It’s official. The Texas 85th Legislative Session has begun. The first day of the 140-day session convened on Tuesday, January 10, and both chambers began the business of the people at noon. Even before members gaveled into session, more than 1,300 bills were pre-filed.
While the official workday at the Capitol began this week, the DCCCD office of public and governmental affairs began preparing in 2016. Chancellor Joe May met with members, committee chairs and stakeholders, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus to address issues that are important to students, faculty and staff.
The first day was filled with pomp and circumstance. On the House side, Joe Straus was unanimously elected as Speaker for a record-tying fifth term. In the Senate, the chamber is led by Lt. Gov. Patrick, and members who are nominated and approved by Sen. Kel Seliger as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. President Pro Tempore is an honorary position; Sen. Seliger will serve as the state’s leader whenever the governor and lieutenant governor aren’t available.
When we visit with House and Senate members, Chancellor May and DCCCD staff members have a primary goal: to share important issues. Some of those include:
Throughout the session, we will track these and other bills that affect DCCCD - like funding for the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) – as they make their way through the legislative process. We also partner with our association, the Texas Association of Community Colleges, and align on important issues. We will provide a link and post bills to watch in future newsletters. As always, please feel free to contact our office with any questions.
Even before the House and Senate begin assigning members to committees, the first step is to identify how much money has been generated and how much funding is available. This week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), which projected that the state has approximately $104.87 billion in revenue available to allocate for the 2018-2019 budget.
That amount represents a 2.7 percent decrease from the last biennium. The decrease can be attributed to nearly $5 billion that would have been part of general revenue but instead were redirected to fund transportation by voters when Proposition 7 passed in November. State revenue from all sources, including federal, is expected to reach $224.8 billion for the 2018-19 biennium. However, portions of this revenue are dedicated for specific purposes, which makes them unavailable for general-purpose spending.
On January 20, the 45th President of the United States will be sworn into office at noon (ET). Over the last few weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has been preparing for office and selecting his cabinet members. All prospective cabinet members must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The President-elect has selected Betsy DeVos as his nominee for Secretary of Education. Her committee hearing is scheduled for January 17.
DCCCD actively monitors issues and advocacy in Washington, D.C. Two of those issues are important: (1) the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; and (2) the restoration of summer Pell Grants. We will share more information once a Secretary of Education is confirmed and the new administration takes office.
Every Texas legislative session takes on a life of its own. Committee assignments and chairs will change for various reasons, many barbeques will be held, some bills will fly through the process, and others will be passed at the very end. When it happens, your DCCCD team will be engaged in Austin -- tracking bills and sharing notes, stories and links with you. We also ask you to participate…to sign up for, and forward our newsletter…to truly make an impact and help us pass policy for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff. We need your help to support our advocacy efforts.
The First Day in Photos