Legislative Update: Week of May 3

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Public Education Committee

SB 179  (Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville) We’ve reported before on a Texas-AFT-backed bill by Rep. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso that would require a school board to adopt a policy for a school counselor to spend at least 80% of their work time on duties that are components of a school counseling program. This Senate version of the bill passed out of committee.

HB 4064 (Terry Mesa, D-Garland) would expand existing bullying prevention policies and procedures to include harassment prevention policies.

SB 462 (Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville) as passed by the Senate, would permit a district to use funds from their transportation allotment to transport meals or instructions materials, and would allow that the district be reimbursed on a per-mile basis for transporting a meal or instructional materials to a student’s residence or other location designated by the district for the duration of a declared disaster.

HB 1417 (Sam Harless, R-Spring) would update the requirements under a campus improvement plan to include strategies and goals—such as bullying prevention and dropout deterrence—to support students’ emotional health. The bill passed out of committee.

SB 89 (José Menéndez, D-San Antonio) would require school districts to prepare an individualized education program (IEP) supplement for each child who was enrolled in a school district’s special education program during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school year. The bill passed out of committee.

Senate Education Committee

SB 1968 (Bettencourt, R-Houston) is yet another voucher bill that would establish a tax credit called “the Family Educational Relief Program.” It allows eligible families to apply for a voucher that is worth 90% of state per-pupil funding for the preceding year. The funds may be used to pay for a private school, online school, or an institution of higher education. The bill, which Texas AFT strongly opposes, was left pending in committee. 

HB 725 (Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo) would allow a child who has been in foster care in another state or territory to qualify for free public school prekindergarten programs in Texas, so long as the child currently lives in Texas. Texas AFT supported this bill, which was passed out of the committee Thursday.

Briefs

  • Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar revised the state’s Biennial Revenue Estimate with an additional $3.1 billion for coming biennium.
  • SB 7, which contains a wide range of new voting rules that would suppress voting passed the House Friday in the early morning after a contentious floor debate on a 78-64 vote. It heads back to the Senate and then likely to a conference committee where lawmakers will rework the bill—largely behind closed doors (where many worry the improvements made on the House floor will disappear).
     
  • HB 1927, which would allow permitless carrying of handguns, passed both chambers. The House must now decide whether to accept senate amendments or head to a conference committee.