School vouchers will be big today at the Capitol. The Senate Education Committee will hear two bills this morning that would set up a voucher (or school choice, as proponents call it) program. Sen. Dan Patrick’s SB 23 and Sen. Donna Campbell’s SB 1575 would permit businesses to divert tax money into a scholarship fund that would pay for kids in public schools to attend private ones. But that’s not all. This afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee will hear a similar bill, HB 3245, by Rep. Bill Callegari. The argument against these bills, as with many voucher plans, is that they would deprive public schools of much-needed funds.
Voucher-hearing day couldn’t have come at a worse time for proponents. It seems unlikely that a voucher bill can pass the House after the lower chamber overwhelmingly rejected vouchers during the budget debate last week. Sen. Patrick may think that school choice is the “civil rights issue of our time,” as he frequently calls it, but he may have to wait at least another session to see a voucher plan implemented.
1. The Texas Enterprise fund has been a boon to the campaign accounts of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, reports the San Antonio Express-News. Donors associated with companies that received job-creation grants from the Enterprise Fund donated $3.6 to Texas’ top three lawmakers, according to a detailed report by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
2. Casinos will get their biennial hearing and this time around two of the three big players are in talks together, writes the Quorum Report.
3. The Texas Tribune reports that the political drama surrounding the University of Texas continues, with Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) calling on Gov. Rick Perry to turn down the heat. Don’t hold your breath for that.
Line of the day:
“In this day and time, I recognize that people of the same sex become partners. I think there’s a recognition nationally that we could do better [in] how we treat people that have same-sex relationships.” – Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) on legislation to add same sex language to laws on sex.
What We’re Watching Today:
1. There are four, yes four, committees discussing big environmental issues in the House and Senate today.
2. Voucher bills in House and Senate committees.
3. Pharmacists are pushing a bill—SB 1013—up in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today that would allow pharmacists to administer vaccines. The doctors aren’t crazy about this idea. Should be a fun debate.
3. The House Public Education Committee will hear the Texas Education Agency sunset bill, which would reform the agency. The committee is also scheduled to debate cutting funds to districts that offer same-sex partner benefits. Maybe they should listen to Whitmire about that.