Wednesday, July 20, 2005

As The Lege Turns

When last we left the Lege it was being threatened with another special session by the governor. Will it happen? Stay tuned, all day, to see what happens in today's installment of “As The Lege Turns”.

The best I can tell is the House can't take up HB 2, unless the rules are suspended until, 6:10 PM today. The Senate I can't find a definite time on their calendar but I would say they won't take it up until the house does. (They've now recessed until 2:30pm). What does HB 2 do you ask? All these wonderful things:
If HB 2 becomes law, it would dramatically change education in Texas.

• It would phase in a $2,000 teacher pay increase over two years, although it would also eliminate a promised $1,000 health care stipend for teachers.

• It delivers another $250 million to school districts for teacher incentive programs, while simultaneously requiring districts to allocate 1 percent of their payroll for incentive programs.

• It phases in a requirement that districts spend 65 percent of their budget on classroom instruction.

• It sets a uniform starting date for public schools on the first Tuesday after Labor Day, beginning in 2006.

• It alters the share-the-wealth school finance system by allowing property-wealthy districts, such as Highland Park in Dallas, to keep more locally generated tax revenue. The changes would also likely allow such districts to set lower tax rates than other districts.

• Beginning in the 2009-10 school year, high school seniors won't be able to graduate without passing end-of-course exams.

• It allocates money for fine arts, health and foreign language textbooks set to go into classrooms this school year. However, it moves toward more electronic and computer-based instruction in later years.

But none of those provisions can take effect without passage of HB 3 or a similar tax bill.
The last sentence is the kicker. If HB 2 passes that's why the Lege will be back in session tomorrow. If it doesn't then everything is up in the air, maybe Thursday, maybe September to start all over. For the final word on HB 3 in this special session we'll go to Sen. Ogden:
Late Tuesday, House and Senate negotiators said they are a hair's breadth from a deal. But even if they made the deal, it would likely fall victim to legislative deadlines or a promised parliamentary maneuver by a Senate Democrat who opposes the legislation.

"The reason the deal is dead is because they're out of time, not because they can't agree," said state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Spoken like a football coach on the losing side of the scoreboard when one says, “We didn't lose we just ran out of time”. For the latest from around the state go to this post from OffTheKuff and Burnt Orange Report has some more on HB 2 and HB 3.


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