We recently took a look at the 12 bills that passed during the recent Special Session of the Texas Legislature. Here's a sample of some of the big items that didn't pass:
Increasing the State Share of Public Education Funding - Rep. Howard spent much of the Special Session pushing the idea that real property tax reform equals school finance reform. This is based on the fact that, as property values have increased, the state's share of funding for our public schools has actually decreased, with more and more of the costs being covered by local property tax dollars. Rep. Howard's HJR 18 would have required the state to pay at least 50% of the costs of public education. Unfortunately, though the bill got a public hearing before the Appropriations Committee, it was not given a vote to head to the House floor.
Restoration of Funding for Acute Therapy Services - One of the more egregious acts of the 2015 legislative session was the reduction in reimbursement rates for acute therapy services. These cuts–which were never considered by the House and were slipped into the final version of the budget by the Senate–were anticipated to result in 60,000 disabled children having reduced access to vital services. Since the 2015 session, Rep. Howard and other lawmakers have been fighting to see those cuts restored; unfortunately, the Lt. Governor and key Senators have shown little interest in doing so, and the Governor has remained largely silent on the issue. During this year's Regular Session, the Senate would only agree to a restoration of 25% of the cuts. Since lawmakers were brought back for a Special Session, the House decided to take another bite at the apple: the body unanimously passed HB 25, which would have fully restored the acute therapy dollars. Frustratingly, the Senate then refused to even refer the bill to committee, and no further action was taken. The San Antonio Express-News recently reported on the disappointment of parents whose children need these services. Rep. Howard, who was a Coauthor of HB 25, has not yet given up hope–she has begun reaching out to a bipartisan group of House members about restoring the cuts by utilizing additional funds that were recently found by the Comptroller. We'll keep you posted.
Bathroom Legislation - This discriminatory measure would have restricted transgender access to bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. A key priority of the Lt. Governor during the Regular Session, it was placed by the Governor on the list of called items for the Special Session. The proposal was met with great antipathy from the LGBTQ community and allies, corporate interests like IBM and other Fortune 500 companies, law enforcement, and faith leaders; even Speaker Joe Straus voiced his opposition to the bill, saying that it felt "manufactured and unnecessary." Though a proposal did make it through the Senate, it failed to come up on the House floor. Its defeat is considered by many–Rep. Howard included–to be one of the more positive aspects of the Special Session.
Private School Vouchers - Another one of the Lt. Governor's top priorities that found its way onto the Special Session agenda, this would have taken funding away from public schools and funneled it to unaccountable private schools. In recent sessions, a solid majority in the Texas House has remained steadfast in its opposition to vouchers, and that certainly didn't change in the past few weeks.