Columns

Thu
14
Mar

Lawmakers start rolling out high-priority legislation

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

With the filing of legislation that would give teachers an acrossthe-board pay increase, Texas lawmakers showed progress toward solving the complex issues of school finance and property tax reform.

Senate Bill 3, passed March 4 by the full Senate on a voice vote, would entitle each classroom teacher and full-time librarian to a state-financed $5,000 increase above their 2018-2019 school year salary. The bill would not stop school districts from providing meritbased raises to teachers in addition to the state’s $5,000 increase.

Authored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, SB 3, if approved by the House, would make the raise effective for the school year beginning in the fall. Nelson said it would cost $4 billion to give the state’s estimated 350,000 teachers the raise, and that funds to cover the pay hike will be in the state budget.

Thu
14
Mar

Bluebonnets

RANDOM RAMBLINGS

Grief is the last act of love we have to offer those we have loved. It has been nearly two months now and not a day goes by that I look outside hoping to see his truck next door.

I never realized the amount of love I had for Country until that dreaded social media post saying he had lost his life to pulmonary problems. That night I do not think I ever slept. Every thirty minutes I looked out my bedroom window to see if his truck was in his driveway.

Those days have turned into months and that driveway remains vacant. 

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Thu
07
Mar

Order stops state, local authorities from purging voter rolls

By ED STERLING

A San Antonio federal judge on Feb. 27 ordered Texas Secretary of State David Whitley not to purge the names of voters whose registrations he challenged as being potentially fraudulent. The order came in a voting rights case filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and other plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit. Biery then ordered officials not to remove anyone from the current voter registration list until authorized by the court. However, Biery added that local officials may continue to determine whether someone who is not a citizen is in fact registered to vote, so long as it is done without communicating directly with any particular individual on the list. Biery’s ruling, which came after three days of hearing evidence and arguments in the case, stated:

Thu
28
Feb

Caucus names legislative priorities for public education

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

The Texas House Democratic Caucus on Feb. 21 announced its “Texas Kids First” education-funding package that would include all-day pre-kindergarten, teacher raises and retirement and property tax reform.

“We hope to work with our colleagues to incorporate some of these ideas into their bills,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, caucus chair.

Caucus member Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, a former Austin Independent School District board president, said Texas rates 42nd in the nation in per-student funding. She said Texas public school students are funded $2,300 per year below the national average.

 

 

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Thu
28
Feb

Mass chaos

RANDOM RAMBLINGS

Last week was a rough one. Kynlee was diagnosed with flu A, Hayden started getting sick, and as if that wasn’t enough, my stove caught fire. That’s right, on fire. I don’t know how it even happened. One minute I am putting on a pot of water to boil for some eggs and the next a fire. “Mom, can you cut my meat into tiny pieces and give me some ketchup?” “Sure.” As I’m standing at the dining room table carefully cutting dinner into tiny pieces for the girls to eat, I look up and saw flames.

 

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Thu
21
Feb

Senate panel focuses on funding of public education

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

When Texas legislatures meet every two years, lawmakers’ singular, must-do assignment is to produce a state budget.

Toward that goal, the Senate Finance Committee held meetings on Feb. 11, 12 and 13 to work on Article III of Senate Bill

1. That article focuses on the public and higher education parts of the state budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

The meetings, replete with acronymspattered expert testimony from the Texas Education Agency, the Teacher Retirement System and others, dealt with funding areas within public education. Lumped together, public education funding almost certainly will require more than half of the state’s general revenue. The ballpark estimate of total general revenue is $112 billion.

 

 

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Thu
21
Feb

Fighting to secure our border

HURD ON THE HILL

Here in South and West Texas, border security is not an abstract issue. Every week meeting with folks across 29 counties of the 23rd District of Texas, securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system are frequent topics of conversation. That’s because the border is our backyard, and what happens on the border impacts the daily lives of families across TX-23 communities.

Thu
14
Feb

Governor gives lawmakers list of emergency items to tackle

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

Gov. Greg Abbott named as his emergency priorities education reform, teacher pay, school safety, property tax reform, mental health services and disaster response in his Feb. 5 “State of the State” address to a joint session of the Texas Legislature.

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Thu
14
Feb

Gearing our students up for success

HURD ON THE HILL

As your Representative, one of my top priorities is making sure Congress enacts policies that create economic opportunity and give every family a chance at the American dream.

 

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Thu
07
Feb

Senate committee starts work on property tax reform

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

Voters would have the power to prevent their local governmental bodies from increasing property taxes by more than 2.5 percent per year under legislation introduced in the Texas Senate and House on Jan. 31.

Senate Bill 2 and identical House Bill 2, both 116 pages in length, propose to amend the current law, in which local taxing authorities may increase taxes up to 8 percent each year before a rollback election would be required. Cries for relief are widespread, given the leeway current law affords and the fact that county appraisal districts may increase the value of property at the same time.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said, “People desperately need property tax reform, our businesses need property tax reform, and we have set out, on this date, early in session, with a major piece of legislation. We are setting the tone for the rest of the session on this issue,” Patrick added.

 

 

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