88th Texas Legislature: Public Education Preview
Next Tuesday, the Texas Legislature will gavel in for its 88th legislative session. Over the next five months, both the Senate and the House of Representatives will write bills, hear testimony, and pass laws that will affect every Texan but especially school employees, retired educators, students, parents, and anyone directly involved with our public schools.
Texas AFT has a full slate of events to kick off the new legislative session next week. Early next week, Texas AFT leaders from across the state will gather in Austin to meet with legislators before they gavel in for the session. At 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, President Zeph Capo will be joined by allied legislators for a press conference to discuss our union’s Respect Agenda. We’ll be sharing updates to our social media channels, and we will have a full recap of the festivities for you in next week’s Hotline.
Upcoming Member Events
On Wednesday Jan. 11, Texas AFT will host a virtual Legislative Advocacy Training. This event is for AFT members and leaders who are interested in making their voices heard in the upcoming legislative session and ready to get involved in the legislative process.
On Thursday Jan. 12, Texas AFT will host a virtual Member Legislative Briefing toto provide all AFT members with information on what’s at stake during the upcoming session.
We invite all AFT members across the state to attend these events.
Good Bills of the Week:
Though legislators aren’t sworn in officially until Tuesday, members of both houses are already hard at work drafting bills. As of today, Texas representatives have filed over 1,200 bills, and senators have filed over 300 bills. Hundreds of these bills relate to public education, and we expect hundreds more by the time bill filing ends March 10.
- HB 770 by Alma Allen (D-Houston) would provide an across-the-board step increase plus $400 to all certified educators.
- HB 1115 by Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) and HB 1137 by Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco) would tie TRS annuities to inflation.
- HB 301 by Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) would provide a 6% TRS cost-of-living adjustment capped at $100 per month for all TRS members who retired before August 2021.
- SB 193 by Borris Miles (D-Houston) would require schools to alert parents if a school has no on-campus nurse.
- HB 991 by Terry Meza (D-Dallas) would establish a $15 minimum wage for school bus drivers.
- HB 977 by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would create a commission to improve current assessment and accountability systems.
- HB 342 by John Bucy (D-Round Rock) would provide full-day Pre-K to certain 3- and 4-year-olds.
Once the legislative session begins, the Legislature will have about five months until it adjourns sine die on May 29. Over those five months, for any bill to become law, it must pass out of committee in both houses and be approved by both houses. Committee hearings mostly take place between February and April, with bills being passed between both houses throughout the session.
Besides the deadline to file bills on March 10 and the end of session on May 29, another key day to remember is budget night, which typically occurs on a Thursday in late April. On budget night, the House finalizes a budget for the next biennium (the two-year period between legislative sessions). Most key appropriations (money set aside for specific purposes) are included in the state budget, so if there is no appropriation in the budget, any bill that would require significant state funding faces an uphill battle.
The state will know exactly how much money it has to spend in the budget after the state comptroller announces the biennial revenue estimate on Monday, Jan. 9.