Legislative Update > 2015 Legislative Updates > May 8, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 12)

May 8, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 12)

This Week in Austin....

As time begins to run short and legislative processes hamper some bills, activity in the 84th session of the Texas Legislature ramped up this week. From pre-kindergarten to high school graduation, and higher education issues to taxes, a sense of urgency – coupled with the pace of bills moving from one chamber to another and on to the Governor's desk – was obvious.

In the midst of pressing issues, Texans marked the passing of former House Speaker Jim Wright. For a review of the speaker's life, read the Austin American-Statesman's story: Former House Speaker Jim Wright dies at age 92

Pre-K Education Moves Forward

DCCCD's efforts to establish a baccalaureate degree program in early childhood education continued to move forward this week. DCCCD's advocacy team spent several days in Austin working with legislators. The House version of the bill, HB 3836, will be considered by the House next Tuesday. The Senate version is still pending in the Senate Higher Ed Committee.

In the meantime, Gov. Greg Abbott's pre-kindergarten bill, which complements DCCCD's efforts, passed the Senate this week and is on its way to the Governor's office for his signature. Read more about the Pre-K bill here in the Texas Tribune: Abbott's Pre-K Bill Easily Passes Texas Senate

Workforce and Economic Development

Last week, we shared information about HB 1155, which our advocacy team has been working on. The bill would create Recruit Texas, which would provide rapid response measures to community colleges in efforts to recruit new business to the state. This program is modeled after the Georgia Quick Start and Louisiana Fast Start programs; Chancellor Joe May designed the Louisiana program and believes Texas Recruits will benefit workforce and economic development in Texas by changing the way our state brings new businesses to Texas. The House passed the bill last Friday, and it now has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee. DCCCD is leading efforts to continue to move the bill forward. Rep. Carol Alvarado is the primary author, and Reps. Button and Johnson signed on as co-authors.

Campus Carry News....

Campus carry was in the news again as out-of-state students and parents came to Austin to tell their stories. Those protests against campus carry on Tuesday were followed by reports on Wednesday that legislators plan to attach the campus carry measure to HB 910 before it goes to the Senate, where they had reached a deal. State Rep. Allen Fletcher from Cypress made that initial announcement. HB 910 would allow licensed holders to carry their handguns in shoulder or hip holsters. The House campus carry bill has stalled, and some legislators announced that sending it as an amendment to HB 910 would give the measure new life. Here's the initial story from the Texas Tribune: Campus Carry May Get New Life in Senate

Yesterday, however, the Houston Chronicle reported that a key senator said the announcement was “premature.” Sen. Craig Estes from Wichita Falls said Thursday that no deal had been reached. Read the Houston Chronicle story here: Lawmaker jumped the gun on campus carry deal. 

Education Updates....

Community colleges could be required to implement block schedules for allied health and nursing programs, plus some career and technology programs. HB 1583 was passed by the Texas House this week and now moves to the Senate for approval. The goal of the bill is to improve college completion rates and reduce the number of years it takes for college students to complete a degree by making class times more predictable, according to a story in Your Houston News: Bill requires block schedules for some community college programs

Changes for veterans and their families who attend college under the Hazlewood Tuition Program are coming. The Texas Senate voted earlier this week for veterans to pass free in-state tuition benefits to their children. The move was made in response to pleas for help from universities as costs spiral for the program. Read more here in the Texas Tribune: Senate OKs Tougher Rules for Hazlewood Tuition Program

An effort to end the Top Ten Percent scholarships that initially were implemented by the legislature to keep top students in Texas may disappear. State lawmakers are concerned that the program doesn't have enough money to accomplish its goal. As the number of students who qualify increase (more than 16,000 are eligible statewide), the amount they receive from the fund decreases, which is the reason why state legislators believe the program is not sustainable. For details, read this story in the Texas Tribune: Legislators Likely to End Top Ten Percent Scholarships

High school graduation requirements for some students would change with SB 49, which was sent to the Governor for his signature this week. Read the details in this Dallas Morning News story: Bill to reduce end-of-course test graduation requirement sent to Abbott

It's All About the Bills Now....

A stand-off between the House and Senate over tax cuts, according to multiple news media sources, eased this week. The Senate referred the House's tax cut bills Wednesday to the powerful Senate Finance Committee, where the panel's chair said the bills “absolutely” will get a public hearing, according the Austin American-Statesman: At Capitol, a tax cut impasse eases. The Texas Tribune reports similar information: Tax cut spat threatens to engulf Legislature’s session

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 1066, related to eligibility requirements for institutions of higher education to participate in the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship, was sent to the Governor for his signature this week. This bill modifies T-STEM scholarship data collection and reporting, which addresses concerns expressed by higher education institutions, including DCCCD.

84(R) HB 3027, related to the establishment of the Texas Competency-Based Grant program for certain students enrolled in competency-based baccalaureate degree programs at certain institutions of higher education, was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate. If the bill is approved, it would provide a grant to students CBE bachelor's degree programs.

84(R) HB 2812, would repeal a nine-credit limit for high school students who take dual credit courses from an out-of-service-area community college. The House passed this bill earlier in the week, and it was sent to the Senate.

Throughout 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.​​​