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Lt. Gov. Patrick Signals House Bathroom Amendment Not Enough

With the threat of a special session looming over bathrooms, the Texas House gave its final approval to a controversial measure that would regulate where transgender students can use public school restrooms.

 

House members called it a compromise to the Senate’s stricter version, which would have required transgender Texans to use bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that match their “biological sex.”

 

But limiting it to schools doesn’t seem to be enough for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He has said he would force a special session if the House didn’t pass some version of a “bathroom bill.”

 

“In terms of privacy, I had not seen the language on the “Paddie Amendment” on Senate Bill 2078 before it was voted on last night,” Patrick said in a statement released Monday. “I also have concerns about its ambiguous language, which doesn’t appear to do much.”

 

The added language in the House bill would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms and locker rooms to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.”

 

The measure was tacked on to legislation that outlines emergency operations and other school safety regulations.

 

The Governor is the only one who can call a special session. His office released a statement Monday evening. “Governor Abbott’s hope is that the House and the Senate will agree on a measure that, at a minimum, protects the privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms, and he will continue to work with members of both chambers to achieve that goal,” John Wittman, Abbott’s spokesman, said.

 

Until now, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has been reluctant to have his chamber pass bathroom-related legislation. He has cited concerns of economic fallout after the business community came out against SB6.

Speaker Straus released the following statement after the passage of the House’s version on second reading Sunday:

“Representative (Chris) Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”

 

But “disposing of the issue” in this way doesn’t appear to please Patrick.

His latest statement also signals the House didn’t go far enough on another priority he wants passed – a property tax bill.

“I share Governor Abbott’s concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 on property taxes,” Patrick said.  “There is still time for the House and Senate to address these concerns — which are both priorities for Texas voters — in a meaningful way.”

 

Speaker Straus has since responded to Patrick’s statement saying, “Now it’s really time for the Senate to take care of the many House priorities that they know they’ve been sitting. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

 

The regular legislative session ends May 29th.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

Texas House Passes Bathroom Restrictions for Transgender Students

What’s being called a “watered down” version of the so-called bathroom bill passed the Texas House Sunday night.

 

With just one week left in the legislative session, lawmakers spent about two hours debating a measure that would dictate which bathroom transgender students can use in schools across the state.
The measure was tacked on to a bill that outlines emergency operations and other school safety regulations.

 

Some Democrats questioned why transgender bathroom use was an emergency response. But some Republicans defended the bill, saying it’s about protecting all Texas students who feel different.

 

“There is absolutely no intent in this language to discriminate,” argued the amendment’s author, Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.

“If you are a biological boy and you wish not to use the boys’ restroom for whatever reason – transgender, shy, bullied – this says they will accommodate that child.”

 

The added language would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.” The measure would override existing trans-inclusive policies at some school districts across the state.
Parents of transgender kids have pushed back, saying their children don’t want to be treated differently. Many sat in the gallery Sunday night watching the debate play out on the House floor.

 

And down on the House floor, bathroom bill opponents called the amendment discriminatory.
“The national ‘bathroom bill’ debate is driven by ambitious politicians exploiting fear and misunderstanding of transgender people,” Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said in a statement.

“There is no room for compromise when it comes to discrimination.”

 

 

The state’s upper chamber passed a stricter bathroom bill earlier in the session. It’s been a top priority of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has threatened to force a special session if a bill regulating bathrooms and a property tax reform measure don’t get passed.

 

The House also approved a scaled back property tax bill this weekend.

 

Until now, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has been reluctant to have his chamber pass bathroom-related legislation. He has cited concerns of economic fallout after the business community came out against SB6, which would have regulated bathroom use in government buildings and public schools based on biological sex.

 

Speaker Straus released the following statement after the passage of Senate Bill 2078 on second reading:

“Representative (Chris) Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”

 

Limiting the measure to public schools appears to be the compromise to avoid a special session.

 

But LGBT rights groups have called it discriminatory and are threatening legal action. Even before the House started debate on the compromise measure Sunday, LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal said in a statement “you can bet that Lambda Legal will be on the case before the next school bell rings.”

 

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.

Governor Abbott Signs ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Measure into Law

A bill that would provide sermon safeguards for Texas preachers is now law.

 

During a church service in Houston on Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott ceremoniously signed the Sermon Protection Act.
The measure would prohibit a governmental entity from issuing a subpoena for a religious sermon, and compelling a pastor or religious leader to testify regarding their sermon.
It goes into effect immediately.
Both Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick were in Houston Sunday morning. They each gave brief sermons to the congregation of Grace Woodlands Church, before signing the legislation.

 

“Texas law now will be your strength and your sword and your shield,” Abbott told the congregation.

 

A ceremonial signing in Houston is symbolic for Abbott. In 2014, five local pastors in the city were subpoenaed by then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker, after they led an opposition to the city’s now defunct anti-discrimination ordinance — HERO.

 

Abbott, who was Attorney General at the time, said the move was a direct assault on the First Amendment.
Parker eventually dropped the subpoenas and in 2015, Houston voters approved repealing the city’s equal rights ordinance.

Posted by Jill Ament

@JillianAment

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.

Texas Lawmakers Reach Budget Compromise

After months of back and forth and private meetings over how best to craft a state budget for the next two years, Texas budget negotiators have reached a compromise.

 

“We have reached consensus on an appropriations plan that prioritizes education, addresses our transportation needs, helps our most vulnerable children, continues our advances in mental health and makes sure we have secure borders and safe communities,” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

 

One of the biggest sticking points has been whether to tap into the state’s savings account to help fill a $2.5 billion budget gap – or – delay dollars from the state’s highway fund. The ten member committee tasked with merging the two chambers’ ideas decided to do both, using about $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and another $1.8 billion from an accounting trick related to transportation funding approved in 2015.

 

“This budget adheres to the principles of fiscal responsibility that drive our economic success. It puts Texans first and keeps our state moving in the right direction.” Sen. Nelson added.

 

Budget negotiators decided to maintain border security funding at $800 million.

 

On education, it appears public schools will get about a $530 million boost. That’s well below the $1.9 billion the House wanted to infuse in public education.

 

Higher education also took a hit – but for now maintains a program known as special items.

 

Another highlight includes the film incentives program which lawmakers once zeroed out. The program ended up coming away with some funding for the next two years.

 

The compromise budget will still need to be approved by both chambers before it heads to the governor’s desk.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm.

Poll: More Texans Disapprove of Trump than Approve

President Donald Trump’s approval rating is underwater in Texas. That’s according to a new poll released today by the nonprofit leadership group, Texas Lyceum. Of the 1000 surveyed, 54 percent say they disapprove of the job Trump is doing as President compared to 42 percent who approve.

 

But the results vary significantly by party, with 85 percent of Republicans giving the President positive marks. Eighty-six percent of Democrats don’t like Trump’s job performance.

 

The poll also looked at the 2018 elections. But it shows most people aren’t yet paying attention to the matchup between Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

The two are tied at 30 percent support, with 37 percent saying they have not thought about the race.

 

“We’re just kind of taking an early look and seeing what the floor is for all these candidates — and it’s pretty even at this point,” Joshua Blank, Texas Lyceum Research Director, said.

 

Another possible challenger to Cruz, Congressman Joaquin Castro, fares slightly better, with 35 percent of Texas adults saying they support him over Cruz at 31 percent.

 

Click here to check out the full results of day one and two of the Texas Lyceum 2017 poll.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Poll: Majority of Texans Think Immigration Helps More than Hurts US

A majority of Texans, 62 percent, believe immigration helps the country more than it hurts it. That’s according to a new poll released Tuesday by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit leadership group. It’s the organization’s first deep dive into the issue of immigration in its 11-year polling history.

The poll also found the younger the respondent, the more positively they view immigration.

“Across a couple of different areas in this poll we found, the younger cohort, for lack of a better term, as having a little bit more liberal attitude on immigration, which makes sense in Texas where that younger age group is much more diverse than the older Texans,” Joshua Blank, Texas Lyceum Research Director, said.

The poll of 1000 Texans was conducted April 3rd through April 9th and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

It also focused on President Donald Trump’s border wall and found that most Texas adults (61 percent) continue to oppose it.

The group also looked at where Texans stand on “sanctuary city” policies, when local police or other local authorities do not automatically report undocumented immigrants to federal officials. The issue has been a big debate among lawmakers at the Texas Capitol this session.

Forty-nine percent of respondents were opposed to sanctuary cities, while 45 percent expressed support.

But more than 90 percent of Texans believe local police should be allowed to check immigration status when a person is arrested for a crime. That suggests more Texans would support a bill the House is currently considering, which limits asking about immigration status to people that have already been arrested.  The Senate has passed legislation that would allow local police to ask about immigration status if a person is either arrested or detained.

Click here to check out the full results of the Texas Lyceum Poll.

And tune to Capital Tonight at 7 for a break down of the poll with Joshua Blank.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Texas House Approves $218 Billion Budget after 15-hour Debate

The Texas House has approved a $218 billion state budget that includes tapping the Rainy Day Fund and nixing state money for vouchers. The vote to pass the budget came about 1:30am. Lawmakers approved it 131-16. The House must now work with the Senate to negotiate their many differences.

WATCH what happened while you were sleeping – House Approves Budget.

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Update 11:30pm:

An attempt to end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students was defeated in the Texas House late Thursday.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, offered an amendment to prevent Texas colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to unauthorized students. But Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, raised an objection and the House parliamentarian eventually decided Stickland’s measure went against the rules.

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Update 6:36pm:

A debate over a controversial abortion-related amendment passed the House 93-52 during Thursday’s budget debate. The added measure means $20 million will be taken from the state’s environmental agency to be funneled to an “Alternative to Abortion” program that counsels low-income, pregnant women. Republicans argued the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had received extra funding it wouldn’t miss.

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Update 4:40pm:

House Democrats unsuccessfully tried to take dollars earmarked for the state’s $800 million border security operation and put it toward other programs they say are underfunded. The state’s budget shortfall has left lawmakers proposing cuts to colleges and Medicaid, but Republicans have largely untouched the costly operation for hundreds of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border.

At the beginning of the session, many Republican lawmakers said they would consider pulling back that funding if President Donald Trump made good on his promise to secure the border. But without consistent action, state lawmakers say they will continue to keep state operations in place.

A prolonged oil slump and decisions made last session have left lawmakers with less money to spend in the new budget.

(the AP contributed to this update)

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Update 2:17pm:

House lawmakers have voted to restore some funding to a Medicaid program providing therapy for disabled children. Last session, lawmakers cut $350 million from the program, sparking outrage among parents whose children receive the services.

Thursday, House members got the extra funding by taking $43 million from the controversial Texas Enterprise Fund. That’s overseen by the governor and used to attract job-creating firms to the state. The approved amendment would divide the fund’s money between Child Protective Services and foster care funding and the therapy program for disabled children. The funding could still be removed as lawmakers continue to hash out the budget between both chambers.

But the move to strip the money from the Enterprise Fund ignited a clash in the chamber. Tea party members, who have also been against the Enterprise Fund, were critical of the way the amendment was passed. It was done so without a roll call vote

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, took to the microphone to criticize the body over what he called deceptive parliamentary maneuvers. He said lawmakers were using “sneaky” moves to avoid difficult votes.

“The people back home…have a right and an expectation to know where every single one of us stand on every single issue,” Rep. Stickland said.

 

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EARLIER:

Texas House lawmakers have begun what’s historically been a marathon budget debate that lasts into the wee hours of the next morning. The budget bill is the only piece of legislation lawmakers must pass each session. The Senate unanimously approved its version last month. House members are now taking up a $218 billion, two-year budget.

 

One key issue in Thursday’s debate is whether to tap the state’s rainy day fund. Lawmakers have less money this session, so the House budget uses $2.5 billion from the more than $10 billion reserve. Chief House budget writer, Chairman John Zerwas R-Richmond, has said he’s confident he has the vote of two-thirds of legislators needed to tap into the fund.

 

More than 400 amendments have been filed to try to tweak the budget. Several have already stirred controversy during Thursday’s debate.

 

The House overwhelmingly voted to ban the state from spending money on so-called “school choice” programs that allow public money to be spent on private school tuition. While it’s been a top priority of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the House has been less enthusiastic. The 103-44 vote Thursday was significant because it showed where the lower chamber stands on the likelihood of the state adopting a voucher system.

 

Other amendments being debated include several targeting the transgender community, border wall funding and even a state travel ban to California.

 

*This post will be updated throughout the day.

 

Tune to Capital Tonight at 7pm for the latest on the budget debate, plus analysis from Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi and former lawmaker Sherri Greenberg.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Gov. Abbott Names CPS, Ethics Reform, Sanctuary Cities and Convention of States Emergencies

Governor Greg Abbott laid out his priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature Tuesday morning. He told lawmakers to immediately get to work on four issues: overhauling the state’s broken foster care system, ethics reform legislation, banning so-called “sanctuary cities” and passing a resolution to support a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.

The designation of an emergency item permits the Legislature to vote on relevant legislation in the first 60 days of the 140-day session.

 

Child Protective Services overhaul:

The state’s child welfare system was declared broken by a federal judge in 2015 and lawmakers have been working to overhaul the agency. They approved emergency funding last year so CPS could hire more caseworkers and give employees a pay raise. The agency has been plagued by high caseloads and high turnover.

“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you,” Abbott told lawmakers in his address. “If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.”

 

Banning “Sanctuary Cities”:

Abbott has been in a showdown with the Travis County Sheriff over her new “sanctuary city” policy that places limits on requests from federal immigration officials. The Governor said this session will be the one where lawmakers ban sanctuary cities.

 

Ethics Reform:

The Governor named ethics reform an emergency item last session but lawmakers failed to get a bill to his desk. Abbott said he’s confident the sponsors of the legislation this time would be able “to avoid the pitfalls that led to the demise of ethics reform last session.”

 

Convention of States:

Abbott has been touting this idea for months. Calling for a convention of states would allow states to propose amendments to the US Constitution. For it to happen, 34 state legislatures must apply for a convention.

“For decades, the federal government has grown out of control,” Abbott said Tuesday. “It has increasingly abandoned the Constitution, stiff-armed the states and ignored its citizens. This isn’t a problem caused by one president. And it won’t be solved by one president. It must be fixed by the people themselves.”

 

The Governor also ordered a state hiring freeze through August. He said it’s a way to deal with the state’s tight budget and would free up about $200 million in the current budget.

 

Governor Abbott then touched on a number of topics that he did not deem emergency items. He criticized lawmakers on the pre-K program he championed last session. He said both the House and Senate budget give insufficient attention to improving the program.

“If you’re going to do this, do it right or don’t do it at all,” Abbott told lawmakers.

 

He has said he wants a so-called school choice bill to reach his desk and told lawmakers to make Texas the 31st state that offers parents the option of using public money to send their children to private schools. He also said lawmakers are right to tackle the issue of school finance now rather than putting it off. The Texas Supreme Court ruled the system barely constitutional last year, and urged lawmakers to make changes.

 

One thing notably missing from Abbott’s address – his stance on the so-called “bathroom bill” that could be the most controversial item of the session.

 

Click here to see the Governor’s budget.

 

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for analysis and reaction from Texas Democrats.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

At Confirmation Hearing, Perry Says He Regrets Pledging to Abolish Energy Department

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry kicked off his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Thursday morning by expressing regret for campaigning on the promise of doing away with the Energy Department.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

Perry is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Energy.

Perry also touched on the politically sensitive topic of climate change. He said in his opening remarks that he believes the climate is changing and some of it is caused by “man-made activity.”

“The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way?” Perry added. “When it comes to climate change, I’m committed to making decisions based on sound science that also take into account economic impact.”

The former Texas Governor repeatedly touted his tenure overseeing a state with the 12th largest economy in the world as reason he’s prepared for the position.

Fellow Texan, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn praised Perry as he introduced him to the committee citing job growth and Texas becoming the top exporting state in the country while Perry was Governor.

“Rick Perry is not a status quo kind of guy. He’s a leader. He’s an innovator,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn also noted that today, Texas leads the nation in oil and gas production and produces more wind energy than any other state in the country.

Perry was set to face tough questioning from Democratic Sen. Al Franken, but then this exchange happened:

 

But Sen. Franken then turned serious citing Perry’s 2010 book where he wrote about a “cooling trend” and asked about how much climate change he thinks is due to human activity.

“Senator far from me to be sitting before you today and claiming to be a climate scientist. I will not do that,” Perry said.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to be a climate scientist. But you’re going to be the head of the Department of Energy,” Franken responded. “I don’t want this idea of the economy and addressing climate change are at odds at all.”

 

This post will be updated and watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for full coverage and analysis of Perry’s confirmation hearing.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Proposed Texas Budgets Billions of Dollars Apart

Updated to include House version:

The only piece of legislation Texas lawmakers must pass each session has been filed.

Budget proposals from both the House and Senate were revealed Tuesday. The proposals are starting points for budget writers to begin negotiating, but the bills reveal big differences between the two chambers. First off, Texas Senate and House budgets are nearly $8 billion dollars apart.

Texas Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson has proposed a $213.4 billion two-year base budget.

State House Speaker Joe Straus’ includes $221.3 billion over two years.

One of the most glaring differences between the two chambers is with public education funding. The House wants to add $1.5 billion if lawmakers reform the school finance system. The Senate version does not increase state money for public schools beyond enrollment growth.

Both chambers agree a funding boost is needed for the state’s embattled child welfare system.

A slump in oil and gas prices, as well as decisions by lawmakers two years ago to cut taxes and dedicate money to road funding, has left the state with less money to spend.

 

Earlier version:

The only legislation Texas lawmakers must pass each session has been filed.

A $103.6 billion budget proposal from the State Senate is now on the table.

And while it’s a starting point for lawmakers in the upper chamber — the initial bill would mean significant cuts to many state agencies.

It also does not increase state money for public schools beyond enrollment growth.

The proposed budget by Republican Finance Chair Jane Nelson follows the Comptroller’s gloomy revenue estimate last week.

A slump in oil and gas prices, as well as decisions by lawmakers two years ago to cut taxes and dedicate money to road funding, has left the state with less money to spend.

The budget bill does include some funding boosts for programs including the embattled Child Protective Services agency and pre-kindergarten.

 

Here’s Sen. Nelson’s and Speaker Straus’ full releases on their base budgets:

 

SENATOR NELSON FILES SB 1, THE SENATE’S BASE BUDGET

AUSTIN – Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, today filed SB 1, the Senate’s base budget, establishing the state’s funding priorities for the next two years.

“This base budget is a starting point, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a balanced budget that addresses our needs and strengthens our economy.  While we will need to prioritize and make efficient use of our resources, I am confident we can meet the challenges ahead,” Senator Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said.

Last week, the Texas Comptroller issued his Biennial Revenue Estimate, indicating that the Legislature will have $104.9 billion available for the FY 18-19 budget.  SB 1 allocates $103.6 billion, including additional resources for transportation, Child Protective Services and other priorities. SB 1:

  • Continues the current funding formulas for both public education and higher education;
  • Adds $2.65 billion to cover student enrollment growth, which is projected to be more than 80,000 per year over the next two years;
  • Increases the education instructional materials allotment by $29.6 million;
  • Provides an additional $32 million for high quality pre-kindergarten;
  • Continues funding at current levels for Communities in Schools;
  • Includes $5 million for Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a new program designed to help students pursue careers in technology;
  • Provides $10 million to support Education Commissioner initiatives;
  • Maintains current funding levels for Texas’ major financial aid programs for public institutions of higher education, including TEXAS Grant;
  • Adds $44.1 million for Graduate Medical Education with the goal of ensuring that residency slots are available for Texas medical school graduates;
  • Dedicates approximately $5 billion for transportation in accordance with Proposition 7;
  • Adds $260 million to address the critical needs of Child Protective Services;
  • Provides a $1 billion commitment to improve the state hospital system and address other state facility needs;
  • Includes $63 million to eliminate waitlists for community mental health services;
  • Keeps funding for women’s health programs at current levels;
  • Maintains veterans’ services and the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a $20 million grant program to assist veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues;
  • Fully funds the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute;
  • Maintains the additional $800 million for border security approved last session;
  • Includes $25 million for high caliber bullet-proof vests to protect Texas peace officers;
  • Directs the Department of Information Resources to study the state’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

Balancing the state’s needs against available revenue, SB 1 eliminates one-time expenditures from the previous budget; includes many agency recommendations for 4% savings; reduces funding for non-educational higher education initiatives; and calls for a 1.5% across-the-board budget reduction, exempting the Foundation School Program.

With declining oil revenue and growing needs, the Legislature faces several critical budget decisions this session, including:

  • Structuring our school finance system to better meet the needs of students;
  • Skyrocketing health care costs in Medicaid, the Teacher Retirement System, the Employee Retirement System and correctional managed care; and
  • Addressing mental health needs of the state, including infrastructure and capacity challenges within the mental health state hospital system.

“We have difficult decisions to make this session, and we will work tirelessly to address the needs of the state in a responsible manner,” Senator Nelson said.

In crafting the base budget, 16 agencies underwent strategic fiscal review – a modified form of zero-based budgeting.  In an effort to improve transparency, five agency budgets are presented in a program-based format, and members will receive a program-based version of SB 1 in its entirety. For more information on how the budget process works, visit http://www.senate.texas.gov/_assets/srcpub/85th_Budget_101.pdf

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HOUSE BUDGET PRIORITIZES PUBLIC EDUCATION

AUSTIN – The initial 2018-19 budget introduced by Texas House leadership Tuesday puts additional resources into public education, child protection and mental health while increasing state spending by less than 1 percent.

“We keep overall spending low while making investments in children and our future,” said Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. “We put an emphasis on public education, child protection and better mental health care. The Members of the House, beginning with the Appropriations Committee, will now have the chance to shape this budget and decide how best to allocate resources during an economic slowdown. This is the first step toward producing a balanced budget that reflects the priorities of the Texas House and does not raise taxes.”

Highlights of the initial House budget include:

Public Education. The budget provides funding to pay for expected enrollment growth of about 165,000 students over the next two years. It also includes an additional $1.5 billion for public education that is contingent upon the passage of legislation that reduces Recapture and improves equity in the school finance system.

 

Child Protection. In December, the leaders of the House and Senate joined with Governor Greg Abbott to approve new caseworkers and investigators at Child Protective Services, as well as pay raises aimed at reducing employee turnover. Overall, the House budget provides $268 million to bring additional stability to the CPS workforce.

 

Mental Health. The House budget increases funding for behavioral health by $162 million. The increase would allow the Legislature to eliminate wait lists for mental health services and implement recommendations of the House Select Committee on Mental Health, including early identification efforts, jail diversion programs and local collaborations to expand capacity of mental health treatment facilities. The increase also provides funding for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Veterans.

 

The initial House plan appropriates $108.9 billion in General Revenue. It reduces funding for administrative costs and discretionary programs across state agencies. It also eliminates one-time funding provided by the last Legislature, such as completed capital and information technology projects. It also includes cost-containment efforts to reduce spending in Medicaid by $100 million.

“The House will have a productive debate about where to go from here,” Speaker Straus said. “I’m confident that the end product will put more dollars in the classroom, protect children and keep this state on sound fiscal footing.”

 

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling