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Topic review - Steve Johnson's Monday Message 4 May 2015
Post Posted: Mon May 04, 2015 10:06 am
Budget

Last Tuesday, the Conference Committee met for the first time to organize and discuss the timeline for the committee's work. The committee members heard from Legislative Budget Board (LBB) staff on the major differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. The budget process works under two primary limits on spending; 1) the Constitutional "pay-as-you-go" limitation, which is set by the Comptroller's "Biennial Revenue Estimate", and 2) the biennial spending limit, which is set before each Session by the members of the LBB.

Both chamber's budgets are below these two limits but in differing amounts. The House's budget is currently $8.4 billion under the "pay-as-you-go" limit, while the Senate's budget is $4.4 billion under this limit. The Senate's version has lower dollar amount because that budget factors in the property tax relief, while the House's version does not include its proposed sales tax relief. The House's budget is currently $2.0 billion under the spending limit, while the Senate's version is $1.3 billion under this limit. Chair Otto and Chair Nelson both indicated that until agreement can be reached on the differing tax issues the Conference Committee will have a difficult time making budget decisions. Both Chairs also stated that the soonest the committee might meet again would be two weeks to announce any decisions that had been made.



Legislative Committees

House Higher Education

Last week the committee heard several bills of interest. HB 3521 by Faircloth would allow certain Independent School Districts to create limited purpose community colleges. Testifying in opposition to this bill were Dr. Dennis Brown, President of Lee College; Dr. Pam Anglin, President of Paris Junior College, and Dr. Brent Wallace, President of North Central Texas College. Several bills were heard related to service areas that had not been agreed to by Blinn College and Lonestar College. Testifying on those bills were Dr. Steve Head, Chancellor of the Lonestar College System; and Cathy Boeker, Associate Vice President at Blinn College. Also on the agenda was HB 2138 by Raney which would create new financial reporting requirements of all community colleges. Testifying on behalf of TACC was Dr. Ben Ferrell, Executive Vice President, Finance & Administration at Austin Community College who explained how the bills provisions would be problematic and unnecessary.

In other actions, the committee voted out HB 3836 by Giddings which would allow the Dallas County Community College District to offer a baccalaureate in early childhood education. The committee also voted out HB 3348 by Clardy which would allow Tyler Junior College to offer a baccalaureate in dental hygiene.

This week, the committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday, May 6th at 8:00 am in E2.014. The committee is scheduled to hear several bills - among these include several of interest to community colleges:

HB 1896 Alvarado
Relating to the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant program.

HB 3273 Rodriguez, Eddie
Relating to the exemption of tuition and fees at public institutions of higher education for certain certified or licensed paramedics.

HB 3508 Rodriguez, Eddie
Relating to a college readiness memorandum of understanding between a school district and an institution of higher education.

HB 3524 Huberty
Relating to exemptions for disabled peace officers from payment of tuition and fees at public institutions of higher education.

SB 1189 Seliger
Relating to the establishment of a transfer associate degree program at each public junior college.


Senate Higher Education

The Committee met last week and among the many bills heard were several related to the expansion of baccalaureate degrees at community colleges. Among those testifying were Dr. Richard Rhodes, TACC Chair and President at Austin Community College; Dr. Pam Anglin, President at Paris Junior College; Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Chancellor at San Jacinto College; Dr. Cesar Maldonado, Chancellor at the Houston Community College System; Dr. Neil Matkin, President at Collin College; and Dr. Joe May, Chancellor at the Dallas County Community College District.

The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday, May 6th at 9:00 am in E1.012. The committee will take up and consider:

SB 2042 Schwertner | et al.
Relating to the board of trustees of the Blinn Junior College District.

HB 495 Howard SP: Hinojosa
Relating to the use of money from the permanent fund for health-related programs to provide grants to nursing education programs.

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