Representatives discuss a bill May 5.[/caption]
The status of additional state funding for the Texas Department of Transportation is up in the air as the House and Senate will discuss their differences on approving a bill designed to divert money to the State Highway Fund that helps fund TxDOT.
On April 30 the House approved Senate Joint Resolution 5, which would dedicate $3 billion of revenue from the state sales and use tax to the State Highway Fund each fiscal year. However, the bill differs from the Senate’s version, approved March 4. The Senate’s version of the bill would dedicate the first $2.5 billion of motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the state’s general revenue fund and the second $2.5 billion to the SHF. The Senate declined to accept the House’s version of the bill May 4, requiring both chambers to hash out differences in a conference committee.
Economy and Small Business
HB 40, a bill that would clarify that the state—and not local authorities—regulates oil and gas activity, was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for action May 6.
HB 26, a bill that would abolish the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, among other actions, was sent May 5 to the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee.
HB 1155, a bill that would create a program to help the relocation or expansion of businesses with high-skilled jobs, was sent to the Senate on May 5.
On May 6 chambers of commerce, school boards and superintendents came to the Capitol to voice support for the House’s version of an education budget allocating $3 billion for education in Texas. The Senate’s version allocates about $1.4 billion.
On May 5 the Senate Committee on Education voted 9-2 to approve HB 4, which outlines a high-quality prekindergarten program. The bill now heads to the Senate.
On April 22 the House passed SB 149, which aims to create committees to determine if students who pass classes but fail standardized tests can graduate. Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who filed the bill, moved to concur with House amendments April 29, and the Senate approved that motion. SB 149 was sent to the governor April 30.
SB 1483, filed by Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, defines the community schools model and was considered in a public hearing April 23.
“Although community schools are operational in Texas, currently there is no definition or uniform set of practices,” Garcia said in an April 7 meeting, noting schools could choose the model outlined in statute instead of using a Texas Education Agency intervention team.
University presidents Bill Powers and Mark Hussey joined forces earlier in the legislative session, asking lawmakers for funding.[/caption]
Bills slated to bring changes to higher education are still waiting for passage.
A bill that would allow licensed concealed weapon owners to carry firearms on public college campuses was approved by the Senate but still has not been heard on the House floor. A bill repealing a law allowing some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates is waiting to be heard by the Senate but has not cleared its first committee in the House. Some other bills in limbo include those that would issue revenue bonds to help higher education institutions fund projects such as new facilities.
The Senate approved SB 575 on May 6 with a 21-10 vote relating to abortion services covered by health insurance plans.
The bill, authored by Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, moves on to the House for a vote and prohibits “elective abortions” from being covered in private health insurance plans, some health benefit plans for state employees and those offered through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, except in the case of a medical emergency, according to the bill analysis. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows individual states to set their own parameters for abortion coverage for health plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace.