This past week, the House Appropriations Committee voted to accept certain budget riders that would amend the house version of the state budget, House Bill 1. HB 1 is a general framework, but the specifics of the budget are largely determined by budget riders. Riders direct how the funding in the budget should or should be spent.
The Appropriations Committee voted to approve hundreds of budget riders, which will be considered on the House floor when HB 1 is brought up for debate, but one specific budget rider related to higher education sparked passionate debate among the committee members.
Rider No. 186, by Rep. Carrie Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) “practices or similar programs” in higher education and state agencies.
Because the Legislature is promoting anti-DEI legislation, Texas universities are already experiencing difficulty retaining and recruiting faculty to the state. Hispanic and Black faculty already are disproportionately underrepresented at major public universities in Texas.
Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, Barbara Gervin Hawkins, Mary González, Armando Walle, and others gave passionate testimony defending DEI practices in higher education.
Despite the emotional and personal testimony from these representatives, the motion to strike this rider failed. The rider will now go to the whole House for consideration.
Pensions, Investments, & Financial Services
This week, the Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services (PIFS) Committee convened to consider HCR 20, which would call on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). These provisions reduce the Social Security benefits of public employees who do not pay into Social Security. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) estimates that 95% of Texas teachers do not pay into Social Security.
Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) authored HCR 20 and has authored previous resolutions calling on Congress to repeal WEP and GPO. During the last Congress, legislation to repeal the WEP and GPO gained significant support, but ultimately did not move out of committee.
Because the WEP and GPO are federal provisions, their repeal requires action by the U.S. Congress, not the Texas Legislature. A resolution in the Texas Legislature calling for the repeal of the WEP and GPO would not repeal these provisions, but it would send a strong signal to Congress.