Sunday, May 15, 2005

 

Week of May 9, 2005

Dear Friends,

A great deal of legislation has passed through the House in the past few weeks. Similarly the Senate has been burning the midnight oil assuring that both chambers will be working to create effective legislation together. Thursday was the deadline to pass house bills on the house floor. Starting Monday through the end of session the House will focus only on Senate bills. Some of the legislation that I have been working on this week includes the passage of HB 1404. This legislation would establish a cost of $25 fee for any document over twenty five pages the county clerk drafts. These fees will help offset the costs and expenses incurred by the county. In the upcoming weeks we will wait to see the status of what will happen with the State budget. This important legislation will have a huge impact on the policy that will be implemented in the future. I hope that you will continue to read, use and let me know your thoughts on this sessions' Capitol Weekly.

School Finance Bill Approved By Senate

House-Senate Agreement Possible Before End of Session. Concerns about the ability of the House and Senate to agree on a school finance solution were raised on Monday when the Senate failed to move forward with their version of the reform bill. Contrary to previous analyses, new analysis of House Bill 2 by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn showed that the Houston and Dallas school districts would actually lose money under the proposed Senate plan. As a result, senators from those areas chose to withhold their support of the bill, halting the scheduled floor debate. On Wednesday, however, the Senate finally approved their versions of the school finance bill HB 2 and the tax bill HB 3. The Senate version of HB 3 was passed first and raises consumption and business taxes
to pay for a cut in school property taxes.

The companion school finance bill HB 2 would increase education spending by
about $2.8 billion over two years, raise teacher salaries, and require schools to start
the academic year after Labor Day. The Senate removed a barrier between
themselves and the House by voting to keep school property taxes in the hands of
local school boards rather than creating a state property tax. However, other
barriers still exist. The House and Senate will have to work together to pass a bill
that they can both agree on before the end of the legislative session on May 30th.


Admission Policies Changed for State Schools

The top 10% rule that has been part of the admissions process in Texas public
school, will undergo serious changes after the Houses vote this week. The House
adjusted the Top 10% rule, saying that universities would not be required to accept
more than 50% of its incoming freshman class based on class rank. The actual bill
HB 2330 referring to the top 10% rule received a great deal of opposition. Many
of the members believed that the bill would reverse the strides that have been
made since the rule was implemented.
Every minority member on the floor of the House supported amendments to the
bill that would only improve the diversity of the universities. One possible
amendment was an effort to address the adjustments that were being made to the
10% rule in HB 2330. The author of HB 2330, Geanie Morison(R-Victoria) was
asked to pull down her bill long enough to consider amendments.
The bill, which now goes to an uncertain future in the Senate, would, in effect, half
that guarantee, opponents said. Officials with the University of Texas at Austin
sought the legislation after 72 percent of students admitted from Texas high
schools for this summer and fall qualified under the top 10 percent law. The controversial law has been credited with diversifying the student bodies of Texas universities. But it also sometimes pitted graduates of wealthy suburban school districts against minority or rural students competing for admission, particularly to UT and Texas A&M. UT
officials argue they need more flexibility in attracting a wide range of students with different talents.

Congrats Grads!!!

This week two of my legislative staffers have equally great accomplishments. Legislative director Nichoals Pyka will graduate this weekend with honors from University of Miami Law School. My long time legislative aide, Susan Fisher, graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern University and has been accepted into UT’s grad. School.

Bingo in Texas might have New Look

Early this week, the Senate passed legislation allowing existing bingo parlors to use electronic terminals for their games. Gambling opponents and some lawmakers worried that the machines were a backdoor effort to expand legalized gambling in Texas.Anti- gambling fervor ruled Thursday night during the House debate over legislation to allow the Texas Lottery Commission to continue operating. Without any debate, the House adopted amendments to ensure that the bingo machines cannot be used to legalize gambling that is currently illegal.

Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) offered an amendment saying the House anguage would prevail over any conflicting language in any other legislation. The Senate proposal, part of a major tax overhaul, had authorized bingo operators to use the device that was defined as an "electronic terminal with input capabilities and touch screen or other monitors that may be used to play electronic pull- tab bingo." The machines could be portable, upright or built into tabletops. Parental Consent Bill is Killed on the House Floor Under current Texas laws,minors only have to notify a parent or guardian that they plan to have an abortion. The bill also would have required the state to publish, annually,information submitted by courts that hear waiver requests, including how many waivers were granted by each of nine judicial regions.

The bill was dropped because one of the more than 1,000 witness forms collected from people who testified about the House Bill 1212 in the House State Affairs Committee, did not include the name of the committee, as required. Proponents argue that minors aren't able to have any other medical procedures without parent's consent.
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