Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > May 29, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 15)

May 29, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 15)

This Week in Austin…

The clock is counting down as the last day of the 84th Legislative Session approaches sine die on Monday, June 1. The pace has been hectic and the arguments have been harried, but the session has never been dull.

DCCCD’s advocacy team has been working with legislators on a daily basis on our legislative priories. 

Budgeting Negotiating...

A series of changes in the state’s proposed budget – the only bill that legislators are required to pass during the session – resembled a tennis match as the bill went back and forth several times between both chambers. A tax deal was the heart of the matter, and legislators now have worked out their differences and the budget likely will be approved today or Monday with tax cuts as well as a total budget cut of approximately $24 million for all Texas community colleges. We will calculate what the decrease means to our district and share the details with you as soon as the information is available.

The final budget should include several key tax cut elements:

  • change in the homestead exemption on school levies from $15,000 to $25,000, if voters approve a constitutional change (which is worth about $125 a year to the average Texas homeowner)
  • 25 percent cut in business tax rates
  • no change in the state sales tax
  • requirement that school districts, cities and other local entities would need a 60 percent vote to increase their property tax revenues

Read a detailed history by Dallas Morning News reporter Bob Garrett: How the Texas tax cut deal almost fell apart.

Signing Off...

Our advocacy team has spent much of this session talking to legislators about the value of a baccalaureate degree program for early childhood education. While the governor’s Pre-K bill passed both chambers – which he signed on Thursday – DCCCD’s efforts to secure approval to offer our proposed baccalaureate degree hit resistance in the Senate and did not move forward. Community leaders believe strongly that offering a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education would solve a teacher shortage in the Dallas area and provide almost 39,000 youngsters with access to pre-kindergarten classrooms that they don’t have now, simply because there aren’t enough teachers. 

We also talked to state senators and representatives about HB 1155, which would have created a program called Recruit Texas. Recruit Texas would help bring more businesses to Texas and also would involve community colleges at the earliest stages of that process. This bill also got hung up in the Senate on the last day they considered bills. 

While we made significant progress during this session on these legislative priorities, it often takes more than one session to get bills like these passed. We now begin planning for the next session.

We expect members of both chambers to work this weekend to wind up their efforts. It’s difficult to predict the fate of the remaining bills they are working on.    

One higher education bill that affects us directly did pass. SB 24 will require members of the governing board of a public institution of higher education – trustees and regents, for example – to follow modified board training requirements. SB 24 is on its way to the governor for his signature and will affect board members who are elected after January 1, 2016.

Watching Campus Carry...

Open carry and campus carry are still moving forward. SB 11, the campus carry bill, now is in a conference committee. Members from both chambers are hashing out their differences over stipulations added to the bill on Tuesday night when House members brokered a last-minute deal to add several amendments. Those amendments included adding private universities to the institutions already affected by the bills as well as other provisions that exempt health facilities and let colleges designate specific gun-free zones. The House approved the bill on Wednesday and it then went to the conference committee. The governor has stated that he will sign any campus carry legislation that reaches his desk. For the most current information, read Campus Carry Headed to Conference Committee in the Texas Tribune. For the latest available details about open carry, read Open Carry Faces Filibuster Threat in Senate.

Pulling the Plug...

Bills that would have repealed in-state tuition for undocumented students or would have instituted efforts to crack down on “sanctuary cities” died. The Senate did, however, give its final okay on Tuesday to a border security bill that helps solidify the state’s police presence at the Texas-Mexico border. Read more in Dallas Morning News coverage: Tea party bills targeting immigrant tuition, sanctuary cities die.

The status of the Hazlewood bill, SB 1735, which would change tuition benefits now provided to dependents of veterans, is uncertain. The Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday that “after much talk and effort, the Texas Legislature could very well end up doing nothing to address a rapidly growing program that waives tuition for military veterans and their families at the state’s public colleges and universities – a benefit many are calling unsustainable in its current form. But two key lawmakers expressed hope Thursday that the House and Senate will be able to strike a deal in the waning days of the legislative session, which ends Monday.” Read more: Hazlewood deal uncertain, but key lawmakers hopeful.

Until the final gavel falls next Monday, the fate of many other bills hangs in the balance.

Bills on the Move...

Several bills passed this week in the House and Senate, or actions were taken, that affect higher education. Any bill passed by both chambers which has been sent to the governor becomes law, unless he decides to veto it; Gov. Abbott has until June 21 to do that. Here's a list of bills and activities:

SB 37, which would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to collect and study data on the participation of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities at public institutions of higher education, received approval from the Senate on House amendments and has been sent to the governor for his signature.

HB 1613 was reported and enrolled by the House; the bill is on its way to the governor for his signature. HB 1613 amends a current statute by requiring the State Board of Education to provide a chart that clearly illustrates the alignment of Essential Knowledge and Skills and College Readiness Standards. Additionally, it amends a current statute for students who fail STARR EOC in mathematics and/or English language arts but who pass mathematics and/or English college preparation courses that meet TSI college-ready standards.

HB 3348 was passed by the Senate; it is related to authorization by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for certain junior colleges to offer baccalaureate degree programs.

SB 386 was passed by the House. The bill is related to school marshals for public junior colleges, notifying a parent or a guardian whether the employee of a public junior college is appointed school marshal, and the confidentiality of information submitted to or collected by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in connection with a certification for appointment as school marshal.

SB 1351, related to transferring certain duties of the Texas comptroller to the Texas Workforce Commission for the Jobs and Education for Texans grant program, was passed by the House.

SB 1455, related to certain required reports, plans and other documents prepared by state agencies and institutions of higher education, was passed by the House.

SB 1655 was passed by the House. The bill is related to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board fees for the administration of certificates of authorization and certificates of authority issued to certain postsecondary educational institutions; it also authorized fees.

SB 1714, related to the release of student academic information by a public institution of higher education for certain purposes and the manner in which the information is used, was passed by the House.

SB 1776 also was passed by the House; it relates to exemption from assessment requirements of the Texas Success Initiative for students who successfully complete certain college preparatory courses.

SB 1189 is on its way to the governor for his signature; it is related to the establishment of a multidisciplinary studies associate degree program at each public junior college in Texas.

HB 1054 has gone to the governor; it modifies the definition of college developmental education to include BASE level courses and, as a result, permits institutions to receive funding for offering such courses.

HB 281, related to the limit on junior college courses that a high school student may enroll in for dual credit, was passed by the Senate.

HB 505 was signed by the governor; it prohibits limitations on the number of dual credit courses or hours in which a public high school student may enroll.

HB 1606, also signed by the governor, is related to the continuation and functions of the Texas Workforce Investment Council, including assumption of the duties of the Texas Skill Standards Board.

SB 13 was reported to the House Calendar Committee; it is related to measures that support public school student academic achievement and high school, college and career preparation, including measures to improve and support dual credit courses, the development of public outreach materials, and the development of postsecondary education and career counseling academies.

SB 279 also was sent to the House Calendars Committee. The bill is related to the authority of the governing body of a taxing unit other than a school district to adopt an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion, expressed as a dollar amount, of the appraised value of an individual’s residence homestead and to the authority of the governing body of any taxing unit that has adopted an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion, expressed as a percentage, of the appraised value of an individual’s residence homestead to reduce the amount of or repeal the exemption.

SB 1470 was signed by the governor. It is related to the establishment of state authorization reciprocity agreements for postsecondary distance learning courses. (See last week’s legislative update for details.)

HB 1583 was amended this week and was placed on the House calendar today, so its outcome is pending. The bill requires block scheduling for 50 percent of all CTE award programs at public junior colleges.

SB 27 has gone to the governor; it is related to the online broadcast of open meetings of institutions of higher education, including telephone conference call meetings.

SB 453, related to reducing the minimum scores from 60 to 50 required for public school students to receive credit by an examination administered through the College-Level Examination Program, has been sent to the governor for his signature.

SB 806, related to the College Credit for Heroes program, requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to report best practices for awarding credit for military experiences, education and training and was passed by both chambers and sent to the governor.

Throughout the remainder of the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, we will continue to have information on the DCCCD website where you can track bills of interest to the district.

Our list will be updated regularly. Categories include:

  • budget measures
  • local taxes/appraisal reform/revenue caps
  • baccalaureate degrees
  • handguns
  • transfer
  • undocumented student tuition
  • college readiness
  • dual credit/early college
  • boards
  • tuition and tuition exemptions
  • financial aid

Please contact us if you see a bill of interest or if you have any questions.

As the 84th session comes to its conclusion, we wish to thank many people in the DCCCD family who have supported our advocacy efforts, as well as members of the Dallas delegation who also have supported our district and its work.

Newsletter published by the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, Dallas County Community College District. Please contact Justin Lonon for more information about DCCCD's legislative initiatives.