Hot List: Day 95 of Legislature
The big news yesterday was in the Senate, which passed a heavily amended version of Senate Education Chair Dan Patrick’s controversial charter school reform bill Thursday afternoon, with only one vote against. The bill originally would have removed a state cap on the number of state-issued charter schools, created a new education board to oversee charters, and required public-school districts to allow charters to occupy any empty facilities.
As the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports, Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) offered an amendment that—instead of eliminating the cap altogether—would set it at 305 by 2019 and would also impose a cap on out-of-state charter schools. Patrick accepted the change along with several other Democratic amendments. Just before the bill passed, senators applauded the “new” Dan Patrick and asked him to remember this feat of bipartisan cooperation.
1 The Senate passed an amended version of SB 21, which mandates drug testing for some Texans seeking unemployment benefits, the Quorum Report writes. It was the second drug-testing bill the Senate passed in two days. Both were heavily amended to attract Democratic support.
2. The Texas Tribune reports that Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) laid out his plan to filter $6 billion from the rainy day fund into transportation and water projects and laid the groundwork for a discussion on using some of the funds for public education.
Line of the Day:
“Perhaps they do not understand the difference between ‘inconvenient’ and ‘confidential’… I cannot help but note the irony of Chair Powell’s complaints, given the sweeping demands for information demanded by some regents from [University of Texas at Austin] personnel.” —Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) to the Texas Tribune about the UT regents’ refusal to turn over documents to the Legislature
What We’re Watching Today:
1. It’s Friday, and the Legislature is still in town. Well, House members are around anyway—the House’s first working Friday of 2013, a clear sign that we’ve entered the session’s final stretch. The House is meeting today at 10 a.m. A few bills are up on third and final reading, including HB 1642, the Port of Houston Authority Sunset Bill. The bill would limit terms for port authority commissioners, require the port authority to pay for a review by the Sunset Advisory Committee in the 2016-17 biennium.
2. The House Public Health Committee will meet at 9 a.m., but as of this writing no agenda has been posted yet.