Legislation of interest to Texas CSE members

TAX & BUDGET ISSUES

HB133 / HJR15 by Rep. Carl Isett: “Reining in State Spending”
Good Government Bill
”Reining in State Spending: Relating to the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations.

SUMMARY: HB 133 is the enabling legislation for HJR 15, which would amend the Government Code and the state constitution to limit the growth of appropriations in a biennium to not exceed the estimated rate of growth of total personal income in the state. Existing law limits it to the estimated rate of growth of the state’s economy rather than personal income.

REASONS: The current rate of growth of Texas’ budget exceeds the rate of growth of personal income, thereby causing hardships on businesses and families who must live within their means. This bill and constitutional amendment would disallow state government spending beyond personal incomes and thereby reign in irresponsible spending habits that have helped create the current $9.9 billion deficit. The Lone Star Report, February 7 issue, reports that according to the Legislative Budget Board, unadjusted general revenue expenditures have grown 37%.

HB 313 by Rep. Tommy Merritt “Repeal the State Inheritance Tax”
Good Government Bill

Caption: Relating to the repeal of the state inheritance tax. This bill would amend the Tax Code to repeal Chapter 211, the state inheritance tax.

Texans should have the right to leave or gain an inheritance without the burden of additional taxation. Family members would rather not leave an inheritance that triggers a taxing scheme, which amounts to double taxation.

SB 392 by Sen. Steve Ogden and Sen. Tommy Williams “Truth in Taxation”
Good Government and HB 2346 by Rep. Dan Gattis and Mike Krusse

BILL INFORMATION: Relates to Texas utility districts that levy property taxes in the state, and provides for safeguards for the taxpayers requiring districts (MUDs) to notify taxpayers in advance of proposed tax rate increases.

REASON: All taxing entities must be accountable to the taxpayers. Statewide, approximately 1,300 utility districts with tens of thousands of taxpayers are now able to increase taxes without any safeguards afforded taxpayers in other taxing entities.

OTHER POCKETBOOK ISSUES

HB 262 by Rep. Steve Wolens
Bad Public Policy

SUMMARY: This bill allows several large municipalities to use hotel occupancy taxes to guarantee bonds to finance convention center hotels and other public facilities (golf courses, parking garages, restaurants.) It’s the ultimate irony to have private enterprises taxed to pay for public-funded enterprises to compete with the private enterprises.

POSITION: CSE opposes this legislation.

REASONS: CSE philosophically opposes using tax dollars to subsidize entities which compete with private enterprise. Additionally, the proposed tax subsidized hotels do not make economic sense. Well intentioned as these efforts are, they don’t make economic sense and are bad public policy.

STATUS: Hearing set House Economic Development on 3/12/03.

HB 600 and SB 400 by Rep. Steve Wolens and Sens. Leticia Van de Putte and Rodney Ellis – Bad Public Policy

BILL INFORMATION: These bills require DOI approval before insurance companies can change their rates (“prior approval”) and contain other measures that limit competition and further regulate an industry already hampered by regulations that cost consumers.

POSITION: State government should focus its attention on financial oversight and solvency of an insurance company and allow opportunities for the insurance marketplace to grow, providing consumers with choices, which will lead to lower costs.

HB 1645 by Rep. Kevin Bailey “Collective Bargaining for Local Gov’t Employees”
Bad Public Policy

BACKGROUND: This bill does NOT make government more efficient, does NOT avoid offering benefits to a special interest group in anticipation of political reward, does NOT protect future generations from being encumbered by debt, does NOT encourage employees and employers to decide between themselves equitable wages.

SUMMARY: This bill would amend the Government Code to omit the prohibition
of collective bargaining for ³a political subdivision of the state.²

REASONS: Elected officials who are accountable to the electorate currently
regulate pay scales for government bureaucrats. This bill would transfer
their authority to union bosses. It is unfair to take away the taxpayers¹
ability to hold elected officials accountable and at the same time burden
them with greater debt. This is not a free market measure.

STATUS: Referred to County Affairs in the House on 3-10-03.

EDUCATION ISSUES
HB 2465 “Texas Freedom Scholarship Pilot Project” by Chairman Kent Grusendorf and Reps. Mike Krusee, Ron Wilson and Glenn Lewis

Good Government Bill
SUMMARY: This legislation applies to ISD’s over 40,000 in which a majority of the students are economically or educationally disadvantaged. The bill allows parents to receive a scholarship of 90% of the state expenditure per student in that district. The remaining 10% stays in the ISD. The scholarship would be available to current public school students. The student can use the scholarship to attend a school that uses the TAKS or a nationally normed test annually and makes test results available to the public.

CSE POSITION: CSE supports choice for all students, but this bill is a good first step to provide choice for those students least able to either move to a school district of their choice or able to pay tuition to another school. Government should not have a monopoly on the educational system and students should not be “assigned” to schools. This legislation will be good for teachers, for parents and for students. Freedom scholarships will be good for the Texas taxpayers as it will provide alternatives to the current educational system. For more information on CSE’s work on this issue, click here: http://www.cse.org/informed/key_template.php?issue_it=14
STATUS: Hearing set 3-18-03 in House Public Education Committee.

HB 1722 and SB 744 by Rep. Jerry Madden and Sen. Tommy Williams
Good Government Bill

BACKGROUND: In Texas, local independent school districts currently provide “dues check off” for employees, and the ISD is then responsible for deducting dues from their employees’ paychecks and by doing so is acting as an agent of the organization. Associations can collect contributions for their political action committee, thereby putting ISD’s in the position of collecting what ostensibly are union dues as well as PAC contributions. “Paycheck protection” refers to those labor reform efforts initiated at the state level which are designed to ensure maximum protection of workers’ rights.
POSITION: Paycheck protection provides educators with the right to decide whether or not to support the various teacher organizations, take part in their benefits offerings, and to support their agenda without scrutiny by their ISD or administrators.

HB 406 by Chrmn Kent Grusendorf and SB 409 by Chrmn Florence Shapiro – Good Government Bill

SUMMARY: This bill would sunset Robin Hood by 2005.
REASONS: The current system was intended to provide an equitable education for all Texas schoolchildren. It has outlived its purpose and the redistribution of local property tax dollars could constitute a defacto statewide property tax.

HB 319 by Chairman Kent Grusendorf – Good Government Bill
SUMMARY: This bill defines the objectives of public education and amends the Texas Education Code, Section 4.00(b) to add:
“Educators will prepare students to be thoughtful, active citizens who have an appreciation for the basic values of our state and national heritage and who can understand and productively function in a free enterprise society.”
POSITION: We support this bill because it promotes our mission of supporting free market policies and a citizens’ responsibility to be active in their government and provides that Texas schoolchildren should be taught the foundation of our democratic republic.
BILL STATUS: Passed House Public Ed Committee (3/04/03) and sent to Calendars (3/10/03)
HB 318 by Chairman Kent Grusendorf – Good Government Bill
“Alternative Certification for Teachers”: Relating to certification to teach school of individuals who hold bachelor’s degrees.

SUMMARY: This bill would amend the Education Code to allow public schools to award teaching certificates to persons holding bachelor’s degrees.

REASONS: Schools should have the ability to hire the most qualified teachers and not be encumbered by antiquated protectionist policies.

HB 1172 by Rep. Jerry Madden
Good Government Bill

This bill would require the public school curriculum, thru TEKS reform, portray America as a great nation, which has overcome its mistakes to emerge as the most free, democratic nation in the history of the world.

REASONS: State law requires that Texas’ public school curriculum include: Patriotism, functioning productively in a free enterprise society, and an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage. TEKS curriculum standards for public
schools; however, bypass this requirement. Such omission circumvents the will of the Texas State Legislature and must be corrected.

HB 1172 clarifies Texas Education Code 28.002(h) and incorporates the TEC curriculum requirements (Patriotism, Free Enterprise, and Democratic Values) as required in the TEKS curriculum and textbook conformance as well as revise TEKS to require that curriculum content meets a reasonableness test of historical significance.

HB288 by Rep. Rene Olivera
Bad Public Policy
“Teacher Union Demands” Relating to wage rates paid by or on behalf of certain school districts on public works projects.

SUMMARY: This bill would amend the Education Code to fulfill a teacher union demand (National Education Association and its Texas affiliate the Texas State Teachers Association) to require a living wage rate described as “the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the work is performed.” It seeks to set government wage controls for public work projects of school districts located within 50 miles of Mexico.

REASONS: This bill proposes to remedy a wage issue, but in reality the problem it identifies can only be remedied by border security. Teachers’ unions across America want to use living wage laws to increase teacher’s wages. This bill could establish a precedent in order to accomplish the union’s plan for a statewide living wage law.

SB 586 by Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos
Bad Public Policy

SUMMARY: SB586 would require home-school families to register with the commissioner of education by completing a form saying that the parent”accepts complete responsibility for adequately teaching the child based on curriculum designed to meet basic educational goals.” They would only be exempt from the compulsory attendance law if they filed this form. Failure to do so would make them guilty of truancy.

REASONS: According to THSC, if there was evidence that a student was not homes schooling, the school district has a legal responsibility to prosecute him for thwarting compulsory attendance. THSC contends this is an enforcement problem, not a legislative one. Lambert expressed forcefully that home schoolers consider this an infringement on their freedom to home school.

HB 1132 by Chairman Kent Grusendorf
Good Public Policy

CAPTION: relating to nonrenewal of certain public school teacher contracts.

SUMMARY: This bill would authorize a district to not renew a teacher’s contract if the principal determines it is “in the best interests of the school’s students.”
REASONS: In this Right to Work state, teachers should ultimately be “at will” employees, and not union members. This legislation eliminates the current process protections, such as the right to a hearing and the right to appeal the termination as high as the state commissioner of education. The ability to fire teachers would provide administrators with the authority employers should have. Legislation is supported by the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards.

HB 1447 by Rep. Charlie Howard
Good Public Policy

SUMMARY: This bill provides the SBOE with authority over textbook content.

POSITION: CSE supports this bill because there is confusion over the current authority the SBOE members have in adopting textbooks. This legislation clarifies their authority and provides these elected officials with the ability to reject a textbook based on its content. This authority is necessary to support the existing SBOE responsibility to determine conforming textbooks eligible for ISD purchases using PSF funding.

REASON: We should grant the SBOE authority to review CONTENT, not just to consider books based on their binding and the need for them to be error-free. The SBOE is the only elected body which has authority to approve textbooks. We should not tie their hands. The people of Texas elect the SBOE, not the Texas Education Agency. Currently, the TEA has authority over content, or is perceived to have that authority.

STATUS: Hearing set 3-18-03 in House Public Education Committee.

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