Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > May 22, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 14)

May 22, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 14)

This Week in Austin....

DCCCD's advocacy team spent at least half of the week in Austin encouraging lawmakers to increase spending for community colleges and to support bills that will benefit students, education and the business community.  As the calendar winds down and the final days of the 84th session approach, those efforts intensify.

It's All About the Budget....

The single piece of legislation that lawmakers are required to pass during each session is the state's budget bill.  Working its way through both chambers and now through a conference committee, it appears that the House and Senate have agreed on a budget that will fund the state for the next two years.

Late Thursday evening, the Texas House and Senate agreed to cut $3.8 billion in property and business taxes over the next two years.  The agreement was announced by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus.  The overall two-year budget now goes to the House and Senate for approval; it also addresses the state's employee pension fund, border security, and transportation. 

In a written statement, the governor described the tax cuts as “meaningful” and said, “Every dollar businesses and homeowners pay is a dollar that could be invested in new jobs, higher wages and stimulating the Texas economy.”

Read more in The Dallas Morning News: House, Senate agree to $3.8B in cuts to property, business taxes

DCCCD Bills, Community College Funding Cuts Still Pending....

As the overall budget moves forward, DCCCD's legislative priorities in several areas remain pending, including HB 3836, which would allow the district to offer a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education, and HB 1155, which would create Recruit Texas.  Chancellor Joe May talked to legislators this week about the importance of solving a Pre-K teacher shortage in the Dallas area and the need to improve the way in which Texas attracts new businesses – which would happen if Recruit Texas is created.  Both of these bills are working against the clock to move forward. Today, HB 1155 saw some forward momentum; it was reported favorably without amendments in the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee, which held a public hearing on the bill earlier this week.

DCCCD and our colleagues at the state's other 49 community colleges/systems continue to face budget cuts during this session. After an initial review of the proposed budget (see first section), our community colleges may lose a total of $24 million from state appropriations over the next two years. Texas community colleges collectively now get about $900 million a year from the state, accounting for less than a quarter of their budgets, which are mostly funded by tuition and property taxes according to the Texas Tribune. Read the full story here: Facing Cuts, Community Colleges Plead for More Funds

Under the budget announced by the conference committee on Thursday, K-12 will receive about $1.5 billion more over the next two years.

Campus carry, which has lingered in committee in the House, again is under discussion. As a new open carry law moves forward, legislators who favor campus carry may seek to attach that legislation as an amendment to the open carry bill that has already passed.  For details, read this update in the Texas Tribune: Campus Carry Faces Last Hurdle in Legislature

Other Bills of Interest...

A number of four-year institutions got their wish this week as senators approved HB 100 on Tuesday, which would authorize $3 billion in debt to pay for construction projects on university campuses.  The Senate version authorizes $85 million less in bonds, and both versions must be reconciled before the governor receives them.  Although the same legislation stalled during the last session, backers are optimistic that the tuition revenue bonds will be approved; those bonds usually are paid back through state appropriations, and universities are required to provide some of their own money cover the full costs of their projects.  Read more in the Texas Tribune:  Texas Senate Approves Bonds for Campus Construction

The governor's Pre-K bill – one of his top priorities – was passed Thursday, and he will sign his own bill in the near future.  Earlier in the week, the Austin American-Statesman explored What Greg Abbott's pre-K gambit says about his politics and priorities.

Funding for the TEXAS Grant Program, as agreed upon by a conference committee, will be $715 million – less than the Senate preferred and more than the House recommended. The bottom line is that the grant will serve approximately 77,000 students from low-income families – or 5,000 fewer than the number served now.

Several bills passed this week in the House and Senate, or actions were taken, that affect higher education.  Here's a quick list:

84(R) HB 495, related to the use of money from the permanent fund for health-related programs to provide grants to nursing education programs was enrolled in the House early in the week.

84(R) HB 197, which would require certain public institutions of higher education to post information regarding mental health resources on the institution's Internet website, passed the Senate as amended and reported on Wednesday.

84(R) SB 2628, related to the development and alignment of certain educational programs by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board, was passed by the Senate mid-week.

84(R) HB 3602, related to the Jobs and Education for Texans Grant Program, was passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

84(R) SB 1281, which is related to the authority of local government to participate in a cooperative purchasing program with local governments of Texas or another state, was passed by the House on Wednesday.

84(R) SB 24, which is related to training for members of the governing board of a public institution of higher education, was passed by the House, as amended, on Thursday.

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 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.