Brietbart - It was standing room only in a marathon meeting on the Texas House floor. Six proposed early childhood education bills were presented and debated before the House Committee on Public Education on Tuesday, March 10. The biggest issue of the day was half-day versus full-day of pre-Kindergarten (pre-K), although a frontrunner emerged in House Bill 4 (HB 4) authored by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston).
Last month, during his State of the State address, Governor Greg Abbott placed early education as his top emergency items for the 84th Legislature to undertake. Although the nationwide push from the Obama administration is towards full-day Head Start-based programs, Abbott ran on a platform of sensible early education, a manageable, approach that would bump up pre-K programs by building upon what already works statewide. Many felt Huberty’s proposed legislation was most in line with the Governor’s vision.
The Woodlands Villager - State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has co-authored a bill that would allow parents of children in a failing school to petition for the reconstitution, repurposing, alternative management or closure of low-performing public campuses after two years instead of the current statute of five years. Senator Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is the primary author.
“Senator Taylor and I are working shoulder-to-shoulder to advance and strengthen Texas’ current parent empowerment law,” Creighton stated in a release. “Parents shouldn’t be forced to subject their children to schools that are clearly failing to meet their needs.”
Bellaire - River Oaks - West University Examiner - State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from north Harris County, filed a bill today that will make court records more accessible to the public and save people money. Senate Bill 967, Bettencourt said, would allow people to access and print at no charge non-certified copies of electronic court records. They now pay 15 cents for each page the copy, and sometimes court records number in the hundreds of pages.
“If you can get government records on the internet,” Bettencourt said, “you should be able to download them for free.”
The Pasadena Citizen- Entities exercising eminent domain authority could be on the hook for attorney and expert fees if they offer below market value for property under a bill considered by a Senate panel Monday. SB 474, by Brenham Senator Lois Kolkhorst, would require those payments if it is later determined they initially offered more than 10 percent less than the market value of a property seized through eminent domain. Kolkhorst said she wants to make sure that property owners without vast resources don't feel like they are priced out of the justice system.
"The common person cannot afford it," she said. "This bill is for the average Texan.
Cypress Creek Mirror - Nearly 150 senior adults had the opportunity to help influence policy during a trip to the state capitol organized by Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle’s Senior Adult Program and Fun4Seniors.
Precinct 4 residents were joined by seniors from all over Texas who converged on the front steps of the state capitol for Senior Day Feb. 17, a statewide event arranged by the Texas Senior Advocacy Coalition, which works to develop and promote public policy supporting senior adults.
Kicking off the event was Attorney General Ken Paxton who delivered the keynote address. Following the speech, seniors had the opportunity to voice their concerns and meet representatives including Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, Dwayne Bohac, Gary Elkins and Senfronia Thompson.
KXAN Austin - In an ever changing state, Texas authorities need to stay up to date on everything from drones to human trafficking. This session, House Speaker Joe Straus created the Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement. In the proclamation, Straus requested the committee focus on a broad range of topics that include: body camera, drone surveillance, border security, human trafficking, active shooters, and the ongoing mental health crisis.
Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, was chosen as chair and Rep. Dawnna Duke, D-Austin, is vice-chair.
“The committee shall investigate and review the training and professional needs of law enforcement in the state of Texas, including the award and sufficiency of law enforcement training grants, methods of training, and types of training-including training in emerging or changing threats such as human trafficking, mental health crisis and confrontation, organized crime, and critical incident shooting,” Straus said in his proclamation.
Dallas Morning News - Texas Republicans are moving to stamp out Democratic challenges to their policies, particularly in the legal realm. Some GOP leaders want to strip heavily Democratic Travis County of an anti-corruption unit that has pursued high-profile Republicans such as Tom DeLay and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Gov. Greg Abbott and freshman Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas seek to rein in big-city local governments that they say are imposing “nanny state” rules. And two GOP lawmakers have introduced measures that would deny Travis County judges their usual first crack at deciding multibillion-dollar lawsuits over school finance and politically fraught battles over redistricting.
...Rep. Mike Schofield, a GOP freshman from Houston who introduced the House version of the bill, said the Democratic judges in Travis County have outsize influence. “At the district court level is where you frame the issues” that set bounds for later rulings by the Supreme Court, he said.
Houston Chronicle - The popular state purchasing program used for a $110 million no-bid contract now engulfed in scandal is likely to be revamped in the next few months, officials said this week.
At least two different bills to add safeguards to the Cooperative Contracts program are in the works, lawmakers said, and those in charge of the program are not expected to oppose reform.
...State Rep. Gary Elkins said this week he was thinking about introducing a bill that would require state agencies to consider three pre-approved vendors before making a purchase through the program. That already is encouraged, but not required.
The Friendswood Journal - The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) announced the unanimous election of Senator Larry Taylor (R – Friendswood) as the new President of the Research Institute’s Board of Directors.
"It is an honor to accept the role of TCCRI President for the 2015-2016 term," Taylor said. "Like many other conservative legislators, I trust the valuable support TCCRI provides to help enact meaningful reform in Austin and I look forward to the opportunity to lead as we continue to be a part of moving this state forward."
Austin American-Statesman - Texas Senate budget writers appeared to reach bipartisan agreement Monday that the state needs an official definition for ‘border security’ so they and law enforcement can measure the effectiveness of a prolonged and state-bankrolled enforcement effort at the Texas-Mexico boundary.
The consensus came after Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee – joined by one Republican – jumped on the lack of detail in the upper chamber’s proposed budget about how exactly to spend the $815 million the two-year spending plan allocates for border security efforts.
...“There have to be performance measures,” said state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.
“Christmas polls well in my house,” he continued, but “every dollar needs to be accounted for.”
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, agreed with Eltife: “We do need to define what border security is.”