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Newsletter: Education, Fiscal Discipline Highlight a Busy Week

My colleagues in the Texas House and I continue to address priorities that matter to our economy and our future. Each week, House committees weigh hundreds of bills and consider which ones to send to the full House. With a little more than seven weeks to go in this year’s legislative session, more and more of these proposals are seeing votes on the House floor. It’s a very important time in our session.

 

In fact, within the last week, the House has approved a number of significant bills. Each received overwhelming and bipartisan support. I’m proud of the House’s work on these issues and would like to highlight a few of them below:

Responsible Stewardship: Last year, the House launched a process called Strategic Fiscal Review in order to ask fundamental questions about the ways state agencies operate. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we have an obligation to make sure that agencies are carrying out their mission as effectively and efficiently as possible. Last week, we passed House Bill 5 in order to continue these reviews. The Strategic Fiscal Review process allows legislators to better evaluate the funding and oversight that agencies need in order to best serve taxpayers.

Debt Reduction: Thanks to the strong performance of our private sector and the discipline exercised by the Legislature, the state’s Rainy Day Fund is projected to reach historically high levels over the next couple of years. State law caps the amount of money that can go into the Fund, putting any dollars that come in above that cap in the state’s General Revenue account. Because so much money has accumulated in the Rainy Day Fund, exceeding the cap is starting to become a real possibility. Last week, the House passed House Joint Resolution 8, a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution. If the Texas economy performs so well that there is more money going into the Rainy Day Fund than the law allows, this resolution would use the extra dollars for the early retirement of state debt. Such a provision would save taxpayers money by allowing the state to pay off its debts faster.

Early Childhood Education: Also last week, the House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 4. This legislation offers school districts financial incentives to create high-quality programs for the students they serve in pre-kindergarten. The legislation specifically supports programs that require teachers to have college degrees, that use an enhanced state curriculum and that foster parental engagement. High-quality pre-kindergarten programs provide children with the strong foundation needed to begin their education, and that’s especially important for the at-risk students that House Bill 4 targets. Governor Greg Abbott labeled this legislation an emergency priority.

The authors of these proposals received strong support from their colleagues, and I look forward to working with the Senate to see that each one is passed into law. To provide feedback on these issues or any others, please feel free to contact me at joe@joestraus.org.