Highlights from the Legislative session in February

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During the second month of the 2019 legislative session, bills on issues such as teacher pay raises and a cap on property tax revenue have moved to the full Senate for a vote.

Education
The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed a bill that would provide annual $5,000 pay raises for all full-time classroom teachers in the state. The measure now moves to the full Senate.

The Texas House Democratic Caucus is calling for a $14.5 billion school finance package that includes all-day pre-K, teacher raises and property tax relief.

Property tax
A Senate committee has passed Senate Bill 2, which would require an election when local governments want to collect an additional 2.5 percent or more in tax revenue from existing properties, regardless of the total taxable values assigned to properties. The measure now goes to the full Senate.

State budget
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced the state will have $119.1 billion for lawmakers to use in putting together the state’s 2020-21 budget.

A day after the Texas House unveiled a proposal to pump more than $7 billion in new state funds into public schools, the Texas Senate answered with a budget that would boost the state’s share of public education spending by about $4.3 billion compared with the previous two-year budget cycle. A Senate bill would give schools $3.7 billion to provide $5,000 pay raises to all full-time classroom teachers.

Hurricane Harvey
New legislation would require sellers of residential properties to notify buyers if a property is located in a flood-prone area—and whether it has previously flooded.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, has a package of bills that could create Texas’ first statewide flood plan. The statewide plan would incorporate regional plans to better coordinate flood-control projects and strategies.

Public safety
The House’s budget plans would give the state prison system $160 million more to help care for inmates. The Senate’s plan would cut funding.

Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, authored House Bill 1042, which would require law enforcement agencies in the state to establish a plan for coordinating with other police and first responders in an active-shooter emergency at school campuses and conduct an annual active-shooter drill. The bill was referred to Homeland Security and Public Safety on Feb. 26.

Health care
Amid uncertainty about the federal Affordable Care Act, state legislators will tackle a variety of issues during the session, from mental health to opioids to funding
for Medicaid.

Labor
Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, co-authored SB 15, which states a municipality or county may not adopt or enforce laws requiring terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law relating to hiring practices, benefits or other terms of employment. The bill was scheduled for a public hearing Feb. 28.

Other issues
In his State of the Judiciary address, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan
Hecht called on legislators to back nonpartisan judicial elections as well as
bail reform.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Greg Abbott said he is willing to work to revive the University of Texas and Texas A&M football game.

A bill authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would make it a felony to threaten a romantic partner into taking on debt or financing expensive items such as cars.

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