At The Session’s Halfway Point, Lawmakers Are Moving Forward On School Finance

This week in Texas politics with the Texas Tribune

By Wells Dunbar & Joy DiazMarch 22, 2019 11:24 am,

Time for the week that was in Texas politics with Emily Ramshaw, editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune.

As the Texas Legislature’s regular session reaches the halfway point, Ramshaw says major initiatives, including school finance, are moving forward. The House passed its $6 billion school bill, plus another $3 billion bill for property tax relief.

“Now, here’s the rub,” Ramshaw says. “That currently doesn’t include the teacher pay raise that is a huge priority of [Lt. Gov.] Dan Patrick, and is in the Senate bill.”

Ramshaw says the House favored a merit pay raise for teachers, but ended up removing that element from the bill it passed because the idea was controversial. Still, she says the House will probably continue to be at odds with the Senate because the Senate favors an across-the-board pay increase for teachers.

Lawmakers are also set to tap the state’s rainy day fund, likely taking out the largest amount ever with much of the money going to Hurricane Harvey recovery projects. Ramshaw says the House wants to take out $8 billion total, with $6.6 billion to fund Harvey projects, while the Senate would pull $4.4 billion from the fund.

When it comes to state versus local control in Texas, Ramshaw says the main debate this session is over is paid sick leave. Several communities have passed ordinances requiring employers to provide it, and some state lawmakers want to prohibit those laws. Ramshaw says polls show Texas voters overwhelmingly support sick leave requirements.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.