- Analysis: A $100 million reinterpretation of Texas school finance law.
After reconsideration of an 18-year-old law, state education officials are adjusting their school finance calculations in a way that could save several dozen school districts roughly $100 million — while costing the state the same amount in revenue. One of the apparent beneficiaries is Houston ISD, where the change means taxpayers will be sending about $60 million less to the state for public education than they had expected. At issue is a calculation for recapture — the state’s term for the money that districts with higher property wealth send to the state for use in districts with lower property wealth.
- House Republican eyes alternative approach to "bathroom bill"
A Republican in the Texas House is pitching an alternative to the “bathroom bill,” saying he wants to focus more on local control than on bathrooms.
State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, filed legislation Monday that would prohibit local governments from setting restroom policies for private businesses. The measure, House Bill 1362, also says public schools cannot adopt policies that allow "more than one sex or gender" to use use the same "multi-occupancy private spaces."
The bill is similar to Senate Bill 6, a measure deemed a priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, which would require people to use restrooms in Texas public schools and government buildings based on their biological sex. SB 6 also pre-empts local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Shaheen said he supports SB 6 but wanted to focus on the issue from a local control standpoint. One catalyst for his legislation was a proposed Houston ordinance in 2015 that would have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Houston voters soundly rejected the measure.
- Human Rights Campaign to open Texas offices to fight “bathroom bill”
With Texas Republicans working to pass their own version of a “bathroom bill,” one of the nation’s most prominent LGBT civil rights organizations is opening offices in Texas to fight it.
The Human Rights Campaign is setting up three field offices in Austin, Houston and Dallas for the legislative session and have set their eyes on defeating Senate Bill 6 and other anti-LGBT legislation that’s been proposed by Texas lawmakers. This is the first time the organization will have full-time staff in the state, and they will be working with organizers on the ground in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
"This is a significant investment that we'll be making here in the state," the organization's president Chad Griffin told The Texas Tribune. "There's an estimated nearly 800,000 LGBTQ eligible voters in this state ... and they are ready to be organized and activated."
- Senate committee advances anti-sanctuary cities bill.
After a 16-hour hearing that included tears, heckling, bursts of anger and warnings from lawmakers to witnesses to respect the rules of the Capitol’s upper chamber, the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines early Friday morning to advance a controversial state-based immigration bill to the full Senate.
Senate Bill 4, commonly known as the anti-sanctuary cities bill, would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws.
The bill, if passed, would allow local police to enforce immigration laws if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.