Legislative Review

Marty DeLeon
Escamilla & Poneck

Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen joined together for a press conference. The Capitol leaders spoke about the work ahead hoping to guide the Legislature towards accomplishing property tax and school finance reform. .

Gov. Greg Abbott's State of the State address has been scheduled for Feb. 5. Abbott will lay out his agenda for lawmakers. Abbott has already made it clear that reforming property taxes and school finance are his top priorities for the session. The Texas Senate voted to create a committee to address property tax reform — a priority that state leaders have promised will take center stage for the next five months.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick spoke at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Conference recently. Without identifying a funding mechanism or revenue source, Patrick proposed an increase in base pay for teachers, an effort to recruit better educators into schools. Patrick said the Senate will keep the state's current funding level for border security at $800 million. Also, Patrick called for better relations between the education community and the Legislature. "We have to stop the war" between the two, Patrick said. "Some of it's valid, most of it's not."

In the House, Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was officially and unanimously voted by members to be the new House Speaker. Speaker Bonnen reiterated his goals for the session, declaring that school finance reform was where he intended on focusing the House’s work. In fact, social media showed Styrofoam cups that the Bonnen’s team placed in members’ lounges with the phrase “School Finance Reform, The Time Is Now.” printed on them.

Comptroller Hegar issued his biennial revenue estimate informing lawmakers that the state will have close to $9 billion in new money for the coming biennium. Hegar did express concern that a supplemental appropriations bill - in the $4 billion range – may be needed to help cover the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and rising Medicaid enrollment.

Legislation cannot be considered until committees are named. The Lt. Governor may announce committee assignments as early as next week. The new Speaker (Rep. Dennis Bonnen) may announce the House committee assignments by late January. The House Public Education committee will increase from 11 to 13 members, a move that allows more input from state representatives.

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