Pre-Filing of Bills for 2017 Legislative Session Has Begun

Monday, November 14, marked the opening of bill filing for the 2017 legislative session that starts January 10. Education-related measures make up a high percentage of the 500 or so bills already pre-filed this week.

Pre-filed bills address many perennial issues and some hot new topics. In the latter category we note these, for example:

  • HB 363 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) and SB 160 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) are companion bills outlawing the use by the Texas Education Agency of any performance indicator that is based on the percentage of students enrolled in special education. TEA recently agreed under pressure from media investigations and federal inquiries pressure to cease using an indicator that discouraged district enrollment of more than 8.5 percent of all students in special education, though the agency did not concede that this indicator ever was a trigger for any punitive action. SB 214 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) also would prohibit the use of such a cap in the state’s performance-monitoring system.
  • A medley of bills by Sen. Menendez and Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) would address the phenomenon of cyberbullying of students, including cyberbullying that originates off campus. The companion bills are SB 179/HB 306, SB 180/HB 305, and SB 181/HB 304.

Bills that reflect perennial issues addressed by lawmakers include these:

  • SB 35 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) would provide full-day pre-kindergarten for certain students. HB 196 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) is identical to SB 35.  A related bill, HB 188 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), would require average pupil/teacher ratios of 10 students per teacher or teacher aide in pre-K classes, which are not covered by the 22-to-1 requirement that applies in grades K-4.
  • HB 218 by Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park) would extend to non-certified education employees the coverage of certain laws penalizing improper relationships with students.

Upcoming Hotlines will continue our reportage on noteworthy pre-filed bills.