700 – Public Libraries and Skills Development Fund
The bill expands the types of organizations that can apply for grants from the Skills Development Fund to include public libraries, and local workforce development boards. The Governor’s office notified the bill’s Senate sponsor that they wanted libraries removed. The bill was amended and passed by the Senate, and no longer includes libraries. However, the House author has not concurred with that amendment so there is a possibility that a conference committee will be appointed to resolve this issue.

HB 1960 – Governor’s Broadband Council
A representative from the library community is included in the membership of the Broadband Council. The bill was passed by both the House and Senate, and hopefully will be sent to the Governor for signature soon.

HB 1962 – TSLAC Sunset Reauthorization
HB 1962 passed the House. The bill was considered  and left pending in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee this week.

HB 3730 – TexQuest databases
This bill established that only school districts that comply with the Children’s Internet Protect Act (CIPA) would be eligible to participate in TexQuest; and would require TSLAC to only purchase online resources for TexQuest from vendors who are CIPA compliant. The bill was passed by the House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism, and placed on the House calendar for consideration. However, they did not get to the bill before the May 10 deadline for the House to pass House bills.

HB 4181 – Legislative Records and Archives
This bill would make monumental changes to how official records of the Texas legislature are managed. These changes have the potential to create a legislative branch carve out from public scrutiny, undermining the public’s right to know, and limiting government accountability. The House passed the bill, and it is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on May 16.