Legislature Convenes with Full Plate of Issues

The 85th Texas Legislature opened Tuesday, Jan. 10, for its 140-day biennial session. More than 1,500 bills have already been filed, well in advance of the March 10 deadline. Some have already generated controversy, such as the Women’s Privacy Act, also known as the “bathroom bill.” And several bills have been filed in response to the recently released provisional A-F grades given Texas public schools and public school districts.

Spring Branch ISD has a number of legislative priorities this session, and first among those is school finance reform. Ever-increasing property values in Spring Branch coupled with flat enrollment means the district is sending more and more locally generated tax revenue to the state, where it’s put in the general fund and supplants part of the state’s own contribution to public education. SBISD estimates it will send $67.4 million – 22 percent of local tax revenue -- to the state in recapture this year, and $94 million in the 2018 budget year.

While SBISD would like to see systemic school finance reform – indeed, the Texas Supreme Court, while upholding the “minimal” constitutionality of school finance in Texas, strongly urged the Legislature to tackle such reform – there’s been no clear indication that either the House or the Senate will do so. But there are incremental steps that can relieve some of the pressure on SBISD, such as considering the district’s full 20 percent Homestead Exemption when calculating recapture (Robin Hood) payments.

SBISD will also encourage the Legislature to keep recapture (Robin Hood) revenue in public education as additional to its allotment, rather than supplanting those funds. Public education will get a lot of attention – it always does – as will other important issues facing the state. The only constitutionally required action by the Texas Legislature is the passage of the biennial budget, tempered somewhat this year by a tepid revenue forecast from Comptroller Glenn Hegar, due to the slowdown in oil and gas production, and sluggish sales tax revenue.

Here are a number of resources to help you follow the Texas Legislature. Full chamber sessions and committee hearings are streamed live – go to one of the legislative websites and follow the links there. The Texas Tribune is a statewide, non-profit news organization that is a tremendous source of legislative news. And our own legislative blog will highlight news from Austin as events warrant.

Texas Legislature Online http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ 

Texas House http://www.house.state.tx.us/ 

Texas Senate http://www.senate.state.tx.us/ 

Texas Tribune https://www.texastribune.org/ 

Texas Tribune Legislature https://www.texastribune.org/tribpedia/texas-legislature/ 

Texas Tribune Education https://www.texastribune.org/plus/edu/ 

SBISD Legislative Blog http://sbisdlegislative.blogspot.com/


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