After the Senate added an education savings account voucher program for special needs students to the school finance reform bill (funding for which had been whittled down from more than $1.6 billion to just over $.5 billion in the negotiated budget), House author Dan Huberty refused to agree to the Senate changes on HB 21 and requested the appointment of a conference committee.

During the House discussion of the matter on Wednesday, the House also "instructed the conferees" (a non-binding request reflecting the wishes of a majority of House members) not to include any version of a voucher program in the final version of the bill.

Only a couple of hours later, Huberty's Senate counterpart, Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor, said that he would not agree to the request for a conference committee. This likely signals the death of both vouchers and school finance reform, although there are still enough days left in the session (which ends Monday, May 29) for almost anything to happen.

HB 3976, the TRS-Care bill, has now been finally passed by both the House and Senate and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. Assuming it is not vetoed (a veto is not expected) the bill will go into effect with the beginning of the 2018 plan year on January 1, 2018. Until that time, retirees will enroll in one of the existing plans as per current law.