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Legislative Update: Appropriations and Other Bills of Interest

This update on the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature is provided by Linda Young, special assistant to the president for external affairs.

Appropriations

The Senate’s Finance Bill discussions were stalled earlier when there were not enough votes to pass the budget, with the Rainy Day Fund still a bone of contention. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had been quietly supportive of accessing the Fund for 2012-2013, then he made a statement that he was opposed, and again recently softened his opposition to using Rainy Day funds. Sen. Steve Ogden took the microphone and asked if anyone was interested in taking up House Bill 1, laughed, and said he supposed there were no takers. He has stated that while there is some movement, he will continue to work to refine the Senate version of Appropriations to get a mix that will draw Democratic support to meet the vote requirement of 21 votes. 

Ogden also has stated that the proposed constitutional amendment to clarify that a state income tax could be applied to business partnerships and corporations may well yet have movement. SJR 52 could be brought up, but getting a 2/3 majority to pass will be difficult. Ogden’s idea is to scrap the existing margin tax, and go to a new plan where businesses would be assessed an income tax. 

We have now seen an additional 1 percent cut to community college payroll in HB 1, but we still need to see the language to know full impact. Some say this was a fee and was based on the fact that more funds were put back into health care.

House Bill 4, the legislation written to make adjustments to the Appropriations and to clarify amounts for specific funding, was passed out of Senate Finance May 2. In that engrossed version after Senate amendments, changes from the original bill included that HEGI and Financial Aid for community colleges will be excluded from the 2.5 percent reductions, and it also exempts a significant portion of financial aid from the 5 percent cuts.

The Senate passed Sen. Robert Duncan’s SB 1811 which generates about $1.4 billion in new revenue for use the in 2012-2013 budget. Floor discussion continues to have members offering up potential solutions for cuts as well, and one recent suggestion included to cut longevity pay for state employees, and to impose pay cuts of 10 % for any state employee making $200,000 or $100,000, but that did not have any support.

Duncan Rider to SB 1

Duncan’s rider that would fund a study to develop the blueprint for a state Office of Community Colleges was discussed among the Community College Association of Texas Trustees (CCATT) and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), and TACC voted to simply oppose the rider rather than to use the approach supported by CCATT to try for a floor amendment to the language, and also pointed out that TACC represents a much larger number of the colleges than CCATT at this time.

Other

Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s Concealed Handgun Permit was stalled, and he amended one of Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s bills to add his CHP language, and Zaffirini stated she would not allow her bill to come up. However, her Senate Bill 5, with Wentworth’s amendment, was placed on the intent calendar for May 2, but the item was not taken up before adjournment, which may be due to Zaffirini’s unwillingness to allow her bill to be the vehicle for the handgun language. In addition, we are watching for movement of the Open Carry legislation which could still have legs. 

Additional Legislation of Interest

SB 5 by Zaffirini: Relating to the administration and business affairs of public institutions of higher education. On April 27, it was up for a second vote on the Senate floor, Wentworth offered amendment number 7 that would allow guns on campus.  Vote on the amendment was postponed. Was placed on intent calendar for May 2, but no action was taken on it before Senate adjourned.

SB 1226 by Hegar: Relating to the ballot language for junior college district annexation elections. Passed in both chambers and has been sent to the Governor.

HB 736 by Patrick, Dianne: Relating to online institution resumes for public institutions of higher education. Passed in the House on April 27 and has been sent to the Senate.

HB 2226 by Truitt: Relating to authorized investments for governmental entities. Passed in the House on April 26 and has been sent to the Senate.

HB 2937 by Lewis: Relating to access to the criminal history record information of certain individuals by public or private institutions of higher education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Passed in the House and has been sent to the Senate.

 SB 1488 by West:  Relating to the purchasing and contracting practices of junior college districts; providing criminal penalties. Placed on local & uncontested calendar for May 5; it passed the Senate and was referred to House Higher Education Committee. This is the legislation that we have supported for several sessions, and it is part of the ACC Legislative Agenda this session.

SB 1619 by Duncan: Relating to participation of public high school students in college credit programs.  Passed in the Senate on April 28 and sent to the House.

SB 1564 by West: Relating to developmental education courses and the assessment of student readiness under the Texas Success Initiative for public institutions of higher education.  On April 26, the Higher Education Committee recommended it for the local & uncontested calendar.  It passed in the Senate and was referred to the House Higher Education committee May 4.

posted in: Legislative Updates


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