At the Capitol: Updates from the 86th Texas Legislature

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Latest news from the 86th Texas Legislature

The 86th Texas Legislature began Jan. 8 and continues through May 27. These updates are what has happened since the session began as well as the latest bill filings from lawmakers representing the Northwest Austin area.

EDUCATION

The Texas Senate unanimously passed legislation March 25 that is designed to make the Teacher Retirement System pension fund financially healthy and give one-time checks to retired teachers.

Senate Bill 12, filed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would increase how much the state, school districts and current teachers contribute to the pension fund over the next six years. For the first two years, the changes will cost the state about $555.1 million in general revenue. About $195 million of that money would go toward giving retirees one-time additional checks next fiscal year of up to $500.

The money for the bill would come from the Senate’s supplemental budget, which the upper chamber unanimously approved last week.

HEALTH CARE

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on March 27 approved the infant protection bill with a 6-2 vote. SB 23 gives teeth to an already existing statute that grants legal protections to children born after a failed abortion attempt. Doctors who fail to provide appropriate medical treatment would be charged with a third-degree felony and have to pay a fine.

EDUCATION

The Texas Senate’s budget-writing committee on March 28 approved adding billions more dollars for public education and property tax reform to the Senate’s base spending plan, bringing the total to $9 billion—the same amount the Texas House wants to spend on those items.

PROPERTY TAXES

House Republicans muscled a heavily altered version of their property tax reform bill through a committee March 28, notching a single Democratic vote and swiftly shooting down attempts to further modify the draft.

A top priority for state leaders, House Bill 2 would require cities, counties and other taxing units to receive voter approval before levying 2.5% more property tax revenue than the previous year.

As amended, HB 2 now exempts community colleges, emergency services districts and hospital districts from abiding by the 2.5% election trigger.

Updates from your local representatives

On March 7, State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) filed a bill necessary to establish a Local Provider Participation Fund with private hospitals in Travis County.

On March 1, State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) filed a bill that would establish highway safety corridors and subsequently double fines for offenses in those corridors.

On March 4, State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) filed HB 2997 that would establish suicide-prevention training and mental health programs for public school employees.

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