The last few weeks of May are the busiest time of the session, and as key deadlines approach (for example, the last day for a House bill to be considered by the House on the regular calendar is next Thursday, May 11, so any House bills must be voted out of committee by this weekend), the House and Senate are seeing a flurry of activity. Politics games abound, though, with the chambers appearing to play “chicken” with each others’ bills. One House member noted Thursday that the House had passed 19 Senate bills at that point, but the Senate had only passed one House bill.

Budget

Rumors abound that budget negotiations are not going well. The budget is the only legislation that must pass during a legislative session, and failure to do so would force one or more special sessions. Discussions remain behind closed doors, however, and a breakthrough can happen at any time. School funding is a significant part of the budget and the negotiations.

TRS-Care

Since a TRS-Care bill has passed both the House and Senate, we expect a version of the plan we have reported on previously  to make it to the governor’s desk. But without knowing the funding levels to be included in the final version of budget, it’s impossible to predict specifically how the new plan will affect retirees under age 65 with regard to premium and deductible levels.

Testing and accountability

HB 515, eliminating the 7th grade social studies STAAR, passed the House this week, but no similar legislation was filed in the Senate and it remains to be seen how the bill will be received in that chamber. HB 1776, which replaces the US History end-of-course exam with the US civics test has also passed the House.

Bills to revise the accountability system have been considered in both chambers, but there does not appear to be a clear consensus on whether legislation might pass or what it would look like. The House bill (HB 22, which has passed the House) would eliminate summative A-F accountability ratings and would delay full implementation of A-F ratings until the 2019-20 school year. Both HB 22 and the Senate version (SB 2051, which is still in committee in the Senate), would collapse the current five domains to three and would include new non-test-based measures in those domains.

Educator misconduct

SB 7, which expands current educator misconduct laws to include relationships between an educator and a student in any school district, not only the one in which the educator works, has passed the Senate and is on the House calendar for today (Friday, May 5). The bill also cracks down on administrators that help an employee known to have engaged in inappropriate conduct get employment in a different district. It includes TCTA provisions, including language ensuring that employees cannot be required by the district to disclose personal phone numbers or email addresses to students. The identical House bill is also set on the House calendar for Saturday, May 6.

Bills not moving

  • SB 13, the bill prohibiting payroll deduction of association dues, has stalled in the House. It has not been referred to a committee.
  • SB 3, the voucher legislation, is also stalled and is not expected to pass.
  • No legislation that proposes to restructure TRS to a defined contribution/401(k) plan is moving. A bill to require a study of the subject has passed the Senate but has not yet been referred to a House committee.