On October 30, 2019, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick posted a list of 116 charges for committees of the Texas Senate to study during the interim before the 2021 legislative session. The charges include seven that were issued to the Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety in September.
Of note are the following charges that relate to public schools or students:
Teacher Workforce: Examine best practice models to recruit, prepare, and retain highly effective teachers. Review teacher professional development, continuing education, and training for teachers, and recommend improved training methods to improve student academic outcomes.
Alternative Education Students: Study current local, state, and national policies and programs for alternative education student populations. Make recommendations to strengthen existing programs and encourage the development of new innovative models.
Adult Education: Identify and evaluate current innovative programs that assist non-traditional students (first-time adult learners, re-enrolling students, working adults, and educationally disadvantaged students) in completing a high school diploma, GED, post-secondary degree, or workforce credential, including a review of adult education charter schools and their performance framework. Make recommendations to help successful expansion with partnered business and education entities.
Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs: Review disciplinary alternative education programs, including lengths of placement, quality of instruction, and the physical conditions of these facilities. Make recommendations to support and promote the academic success of these programs and enhance the ability of public schools to meet the needs of these students through innovative school models.
Digital Learning: Assess the Texas Virtual School Network and recommend model legislation that improves digital learning for students, families, and educators in a 21st Century classroom.
Special Education Services: Evaluate ongoing strategies to continuously improve special education services for students in public schools including, but not limited, to the Texas Education Agency’s corrective action plan.
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- Senate Bill 11, relating to policies, procedures, and measures for school safety and mental health promotion in public schools and the creation of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium;
- House Bill 3, relating to public school finance and public education; and
- House Bill 3906, relating to the assessment of public school students, including the development and administration of assessment instruments, and technology permitted for use by students.
State Affairs Committee
Taxpayer Lobbying: Study how governmental entities use public funds for political lobbying purposes. Examine what types of governmental entities use public funds for lobbying purposes. Make recommendations to protect taxpayers from paying for lobbyists who may not represent the taxpayers’ interests.
Elections: Study the integrity and security of voter registration rolls, voting machines, and voter qualification procedures to reduce election fraud in Texas. Specifically, study and make recommendations to: 1) ensure counties are accurately verifying voter eligibility after voter registration; 2) improve training requirements for mail-in ballot signature verification committees; 3) ensure every voter has access to a polling station, particularly in counties that have adopted countywide polling; 4) allow the voter registrar, county clerk, and Secretary of State to suspend an unqualified voter’s registration or remove an ineligible voter from a list of registered voters; and 5) ensure compliance with laws that prohibit school trustees and employees from improperly using public funds to advocate for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.
Lobbying Loopholes: Review current lobby laws and examine exceptions that allow certain individuals to avoid registration as lobbyists. Consider whether the exceptions are fair, transparent, and promote the public’s trust in their elected officials and governmental institutions. Propose whether these exceptions should be limited or removed so that all people engaging in lobbying must report their lobbying activities.
Investment of State Funds: Review the investment strategies and performance of funds invested through the Teacher Retirement System, the Permanent School Fund, and university funds. Make recommendations to better coordinate and leverage Texas’ purchasing power to maximize investment income to the state.
Spending Limit: Examine options and make recommendations for strengthening restrictions on appropriations established in Article VIII, Section 22, of the Texas Constitution, including related procedures defined in statute. Consider options for ensuring available revenues above spending limit are reserved for tax relief.
Business Personal Property Tax: Study the economic dynamics of the current business personal property tax. Consider the economic and fiscal effects of increased exemptions to the business personal property tax, versus its elimination. Following such study, make recommended changes to law.
Natural Disaster Funding: Review federal, state, and local eligibility and receipt of disaster funds from Community Development Block Grants – Disaster Relief and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Identify any barriers to the effective utilization of those funds and recommend any changes to statute, rule, or practice to promote the efficient deployment of those funds and expedite recovery by affected citizens, businesses, and communities.
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Finance passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- Senate Bill 12, relating to the contributions to and benefits under the Teacher Retirement System;
- House Bill 3384, relating to the authority of the comptroller to conduct a limited-scope review of an appraisal district located in an area declared by the governor to be a disaster area;
- House Bill 4388, relating to the management of the permanent school fund by the School Land Board and the State Board of Education and a study regarding distributions from the permanent school fund to the available school fund;
- House Bill 4611, relating to certain distributions to the available school fund;
- Contingent upon voter approval, study the implementation of House Bill 492 and House Joint Resolution 34, relating to a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster;
- District implementation of increases in teacher compensation provided by the 86th Legislature; and
- Efficiencies in state-funded health care programs that reduce or contain costs and improve quality of care. Assess the quality and performance of health plans that contract with the state, including contract compliance, financial performance and stability, quality metrics, and consumer surveys, among other indicators. Monitor the implementation of Health and Human Services Commission Rider 19 and Article IX, Section 10.06.
Criminal Justice Committee
Keeping Vaping Devices/E-Cigarettes Out of the Hands of Children: Consider the emerging public safety concerns from the rise in “vaping” and e-cigarette use by minors. Study whether current criminal penalties are sufficient to deter individuals from selling these devices and substances used to fill these devices to minors.
Crimes Against Students with Disabilities: Examine whether current laws are effectively protecting students with disabilities. Make recommendations to improve student safety, while also protecting educators’ abilities to maintain order and safety for everyone in the classroom.
Health and Human Services Committee
Public Health: Examine the emerging public health concerns from the rise in e-cigarette use and “vaping,” especially among minors. Determine if additional policies or laws are needed to protect the public’s health.
Rural Health: Examine and determine ways to improve health care delivery in rural and medically underserved areas of the state. Determine whether additional funding provided during the 86th Legislative Session has helped to ensure more accessible and quality health care in rural areas.
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- The continued implementation of Senate Bill 11 (85th Legislature) and Community-Based Care by the Department of Family and Protective Services; and
- Senate Bill 21, including strategies to address tobacco and nicotine use, including e-cigarettes and vaping, by adolescents.
Higher Education Committee
Community College Service Areas: Review the capacity of Texas community colleges to meet the goals of 60X30TX. Determine whether community college taxing districts, service areas, and geographic areas are aligned to meet the needs of students and communities throughout the state. Consider the fiscal impact of and recommend effective funding strategies for dual credit, and distance and online learning for community college districts.
Data Transparency: Explore methods to improve data sharing and transparency among state agencies, school districts and charter schools, and higher education institutions. Consider best practices to increase the ability of high schools and higher education institutions to support student post-secondary access and degree completion and how to provide policymakers with data on each. Recommend methods of integrating existing data systems at the K-12 and higher education levels to provide real-time support and direction for students.
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Higher Education passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- Senate Bill 1757, relating to student loan repayment assistance under the math and science scholars loan repayment program. Examine other methods and make recommendations to promote and expand teaching as a profession in Texas.
Joint Charges for Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and Water and Rural Affairs Committee
Local Economic Development Incentives: Study the use of local tax abatements allowed under Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code. Make recommendations to promote transparency and enhance effectiveness of tax abatements, capital investment incentives, and similar programs.
Property Tax Committee
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of the following legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Property Tax passed by the 86th Legislature. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- Senate Bill 2, relating to ad valorem taxation.