Legislative Update > 2015 Legislative Updates > April 10, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 9)

April 10, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 9)

This Week in Austin...

The 84th session of the Texas Legislature is more than halfway over. Mounting tensions over budget, immigration issues – including tuition – and tax cuts have dominated legislators’ time and also grabbed headlines in the news. Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor, and Dr. Justin Lonon, executive vice chancellor, both once again traveled to Austin and served as proponents for DCCCD’s legislative priorities, as well as issues that affect student and employees alike.

The Bottom Line...

Both chambers continued to debate and discuss budget bills and tax cuts this week. The Senate’s finance committee unanimously approved a $211.4 billion budget on Wednesday. Committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson said she expects the Senate version of the budget bill to be debated by the full Senate next week.  That budget is $1.6 billion more than the House budget that was approved recently; it also is a $9.3 billion increase from the current two-year budget. Read more in the Texas Tribune: Senate Committee Moves $211.4 Billion Budget Forward.

The proposed House budget was approved by a panel in late March and has been sent to the full House; that budget would spend $209.8 billion, including federal money, over two years, an increase of 3.8 percent over the current cycle.

The legislature continues to consider tax cuts, but the approach differs between the Senate and the House. The Senate’s plan cuts business and property taxes. In what some observers described as a “first,” the House began considering a $4.9 billion tax cut plan on Wednesday that features cuts in sales and business taxes. The Dallas Morning News called the proposed sales tax cuts in the House “the first statewide sales tax cut in Texas history.” For details, read House’s proposed sales tax cut a Texas first in the Dallas Morning News. For a more detailed discussion, check out another story in the Dallas Morning News, House tax-cut package would save average family $172 a year.

Given the many variables in the proposals, the final budget plan could include a small decrease or increase in DCCCD’s state allocation. 

Education Issues on the Table: What Happens Next?...

Repealing the Noriega Bill has been a top priority for a number of legislators. A Senate subcommittee hearing on Monday about repealing the 2001 state law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition (with certain requirements) lasted well beyond midnight as many witnesses lined up to protest the move.

According to the Texas Tribune, the bill’s author, state Sen. Donna Campbell, argued that the growth of the population served by the law – about 25,000, currently – means that the promise of in-state tuition serves as a magnet that encourages illegal immigration. For details, read: Bill Repealing In-State Tuition for Undocumented Heads to Senate.

DCCCD trustees decided in the 1990s to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, becoming a model for the Noriega Bill. DCCCD opposes its repeal and is working with others to defeat that effort. An editorial in the Dallas Morning News this week sums up the reasons why the bill should remain: Editorial: Don’t rescind in-state tuition.

In other education news, the House gave its okay to add $130 million over the next two years for pre-k to boost the quality of pre-kindergarten classes in Texas. This move would help support other legislation related to DCCCD’s legislative priority to put a baccalaureate degree program in place for early childhood education. Working together, the state and higher education can solve a teacher shortage in early childhood education and also open access to pre-k classrooms for approximately 37,000 youngsters who are left out right now. Learn more by reading House approves $130 million pre-K improvement bill. DCCCD’s early childhood education baccalaureate bill – HB 3836 – now has 10 legislators who have indicated their willingness to sign on as co-authors of the bill. 

Universities across the state were relieved when a Senate panel approved a plan last Wednesday to authorize $2.9 billion in bonds for 64 renovation and construction projects at public colleges and universities. The bill now has moved to the full Senate for a vote. The Austin American-Statesman offers more information in this story: Texas Senate panel approves $2.9 billion for college bonds.

Workforce and Economic Development...

On Wednesday, Dr. May testified on behalf of HB 1155 which would create the Recruit Texas Program. Recruit Texas is a program similar to the Louisiana Fast Start workforce initiative that Dr. May helped develop there. Last Fall, Dr. May met with leaders at the Texas Workforce Commission to help craft the framework of HB 1155. This bill would provide a means for the TWC and community and technical colleges to respond rapidly to workforce expansion and recruiting efforts. 

Tracking Bills...

During the last two weeks, we also have paid particular attention to bills relating to the state’s College Credit for Heroes program (SB 806), which the district offers, and to a bill, SB 13, which would remove the cap on dual credit if it passes. As we have mentioned in previous updates, we are tracking a number of other bills that affect DCCCD, community colleges and higher education.

Throughout the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, we will continue to have information on the DCCCD website where you can track bills of interest to the district.

Our list will be updated regularly. Categories include:

  • budget measures
  • local taxes/appraisal reform/revenue caps
  • baccalaureate degrees
  • handguns
  • transfer
  • undocumented student tuition
  • college readiness
  • dual credit/early college
  • boards
  • tuition and tuition exemptions
  • financial aid

Please contact us if you see a bill of interest or if you have any questions.

As the 84th session evolves, we will call upon many people in the DCCCD family to support our advocacy efforts.

Newsletter published by the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, Dallas County Community College District. Please contact Justin Lonon for more information about DCCCD's legislative initiatives.​​​