Hot List: Day 120 of the Legislature

by Published on
Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

It’s looking more and more likely that Texas high school kids will soon have to take fewer standardized tests to graduate. One of the session’s biggest education bills, House Bill 5, finally passed the Senate yesterday. It’s a major victory for opponents of standardized tests. The bill, as the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports, reduces the number of standardized tests required for graduation.

The bill also sets up new curriculum standards, which were a source of intense dispute and led to backroom negotiations that delayed the bill over the weekend. Lawmakers were divided over whether Texas schools prepare all kids for college or steer some toward career training and job skills. Supporters hope the bill does both. In the end, the measure passed unanimously. It now moves to a conference committee, which will work out differences between House and Senate versions.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. University students could soon get to participate in free dialogue and open debate in the classroom—with a gun by their side. The House passed a bill yesterday that would allow the president of a college or university to decide whether or not concealed weapons will be allowed on campus and prohibits a student from facing criminal charges if they are found with a concealed gun on a no-gun campus.

2. Rep. Chris Turner’s bill that proposed to ban political “double-dipping” died in committee yesterday. The bill—which would ban veteran state officials from drawing both a state salary and tapping their state pension at the same time— lacked support. That means Gov. Perry, who was caught double-dipping last year, can sleep easy now: He remains one of the highest paid governors in the country.

3. A bill to reform the governor’s Emerging Technology Fund passed the House on second reading yesterday, as the Texas Tribune reports. The tech fund has been accused of engaging in cronyism for aiding the governor’s political allies with grants for tech projects.

Line of the Day:

“The goal is for our students to graduate ready for college and career and hopefully both, but we know not every student’s going to college, not every student is going into a career so we designed a system, I think, where every student has that opportunity and … we’re going to let their passion lead them instead of a system lead them.” —Dan Patrick, in his defense of HB 5 on the Senate floor.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. A franchise tax cleanup bill, HB 500, is scheduled for debate on the House floor. Here’s a good overview.

2. The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will hear a bill by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa that would overhaul the Forensic Science Commission. The FSC has seen its share of controversy (see the Cameron Todd Willingham inquiry) but has been mostly free of scandal lately. Hinojosa’s bill would institute a number of reforms, including altering the makeup of the commission.

3. The calendar. Yesterday was the last day for House committees to pass House bills. The deadline for the full House to pass House bills is Thursday.The crunch is on.