Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

The Texas Legislature started the biennium in full swing, and has been working on a number of bills that could potentially reflect in the quality of life of Val Verde County residents.

Last week Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the 30 priority bills for the 2019 Legislative Session, with Senate Bill 1 being a Texas budget that includes $800 million for border security, funding for property tax reform and an across-the-board teacher pay raise.

After the budget bill Patrick defined his top priorities as the property tax reform; across-the-board teacher pay raise, which has already unanimously passed the Texas Senate but has yet to become law; school finance reform; an increase to the homestead exemption; Disaster Response Act; flood disaster plan - matching fund; a statewide flood plan; enhancing election security; and student targeted mental health.

As lieutenant governor, Patrick prioritizes bills by giving them a low number, which allows the Texas Senate to turn these bills to committees, discuss them and potentially have them approved.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 3, which provides for a $5,000 annual pay raises for full-time classroom teachers and librarians at a cost of $4 billion over the next two years.

However, the bill’s fate is not set in stone yet, as Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) and House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) presented their own education reform initiative calling for raising minimum salaries for educators, more health and pension benefits, and opportunities for merit pay programs.

Bonnen voiced his opinion calling for a financial plan. He said there should be more discussion on reducing recapture, on reducing property taxes, on early childhood education, and on incentivizing teachers who go to certain schools to teach.

House Bill 3 makes major revisions to the school finance formulas, adds and repeals several chapters of the Education Code and revises, abolishes and creates multiple allotments or programs.

House Bill 3 would increase the base funding per student while requiring school districts to meet a higher minimum base pay for classroom teachers, full-time counselors, full-time librarians and full-time registered nurses.

The discussion is on and is expected to – at some point – benefit the over 350,000 public school teachers across the state.

Before a bill becomes law it has to be discussed and approved in committees, approved by a majority in the full House and the full Senate, and be signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Overtime

Texas House Representative Poncho Nevarez recently filed House Bill 3781 which, if approved, would create the Val Verde County groundwater conservation district.

The bill makes provisions for the development of minimum flow and spring discharge standards for the district, through the creation of a board of directors appointed by both city council and commissioners court.

The district would regulate the permitting, recharge, conservation, protection, and prevention of the waste of groundwater in Val Verde County.

The bill was filed March 7.

It was the first step in a long legislative process before it can become law and it is likely to generate controversy since similar efforts have been turned down in the past. We’ll keep an eye on it.

Rubén Cantú has been a journalist since 1995. He is the managing editor of the Del Rio News-Herald.

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