February 27, 2017
Info Session 2 - Wed., March 15, 7:30 AM - Join Collin County chambers of commerce, city officials, business professionals, and community leaders for the second info session featuring a Workplace Development discussion. The panel will include input from local corporations, school districts, representatives, and more. CLICK HERE for details and to register.

Collin County Days in Austin
- Network with Collin County community and business leaders during two days of speakers, meetings, and meals in Austin from March 28-29, 2017. The second block of hotel rooms is still available at the Embassy Suites. CLICK HERE to register.

Join the Plano Chamber of Commerce for our monthly Public Policy Committee meeting. This committee discusses legislation and issues that affect the business community. Attended by business professionals, elected officials, and key community representatives, these meetings are open to all members in good standing. CLICK HERE for more details.
CLICK HERE to view the full list of bills the Plano Chamber is tracking.  
The Senate was in session Tuesday and Wednesday of last week conducting routine business. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, Feb. 27 at 2 PM.

The Senate Intent Calendar for Monday includes SJR 2, SB 21, SJR 38 - all addressing a convention of the states. CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules. 
The House was in session Monday-Thursday of last week conducting routine business. The House will reconvene on Monday, Feb. 27 at 2 PM.

The House set its first calendar of the session for March 1 with HB 4 and HB 5, CPS reform bills. A Calendar Committee rule requires proposed amendments to be filed with the Chief Clerk by 5 PM on Tuesday, Feb. 28. 
CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules.  
On Feb. 21, Texas' Tri-Agency partners announced the Texas Internship Challenge, a new statewide campaign to increase and promote internships for Texas students. Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Andres Alcantar, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, TWC Employer Commissioner Ruth Hughs, and TWC Labor Commissioner Julian Alvarez were joined by executives from Lockheed Martin, Accenture, Toyoa Motor Manufacturing of Texas and Doctor's Hospital at Renaissance, among other industry and education leaders to unveil www.TXInternshipChallenge.com, a website where employers can post internship positions and students can apply for them.

Chairman Alcantar said, "We are committed to working in partnership to increase the number of high school and college internships in high-demand industry clusters and occupations that provide students with marketable skills, strong work habits, and college credit where possible." CLICK HERE to read more.
On Feb. 22, Lt. Gov. Patrick announced the appointment of Chris Flood to the Texas Ethics Commission. A former Harris County Assistant District Attorney, Flood's legal practice currently focuses on white-collar criminal defense cases. Flood replaces Commissioner Wilhelmina Delco.

On Feb. 22, Lt. Gov. Patrick issued a statement following the announcement that President Trump will rescind the order by former President Obama regarding transgender students in public schools being allowed to use the restroom that reflects their gender identity. Patrick said, "We agree with President Trump that this is a state issue, which is why Senator Lois Kolkhorst and I have crafted a state policy, the Texas Privacy Act (SB 6) which ensures that public schools continue to designate separate restrooms, locker rooms, and showers for boys and girls as well as allowing schools to continue to determine how they will accommodate students with individual needs, as they have always done." CLICK HERE to read his full remarks.

On Wed., Feb. 22, the Senate Transportation Committee held an organizational meeting and heard testimony from TxDOT, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and Dept. of Public Safety (DPS).

On Thursday, Feb. 23, the Senate Education Committee took up: 
  • SB 22 by Larry Taylor would establish the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. It was left pending.
  • SB 653 by Van Taylor would make several changes to statutes related to improper teacher-student relationships. It was left pending.
The Senate Intent Calendar for Monday, Feb. 27 includes:  
  • SJR 2 by Brian Birdwell would propose a constitutional amendment asking the U.S. Congress to call a convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the limited purpose of proposing one or more amendments to the constitution to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to limit the terms of office of federal officials and members of Congress.
  • SB 21 by Birdwell would outline the qualifications, duties, and limitations of Texas delegates in a convention of the states if/when a convention of the states is called.
  • SJR 38 by Craig Estes would propose a constitutional amendment rescinding each and every previous application made at any time by the Texas Legislature to the U.S. Congress to call a national convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for proposing any amendment to that constitution.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Senate Finance Committee will meet to take up the following bills:  
  • SB 15 by Don Huffines and SJR 1 by Donna Campbell would exempt the homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.
  • SB 17 by Jane Nelson would phase out the franchise tax in increments in each biennium the estimated general revenue growth exceeds 5%.
  • SB 142 by Van Taylor would allow a deduction of the federal COGS as an option under the franchise tax.
  • SB 518 by Borris Miles would provide a franchise tax credit of $1,000 per intern for businesses completing an internship program.
  • SB 551 by Campbell would establish a franchise tax credit or insurance premium tax credit for rehabilitation of a certified historic structure.
  • SB 575 by Charles Schwertner would increase the small business franchise tax deduction from $1 million to $4 million.
The full House Appropriations Committee did not meet last week; however, its subcommittees held several meetings.
Subcommittee on Articles I (General Government), IV (Judiciary), and V (Public Safety & Criminal Justice) met Monday-Thursday of last week. On Monday, Feb. 20, they took invited and public testimony on the criminal justice agencies and DPS. On Feb. 21, they took up the Attorney General's office, the Comptroller's office, Employees Retirement System, Pension Review Board, Preservation Board, Commission on the Arts, Historical Commission, Library & Archives Commission, and Commission on State Emergency Communications. On Feb. 22, they took testimony on Governor's office and trusteed programs (including economic development incentive programs), Secretary of State, Facilities Commission, Public Finance Authority, Bond Review Board, Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, Dept. of Information Resources, and Ethics Commission. On Feb. 23, they took testimony on court and judicial entities.

Subcommittee on Article II (Health & Human Services) met Monday-Thursday last week. On Monday, Feb. 20, they heard from the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) staff and officials from the HHSC and Office of the Inspector General. The State Auditor's office also discussed the audits they conducted of the Dept. of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services, Dept. of Family & Protective Services (DFPS), the Dept. of State Health Services (DSHS), HHSC, and Texas Civil Commitment Office (formerly Office of Violent Sex Offender Management). On Feb. 21, they heard invited testimony from DFPS and LBB staff. On Feb. 22, they took up DSHS and heard from agency officials, LBB, and state auditor's office. On Feb. 23, they took public testimony on Article II agencies.  
Subcommittee on Article III (Education) met Monday-Friday last week. On Monday, Feb. 20, they received invited and public testimony on Texas Education Agency (TEA), the schools for the blind and deaf, Teacher Retirement System, and junior/community colleges. On Feb. 21, they took up Lamar State Colleges, the Texas State Technical College System, the UT System and affiliates, UNT System and affiliates, and health science centers and related health institutes. On Feb. 22, they took up special higher education funds, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas State University System and affiliates, and Texas Southern University. On Feb. 23, they discussed Midwestern State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, U.T. Austin, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. On Feb. 24, they took up Texas A&M University System and affiliates and University of Houston System. 
Subcommittee on Articles VI (Natural Resources), VII (Business & Economic Development), and VIII (Regulatory) met Monday-Thursday last week. On Feb. 20, they discussed TxDOT, TWC, Dept. of Housing & Community Affairs, and Lottery Commission. On Feb. 21, they took up Dept. of Agriculture, General Land Office, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Water Development Board, Soil & Water Conservation Board, and Parks & Wildlife Commission. On Feb. 22, they took up the Railroad Commission, Dept. of Insurance, health-related licensing boards, Public Utility Commission, Office of Public Utility Counsel, and Board of Land Surveying. On Feb. 23, they took up Dept. of Licensing & Regulation, State Office of Administrative Hearings, Securities Board, Office of Public Insurance Counsel, and Office of Injured Employee Counsel.  

On Feb. 22, Senator Seliger filed SJR 41, which would reduce the rate of the oil and gas production tax and suspend transfers into Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) when the balance exceeds $5 billion. Seliger said, "Crude oil and natural gas production taxes contribute more than 85% of its revenue, and the ESF's huge balance today is due primarily to extraordinary growth in oil and gas tax collections during the recent boom. The Comptroller predicts the balance of the Rainy Day Fund will total nearly $11 billion by the end of this fiscal year." CLICK HERE to read his full remarks.
On Feb. 21, the House Public Education Committee held an organizational meeting and heard invited testimony. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath told the committee that Texas has 1,207 school districts and charters with 8.685 campuses and 347,672 teachers. TEA's goal is for every child to be prepared for success in college, a career, or the military and its strategic priorities are:
  • Recruit, support, and retain teachers and principals;
  • Build a foundation of reading and math through pre-K, math innovation zones, reading and math academics, and reading excellence teams;
  • Connect high school to career and college through innovative academies like Early College High Schools, P-Tech and T-STEM, college and career counseling, industry certifications, and work-based learning; and
  • Improve low-performing schools.
He discussed TEA'S funding requests that include money for:
  • A-F Rollout - TEA is in the process of developing, implementing, and communicating the A-F accountability system. Exceptional Item Request #8 would provide funding so parents and teachers see STAAR test questions each year.
  • Data System Integrity - Exceptional Item Request #4 is funding to maintain the statewide data system that is the backbone of the Texas accountability and school finance systems.
  • Broadband Access - Exceptional Item Request #5 is for funding to install fiber optic connectivity to schools leveraging a 9-1 federal-state match.
  • Cybersecurity - Exceptional Item Request #6 is funding to help reduce the risk that confidential student and teacher data is not compromised from cyber-attacks.


Kim Andrew of Comal ISD discussed the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments & Accountability, which include:  

  1. Implement an individualized, integrated system of Texas-designed state assessments using computerized-adaptive testing and instruction aligned with the state's curriculum framework.
  2. Allow the Commissioner of Education to approve locally-developed writing assessments.
  3. Support the continued streamlining of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
  4. Limit state testing to readiness standards.
  5. Add college-readiness assessments to the indicators of the state's accountability system in Domain IV (Postsecondary Readiness). They recommended appropriate available funding for more college-readiness tests. To provide the option of using nationally recognized measures of college and career readiness, the commission recommended adding assessments such as SAT, ACT, AP, IB, and Aspire as options to Domain IV at the high school level.
  6. Align the state accountability system with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements.
  7. Eliminate Domain IV from state accountability calculations for elementary schools.
  8. Place greater emphasis on student growth in Domains I (Student Achievement), II (Student Progress), and III (Closing Performance Gaps) in the state accountability system.
  9. Retain the individual graduation committee option for graduation.


On Wed., Feb. 22, Commissioner Morath announced that, according to the College Board's AP Cohort Data Report for the Class of 2016, more than 122,000 Texas graduates took at least one AP exam during their high school careers; the percentage of Texas students taking at least one AP exam in high school continues to stay ahead of the national average. According to Class of 2016 figures from the College Board, Texas was once again the closest state to achieving equitable participation for low-income students. Half (50.3%) of the AP examinees in Class of 2016 were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Of those students, 45.1% achieved a score of 3 or higher, above the national average of 24.9% and higher than any other state. Three of the 10 most popular AP courses in Texas are in STEM courses. CLICK HERE to read more.  

On Wed., Feb. 22, the Senate Higher Education Committee took up:
  • SB 18 by Kel Seliger would eliminate the tuition set-aside requirements for institutions of higher education to set aside a portion of tuition payments to be used for tuition assistance for qualified students. It was voted out favorably by a vote of 4-2 and one present-not-voting.
  • SB 49 by Judith Zaffirini would provide that if a student appointed to receive a Texas Armed Services Scholarship fails to maintain eligibility, the elected official who appointed the student would be allowed to appoint another student. It was voted out unanimously as substituted and recommended for the Local & Uncontested calendar.
  • SB 331 by Royce West would allow the coordinating board to temporarily allow a private or independent college that no longer holds an accreditation but is actively working toward accreditation to participate in the Tuition Equalization Grant Program. It was voted out unanimously as substituted and recommended for the Local & Uncontested calendar.
  • SB 491 by Kirk Watson would allow Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to contract with one or more organizations to operate the statewide preceptorship program in family medicine for students enrolled in Texas medical schools. It was voted out unanimously.


On Wed., Feb. 22, the House Higher Education Committee held an organizational meeting and received invited testimony from Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes. He discussed the 60X30TX long-range plan for higher education that was adopted the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board shortly after last session. Specifics are listed below.


OVERREACHING GOAL: 60x30 - By 2030, at least 60% of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree.

  • Strategies - Respond to the needs of the changing population of Texas so students are supported into and through higher education:
    • Aggressively promote college attainment to students and parents prior to high school.
    • Develop and implement curriculum delivery systems (competency-based programs) to make higher education available to a broader and changing population.
    • Provide high-quality education programs for educationally under-served adults.
    • Develop practices to encourage stop-outs with more than 50 semester credit hours to return and complete a degree or certificate.
    • Collaborate with the TWC to identify critical fields and to update them periodically.

SECOND GOAL: COMPLETION - By 2030, at least 550,000 students that year will complete a certificate, associate, bachelor's, or master's from an institution of higher education in Texas.  

  • Strategies - Support the timeline by providing access to multiple post-secondary options:
    • Scale up and share practices that guide students to higher education.
    • Collaborate with K-12 in improving college and career readiness.
    • Increase the participation of economically disadvantaged high school students in dual credit and other college-level courses.
    • Build credentials at each level with the aim of reducing coursework duplication and time to subsequent degrees.
  • Improve academic preparation and support for students to enter and complete higher education:
    • Scale up and share practices that support students in their academic preparation for post-secondary education.
    • Streamline credential pathways through the P-16 continuum to ensure that secondary education graduation plans, including endorsement coursework, prepare high school graduates for completing a post-secondary credential.
    • Scale up and share practices that support under-prepared students to increase persistence and completion and to reduce their time to degree.
  • Structure programs and support services to be responsive to the changing needs of the student population to help students persist through key transitions in higher education:
    • Use innovative approaches for content delivery and assessment to improve completion and reduce student cost.
    • Employ High-Impact Practices (HIPs) - evidence-based teaching and learning practices shown to improve learning and persistence for college students from many backgrounds. Practices demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside of the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and students, encourage collaboration with diverse others, and provide substantive feedback.
    • Increase use of predictive analytics to identify and assist students at risk of not completing.

THIRD GOAL: MARKETABLE SKILLS - By 2030, all graduates from Texas public institutions of higher education will have completed programs with identified marketable skills.  

Target - By 2020, institutions will have created and implemented a process to identify and regularly update marketable skills for each of their programs, in collaboration with stakeholders.

  • Strategies - Identify marketable skills in every higher education program:
    • Convene a statewide group to explore general characteristics of marketable skills by meta-majors, which should include reps from institutions, industry, and other stakeholders.
    • Establish collaborations between institutions and state, regional, and local employers to define desirable skills and identify in-demand programs and courses to offer skills.
    • Leverage existing efforts (e.g., the Liberal Education and America's Promise [LEAP] initiative) to ensure that marketable skills are addressed in every program.
  • Communicate marketable skills to students, families, and the workforce:
    • Increase the quality and availability of information targeted to students about the transition from higher education to the workforce, including information about the transferability and alignment of skills. This should be available through academic and career advising strategies.
    • Ensure marketable skills are integrated into curricula so that students can demonstrate and communicate those skills through established mechanisms.

FOURTH GOAL: STUDENT DEBT - By 2030, undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60% of first-year wages for graduates of Texas public institutions.  

  • Strategies - Finance higher education in a manner that provides the most effective balance among appropriations, tuition and fees, and financial aid. Make higher education more affordable for students:
    • Fully fund grants for eligible students.
    • Support innovative approaches for more affordable credentials.
    • Reduce time to degree through alternate degree pathways to completion.
  • Build the financial literacy of Texans to promote a better understanding of how and why to pay for higher education:
    • Implement personal financial literacy programs to support students going to college.
    • Convene a statewide advisory group to determine ways to better advise students and parents on financial aid options and the impact of those options on students' finances before and during their college careers.


On Feb. 22, Rep. Giddings filed HB 2223 to overhaul Texas' developmental education system. Developmental education classes (remedial classes) are assigned to assist students categorized as under-prepared for post-secondary education. Giddings said, "Unfortunately, the programs have been largely unsuccessful in guiding students to post-secondary success, and too often serve as a financial burden to families. Instead of guiding students to college readiness, it has often served as a roadblock to success." Giddings provided figures from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board showing that:

  • 9% of under-prepared students enrolling in community college developmental education complete a first-level math course,
  • 26% complete a first-level reading course, and
  • 21% complete a first-level writing course.

This is despite 87% of community college students not being deemed college ready in at least one subject. HB 2223 would require a phased-in, statewide, "co-requisite" model, where students enroll in a developmental education course and the gateway course of the same subject matter during the same semester and expand advising options for students. Rep. Giddings said, "Under this model, students are able to receive supports for their classes without having to invest time and money into developmental education classes before their credit bearing courses." CLICK HERE to read more. 

On Feb. 21, the House Public Health Committee held an organizational meeting and heard invited testimony from the HHSC, DSHS, and Sunset Advisory Commission. Charles Smith, HHSC Executive Commissioner discussed additional programs his agency will assume beginning Sept. 1, including state-supported living centers, state mental health hospitals, and regulatory functions of Dept. of Aging & Disability Services, DFPS, and DSHS. Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the DSHS, discussed the functions that will be transitioning to HHSC including health care facility regulatory functions, state hospital operations, and the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program.

Amy Trost of the Sunset Advisory Commission discussed recommendations of the 14 health licensing entities that the commission reviewed in this sunset cycle, which includes:
  • Discontinuing the unnecessary registration of physical and occupational therapy facilities and chiropractic facilities and laminating the duplicative requirement that medical, chiropractic, and podiatric boards register non-certified technicians who must also register with the medical radiologic technologist board.
  • Consolidating the regulation of marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, and social workers with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists to form the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council.
  • Transferring the Podiatry Board to the Texas Dept. of Licensing & Regulation to provide institutional stability and improving licensing and enforcement outcomes.
  • Enhancing use of the Pharmacy Board's improve Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) and requiring all health care providers to search the PMP database and review a patient's prescription history before prescribing controlled substances; and clarifying agencies' authority to query the PMP database to identify potentially harmful prescribing patterns among their licensees.
  • Requiring fingerprint-based criminal background checks, removing unnecessary requirements and qualifications for licensure, prioritizing investigations based on risk, and aligning penalties with the risk a violation poses to the public.


The House Public Health Committee will meet on Tues., Feb. 28 at 8:00 AM to take up:

  • HB 10 by Four Price would require treatments for mental health conditions and substance use disorders to be covered by health insurance plans under the same terms and conditions as treatments for physical health conditions.
  • HB 279 by Donna Howard would continue operations of the women's health advisory committee until 2019.
  • HB 280 by Howard would create a grant program administered by the nursing resource section to prevent workplace violence against nurses.
  • HB 1148 by Sara Davis would require the DSHS to designate eight administrative hubs to provide administrative functions for each trauma service area regional advisory council.



On Feb. 21, a group of 10 state lawmakers filed a slate of legislation designed to slow down Texas Central Railway's proposal to construct a high-speed rail (HSR) line between Dallas and Houston. This group filed a total of 18 bills addressing a number of issues ranging from eminent domain to use of taxpayer dollars. The following bills are included in the package:  

  • Railroad Determination Before Surveys - SB 973 by Brandon Creighton and HB 2168 by Cecil Bell, Jr. would prohibit a HSR entity from entering private property to conduct a survey unless TxDOT first determines that the surveying entity is, in fact, a railroad.
  • Option Contract Protection - SB 974 by Creighton and HB 2181 by Byron Cook would void HSR option contracts held by HSR entity upon bankruptcy initiated by or against the entity.
  • Security Requirements - SB 975 by Birdwell and HB 2169 by Leighton Schubert would provide a framework of minimum security requirements to be followed during construction and operation of a private HSR line. It would require the HSR authority to coordinate security efforts with state and local law enforcement as well as disaster response agencies.
  • No Taxpayer Bailout - SB 977 by Charles Schwertner and HB 2172 by Trent Ashby would prohibit the legislature from appropriating new funds, or allowing state agencies to utilize existing funds, to pay any costs related to the construction, maintenance, or operation of a private HSR in Texas.
  • Property Restoration Bond - SB 978 by Schwertner and HB 2104 by Bell would require a private HSR entity to file a bond with TxDOT sufficient to restore property used for the rail service to the property's original conditions if the service ceases operation.
  • Right of Repurchase for Non-HSR Use - SB 979 by Schwertner and HB 2179 by Cook would prohibit an entity that operates or plans to operate HSR from using property acquired for purposes other than HSR; and if the HSR authority does not use the property for that purpose, the original landowner would be given the opportunity to repurchase the land.
  • Put Texas First - SB 980 by Schwertner and HB 2167 by Schubert would prohibit any state money from being used for any purpose related to a privately-owned HSR, unless the state acquires and maintains a lien in order to secure the repayment of state funds; and would require that the state's lien be superior to all other liens.
  • Interoperability - SB 981 by Lois Kolkhorst and HB 2162 by John Wray would require an entity constructing a HSR line in Texas to demonstrate compatibility with more than one type of train technology.
  • High-Speed Rail Feasibility Study - SB 982 by Charles Perry and HB 2173 by Ashby would require TxDOT, upon request of a legislator, to generate a feasibility study of a proposed HSR project. The study would be required to indicate whether it is for public use, is financially viability, and its impact on local communities.
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