Newsletter: Crunch time

by Speaker Joe Straus

A mere two weeks remain in our legislative session and many of the Texas House’s priorities are right on track.

The legislative calendar is filled with deadlines that help ensure bills receive an appropriate amount of discussion and deliberation. The first key deadline hit this pastThursday, which was the last day we could give initial approval to legislation that originated in the House. In the days ahead, the House will turn our attention to bills that started in the Senate.

Before the focus shifts to Senate bills, I want to highlight some of the key priorities that the House addressed with our own legislation and let you know where those bills go from here:

·       We approved a balanced and disciplined budget focused on education, transportation and mental health care. The Senate also passed its own budget proposal, and members of each chamber are now meeting in a conference committee to negotiate a final product.

·       We made the budget more transparent. Over the last three years, the House has worked to end the longtime practice of collecting fees for one purpose but then using those fees to count toward spending on other programs. The House has acted this session to either use fees for their intended purpose, such as trauma care and college financial aid, or to eliminate the fees. I remain hopeful that the Senate will join us in making this a top priority.

·       We dealt with long-term fiscal challenges. The House addressed the long-term solvency of the state employees’ pension program, as well as a shortfall in retired teachers’ health care. We also directed new resources toward state facilities in need of repair and voted to retire state debt more quickly. We are working with the Senate to reach consensus on each of these issues.

·        We addressed border security. With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House passed legislation that would bring consistency to our security efforts along the Texas-Mexico border while ensuring that other areas of the state are not left vulnerable. We also provided additional tools to law enforcement and prosecutors to combat drug trafficking and human smuggling. The Senate has passed similar legislation, and I believe we will agree to a solution that makes our entire state safer.

·        We voted for tax relief. The strong performance of our private sector has given the Legislature an opportunity to reduce the tax burden on families and businesses. The House has voted for two major tax-relief proposals, and we are now working out differences with the Senate.

The House has compiled a strong record so far. But our work is not finished. I will continue to update you on the status of key legislation as we head toward the end of our session. I also want to hear from you, so please share your feedback by emailing me at joe@joestraus.org.

Newsletter: Thank a Teacher Today

By Speaker Joe Straus

Across our community and state this week, students and parents have been telling classroom teachers something they don’t hear nearly enough: Thank you.

As you probably know if you have children enrolled in school, this is Teacher Appreciation Week across the country. On behalf of those of us who serve in the Texas House, I want to add my voice to those who are thanking teachers for the remarkable work they do every day.

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding and impactful profession, but it isn’t easy. We are working in the House to support our teachers by putting more resources into public education and by making sensible reforms to our accountability system. And when the current legislative session ends in a few weeks, we will continue to visit with educators about ways to help them most effectively meet the needs of their students.

No issue matters more to our future than public education, because a fast-growing state like ours needs a well-educated workforce. And the development of that workforce is happening every day in our classrooms. That’s why it’s important to thank our teachers, this week and throughout the year, for their service and their commitment to our children.

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