Things are moving rapidly in Austin – both the House and the Senate are focusing on budget and policy issues. Advocates of concealed carry already have staged a march on the capital, while colleges and universities continue to oppose guns on campus. As debates build, social media comments and campaigns adds buzz to issues that are trending.
The Texas Senate's preliminary budget in Senate Bill 2 grabbed most of the headlines this week, focusing on tax cuts, border security spending, transportation and schools. The two-year budget proposal, totaling $205.1 billion, would cut taxes for homeowners; provide more officers and equipment to secure the Texas-Mexico border (a 74 percent increase); and build more roads. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stated that he would push for significant property tax and business tax cuts, in spite of lower oil prices and lower state revenue projections, according to the Dallas Morning News. (Read more:
Texas Senate budget focuses on tax cuts, border security spending)
The House submitted its budget last week, which did not include any tax relief measures at the time. The House and Senate budgets are at odds over tax cuts and schools. Neither of those initial budgets undoes cuts of $5.4 billion to public schools in 2011. House leaders also noted that a reallocation of general-purpose funds would make appropriations tighter for state school aid, state universities, Medicaid, prisons and other programs.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott also announced that he wants to stop the state's controversial investment fund that most often benefits private start-ups. He wants to eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund and use the ETF's unspent balances to establish the governor's University Research Initiative, which would provide matching funds to help Texas institutions of higher education to "recruit prestigious, nationally-recognized researchers to their faculty that would both elevate Texas' public universities and serve as catalysts for economic development," according to the Austin Business Journal.
The debate over whether Texans should be allowed to openly carry handguns started in the very early days of the session and continues with ongoing rallies outside the capitol.
Earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick noted that open carry handgun legislation faces an uphill battle in the legislature and that the issue is not a top priority in the Senate. (Read more:
Dan Patrick doubts open carry can pass in Texas Senate)
Carry-on-campus bills are a different story. On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Patrick referred one of the primary campus carry bills to committee, acknowledging that new rule changes likely would fast-track its passage (Patrick refers campus carry bill to committee). In fact, 19 of 20 Republican senators have filed bills to this effect. Colleges and universities from across the state – along with college/university police departments and local police chiefs – oppose such a measure. The new chancellor of the University of Texas (who is a former four-star admiral) expressed concerns about such measures. Read more:
McRaven: campus carry would create less safe environment.
We mentioned last week that one of DCCCD's legislative priorities regarding this issue is to allow a "local control" option so that institutions could make a determination about whether to permit concealed handgun license holders to carry firearms on campus. We will continue to work with our legislators on this important issue.
In the midst of clamor about budgets, guns and border security, thousands of community college students from across the state will converge on the steps of the state capitol next Tuesday, Feb. 3rd, for Community College Day. Chancellor Joe May and busloads of students from all DCCCD colleges will have an opportunity to watch the Texas Legislature in action and to meet members of the Dallas delegation.
The day begins with a rally on the south steps of the Capitol, where students will mix and mingle before they hear from legislators, student government representatives and college leaders. The group also will visit the Capitol and watch the House and Senate in session before they attend lunch to hear from Dr. May and one of our legislators.
During the afternoon, students will visit with members of our Dallas-area legislative delegation. Students are our best advocates. Their stories are moving, and our legislators and their staff members listen. The day will be filled with fun, learning and a chance to tell the community college story.
As the 84th session of the Texas Legislature moves forward, we 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, and other bills. 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.