Update: Texas Legislative Session
We are a little over one month into the 86th Texas Legislative Session and the pace is starting to pick up. Legislators have until Friday, March 8 to file bills and joint resolutions. To date, 3,045 House and Senate bills and resolutions have been filed.
Governor Abbott gave his State of the State address in early February and identified school finance reform, increasing teacher pay, property tax reform, school safety, mental health programs, and disaster response as emergency items. This designation means that legislation related to those items can be taken up for a vote on the House or Senate floor in the first 60 days of the session. Bills not related to those topics cannot be considered for a floor vote until after 60 days.
Two key bills which meet this criteria are SB 2, related to property tax reform; and SB 3, related to additional funding to increase classroom teachers’ salaries.
SB 2 lowers the rollback rate to 2.5% from the current 8% for all taxing units with more than $15 million in combined property and sales tax revenue. If local governments want to exceed that cap to generate more revenue, they will need to have an election and ask voters. The bill was referred to the Senate Property Tax Committee chaired by Senator Paul Bettencourt. A hearing was held February 6 at which city and county leaders argued that the bill would seriously hamstring their ability to budget for necessary services. Despite that, the committee approved the bill on February 11.
SB 3, by Senator Jane Nelson, provides for a $5000 raise for all full-time classroom teachers. The estimated $3.7 billion price tag for this raise is included in the additional $7 billion proposed in the Senate version of the budget. TLA sent letters to Senator Nelson, Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen strongly opposing SB 3 as currently written because it does not include school librarians in the salary increase, and asking that any legislation providing salary increases include school librarians.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) submitted a $68.5 million budget request for the biennium, and a $37.9 million request for additional exceptional items. TLA endorsed the state library’s budget request, including all exceptional items. Our priority, however, is exceptional item #4 which requests $4.2 million to leverage state buying power to provide access to e-book materials for public, K-12, and academic library users.
TLA President Jennifer LaBoon (Fort Worth ISD) testified at the Senate Finance hearing; and Cindy Buchanan (Aldine ISD) and Linda Stevens (Harris County Public Library) testified at the House Appropriations Article I Subcommittee hearing in support of TSLAC’s budget.
Visit the TLA Texas Legislative Session webpages for the latest information.