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A key House education committee adjourned last week without voting on a school voucher bill that is Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority this session, the Houston Chronicle reported. Barring some unforeseen maneuver in the last week of the regular legislative session, the bill is effectively dead for now.
The Senate had approved a bill that would provide Texas families $8,000 in taxpayer money to fund private or charter school tuition. The House narrowed the scope so that it would only apply to students with disabilities or those attending schools with a failing grade issued by the Texas Education Agency – an estimated 800,000 students. The Senate bill would make vouchers available to 5.5 million Texas students.
State Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, chair of the House Public Education Committee, said he doesn’t plan to call a vote on the measure. Abbott has threatened to veto the House version or call a special session if the House does not approve the Senate version.
Opponents of the voucher system say it would take money away from public education.
“These voucher proposals have been brought before — in 1957. A tuition grant bill was passed through the House. It failed ultimately, but it was to allow kids to leave integrated schools and join white-only schools,” state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said.
House, Senate closer on tax relief plan
The Texas House and Senate appear to be nearing a deal that would deliver billions of dollars in property tax relief, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The proposal combines House Speaker Dade Phelan’s preference for cutting appraisal caps by half with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s preference for increasing homestead exemptions.
The Legislature was under a mandate from Abbott and Patrick to return nearly half of the state’s $33 billion budget surplus to taxpayers. The latest measure would lower the appraised value cap from 10% to 5% for all properties. The House version would also raise the state’s homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, with an added $10,000 exemption for seniors and disabled homeowners. Patrick’s original proposal was to raise the exemption to $70,000.
Draft budget bars tax dollars for Paxton settlement
House and Senate budget negotiators plan to bar using state funds to pay the $3.3 million whistleblower settlement negotiated by Attorney General Ken Paxton and his former aides, the Statesman reported.
The settlement was reached in February after four former employees of the AG’s office sued Paxton, accusing him of bribery and abusing his office. Since that time the four aides were fired or have resigned. Paxton denied their allegations, but as part of the settlement apologized for calling them “rogue employees.”
Paxton said when the settlement was reached that it would save taxpayer money in the long run by avoiding an expensive court battle.
“I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions,” Paxton said in a statement at the time. “This settlement achieves these goals.”