March 11th marked the 70th day since the 83rd Legislature convened, and the halfway point of the 2013 legislative session. We have made a lot of progress over the past several months, and the second half of this session will prove to be a busy and productive time for my colleagues and I in the House and Senate.
There are over 6,000 pieces of legislation filed by the legislature this session. The previous session resulted in roughly a 21% success rate for bills.
Last week the House Appropriations Committee completed our draft of the 2014-2015 State Budget, which will soon be delivered to the full House of Representatives for debate and a vote before being sent to the Governor for his signature. Our budget funds the state's public schools, water and transportation infrastructure, and vital public service programs to guarantee that Texas is well equipped to continue to lead the nation in both economic and population growth. This balanced budget will fund our state's high priority public works projects while maintaining a low level of spending to ensure that taxes are not raised on Texans.
Specific areas of the budget saw an increase in funding correlated with population growth and demand on state services. Public education saw an 8.6 percent increase. Higher education received a 1.2 percent increase, and public water and transportation infrastructure received a 26.8 percent increase.
Today, the House of Representatives is debating House Bill 5 as it relates to public school accountability, including assessment, and curriculum requirements by Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Education. I have signed on as a joint-author to this bill.
This bill will:
- Reduce the number of end-of-course assessments from fifteen to five
- Eliminate the requirement that the end-of-course assessments determine fifteen percent of a student's course grade
- Allow districts to partner with community colleges and industry to develop rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provide technical training and count towards graduation
Chairman Aycock wrote an editorial which appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where he makes his case for HB 5. The editorial can be found here.
2nd Amendment Bills:
I am also proud to announce that several pro-2nd Amendment bills have been heard in various House Committees and have received overwhelming support of Texans statewide.
- HB 553 Relating to firearms and the preservation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution; providing penalties.
- HB 700 Relating to the authority of a person who is licensed to carry a handgun to openly carry the handgun; providing penalties.
- HB 972 Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns on the campuses of and certain other locations associated with institutions of higher education.
I am proud to have co-authored each of these bills and am excited to see them move on to the House floor for a full vote.
On Wednesday, March 27th the house will hear House Bill 4 which will establish the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). HB 4 is authored by Representative Alan Ritter, Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Over the next 50 years, both population and water demand in the state is estimated to significantly increase, while existing water supply is projected to decrease. The Water For Texas 2012 State Water Plan includes many unique water supply strategies. These strategies include conservation, drought management, surface water projects, groundwater resource projects, water reuse, desalination, and a variety of other management solutions.
Next week the House of Representatives will take up Senate Bill 1, the General Appropriations Bill.