Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > Feb. 20, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 5)

Feb. 20, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 5)

This Week in Austin...

The eyes and ears of most legislators and reporters were focused on Tuesday's "State of the State" address delivered by Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared that early education, higher education research initiatives, transportation, border security and ethics reform are "emergency items" that are top priorities. He advocated increased spending in those areas even as he called for $4.2 billion in tax cuts for tax relief; budget cuts for most state agencies; plus stricter rules that limit state spending growth.

For the first time in weeks, open carry and campus carry were not the center of attention. However, after his statewide update, Gov. Abbott responded to comments by some that he had snubbed campus carry. Read more in this Dallas Morning News report: Abbott reiterates campus carry support, 'State of the State' snub notwithstanding

The "State of the State" is prosperous, but...

The governor began his remarks saying, "I'm proud to report that as the sun rises on 2015, the state of Texas is strong and, together, we're about to make it stronger."

He added, "We are at the pinnacle of America's economy. Texas has been number one in the nation for creating jobs for so many years, it's hard to keep count. But in 2014, we literally outdid ourselves. We created more jobs than any year in the history of Texas. And already this year, reports show that our economic engine continues to gain steam." The governor credited the state's status to the people of Texas, "our greatest natural resource."

The governor talked about community colleges during his address, saying that Texans want to see more high school graduates go to college -- and that college must be more affordable and accessible to achieve that goal. He said, "We must restrain the spiraling cost of higher education so more Texans can reap the rewards that come from college. Just like with primary and secondary education, higher education doesn't work in a one-size-fits-all approach."

Abbott then discussed the role of community colleges in higher education, which reflect recent national attention the two-year colleges have received across the U.S. "Different students have different needs, and our employers are demanding that we better prepare our students for workforce needs. For many, a two-year degree is far more than a piece of paper. It's a key to economic freedom."

He continued, "The fact is that not everybody needs a four-year college degree. We need to expand and support our community colleges that serve as the gateway to better jobs and as a step toward further educational opportunities."

In addition to the statewide priorities of the Texas Association of Community Colleges which DCCCD supports, the district has two additional priorities: to offer a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education; and to receive local control regarding campus carry legislation, as well as changes in the Noriega Bill that would affect undocumented students who currently pay in-state tuition. The governor's early education and higher education priorities (for community colleges) could have a direct and positive effect on DCCCD's proposal to offer a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

For the full text of Gov. Greg Abbott's "State of the State" address, read Governor Abbott Delivers State Of The State Address, Releases Governor's Budget. For news coverage, the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Tribune provided additional details and comments here, respectively: Abbott says schools, roads, border - and tax cuts - are priorities and In State of the State, Abbott Proposes Sweeping Agenda.

Legislative Committees

Legislative committees are beginning to organize and hear bills.

Senate Finance

The Senate Finance Committee met on Tuesday to consider community college funding. We anticipate the House Appropriations Committee will hold a similar hearing next Monday. You can view the Senate Finance Committee's full agenda online.

House Higher Education

On Wednesday the House Higher Education Committee held its first meeting to organize and set up the committee's processes. The Committee will be hearing the following bills of interest next week:

HB 123 - Fletcher
Relating to the number of undergraduate credit hours taken at public institutions of higher education that the state will fund.

HB 298 - Wu
Relating to measures to facilitate the transfer of community college credit hours to universities.

HB 495 - Howard
Relating to the continued authorization for the use of money from the permanent fund for nursing education programs. Funding would continue through 2019.

HB 599 - Clardy
Relating to shifting authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to the State Energy Conservation Office for approval of energy savings performance contracts entered into by public institutions of higher education.

Those bills just keep coming...

Bills in the House and Senate this week in higher education related to admission and attendance (HB 1611 and HB 1612); institutions and programs (HB 1565, HB 1583, HB 1611 and HB 1612; SB 632); tuition (HB 1560); and junior college districts (HB 1553, HB 1574, HB 1583 and HB 1612) were designated as "subjects of interest." A public hearing for HB 505, which deals with dual credit, was scheduled for February 24 in the House.

Throughout the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, we will continue to have information on the DCCCD website where you can track bills of interest to the district.

Our list will be updated regularly. Categories include:

  • budget measures
  • local taxes/appraisal reform/revenue caps
  • baccalaureate degrees
  • handguns
  • transfer
  • undocumented student tuition
  • college readiness
  • dual credit/early college
  • boards
  • tuition and tuition exemptions
  • financial aid

Please contact us if you see a bill of interest or if you have any questions.

As the 84th session evolves, we will call upon many people in the DCCCD family to support our advocacy efforts.

Newsletter published by the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, Dallas County Community College District. Please contact Justin Lonon for more information about DCCCD’s legislative initiatives.