Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > Jan. 23, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 1)

Jan. 23, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 1)

This Week in Austin...

The 84th session of the Texas Legislature has kicked off with a flurry of activities. From the opening gavel on Tuesday, January 13, to barbecue from Dallas-based Eddie Deen’s (a feast for 17,000 people!) during an inauguration celebration on January 20, to changes in the Governor’s office, Lieutenant Governor’s office and beyond, we’re off and running.

Chancellor Joe May and Vice Chancellor Justin Lonon began visiting with elected officials last fall, and they traveled to Austin last week for appointments with members of the Dallas delegation. The district started a tradition several years ago of delivering a small plant to each of those Dallas-area members for two reasons: to brighten their offices and to remind them each day about DCCCD and our mission to educate students for the evolving job market and global economy. Dr. Jennifer Wimbish, president of Cedar Valley College, joined them on opening day.

Drs. May and Lonon were back in Austin this week for a number of meetings and activities.

Priorities are critical...

Our previous visits involved sharing the district’s legislative priorities, which once again are aligned with those of all members of the Texas Association of Community Colleges: aligning skills with the workforce; measuring and funding success; collaborating on college readiness; creating pathways for transfer and articulation; and providing Texas students with the tools and resources for Adult Basic Education and financial aid enhancements.

In addition to our common legislative agenda – with the approval of the DCCCD board of trustees, we also are seeking two DCCCD-specific priorities:

  1. Grant DCCCD the authority to offer a baccalaureate degree in early childhood development to meet a teacher shortage and to provide access to pre-K programs for more young children.
  2. Give DCCCD a local control option for any legislation that would allow concealed license holders (CHL) to carry handguns on campus; and give to the district a local control option for any legislation that would amend the “Noriega Bill,” which permits undocumented students who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition rates.

You can read more details at www.dcccd.edu/AU/GovAffairs/Pages/default.aspx.

As you already know, a proposal from the White House to provide a free community college education to all Americans who meet a specified set of requirements has garnered attention across the country. That proposal calls for state and federal funding. Dr. May has been interviewed by several news outlets on this proposal and wrote an op-ed that is in today’s Dallas Morning News: Joe D. May: Obama’s community college proposal is a good idea.

During this session of the Texas Legislature – which brings new leadership and new challenges to the floor of both houses, in addition to budget issues – we believe the state should invest in community colleges so that we have the resources and support necessary to continue educating our students, to provide workforce training and to offer stability in employment for our communities and our state. Historically, state support has not kept pace with the growth of community colleges. Our expanded mission to educate more students requires additional funds in order to meet our own goals, as well as those of the state of Texas.

Passing the gavel...

Former Gov. Rick Perry finished 14 years in office as the state’s 47th CEO and took an opportunity to address the legislature as his term ended; he is the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Gov. Greg Abbott was sworn in this Tuesday, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other newly-elected legislators.

Following statewide elections in fall 2014, the Texas Senate has seen a number of changes which will alter the dynamics of the capitol’s upper chamber. Additional details about these changes can be found in this story: Jeffers: Greg Abbott has a balancing act in front of him. While the amount of state spending in the budget will be a major topic of debate, a number of other policy issues also will be the focus of this session, including transportation, water, tax reform, gun rights and immigration. Additional details about some of these issues are discussed in this story: Abbott likely to stress roads and schools, not guns and abortion.

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and members of the Senate’s Republican majority also quickly passed a rule change that makes it possible for state senators to consider GOP-sponsored bills without the support of any Democrats. Here’s more: Republicans move to curtail influence of Democrats in Texas Senate.

As always, tracking the Texas legislature is challenging. We will continue to work with all members – especially our own Dallas delegation – to move forward the priorities of DCCCD and other community colleges throughout the state.

Tracking the bills...

We have started to monitor a number of proposed bills that could have an impact on community colleges; as the session continues, we will keep you updated and provide a link where you can read about them. Please contact us if you see a bill of interest or if you have any questions.

We expect to see a flurry of policy items moving rapidly through this session – business as usual – and, as the 84th session evolves, we will call upon many people in the DCCCD family to support our advocacy efforts.

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.