The 85th Texas Legislature has adjourned Sine Die. Legislation passed is now in the hands of the Governor, who will decide over the next week which bills he will sign, veto, or let become law without his signature.
Several bills I authored or sponsored are emergency items dealing with Child Protective Services and the Department of Family and Protective Services. Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 7 were signed by Governor Abbott on Wednesday.
The Governor also has the power to line item veto in the budget. I worked to secure a number of funding increases for programs important to child abuse prevention, and to continue caseworker salary increases. I do not expect the Governor to veto these budget lines, as they are vitally important to continuing reform of our Child Protective Services system.
The most anticipated action by the Governor to start this interim is not the vetoing of bills. The veto stamp has taken a backseat to speculation of whether or not the Governor will call the legislature back in for a special session. Legislation dealing with the sunset of the Texas Medical Board did not pass before Sine Die. Many say this is must pass legislation, while a few have speculated that the duties of the agency can survive by other means. I expect we will know more about a special session shortly.
There have been calls by many to add divisive bathroom legislation to any called special session. I hope the Governor will avoid doing so, and instead add any of the extremely pressing issues facing our state; chief among them is school finance.
Nearly all of our schools are in need of additional resources, whether it be operations funding for teachers and counselors, or new buildings to accommodate growth. Further, many districts that I represent are facing a fiscal cliff due to the expiration of “Additional State Aid for Tax Relief” or ASATR. These districts will be hit hard, and I consider lack of a mechanism to phase out the cuts to be one of the largest failures of the 85th Legislature.
A special session where the focus is solely on reforming our system of school finance seems to be the best use of resources if we are going to spend taxpayer dollars to bring the legislature back in to work.
I’ll conclude on the subject of schools by extending my CONGRATULATIONS to our class of 2017 graduates, especially those from my alma mater, McCollum High School! There are many challenging opportunities that await these graduates, and their leadership in our community, our state, and our nation is needed more than ever.