This week was the beginning of the first called, or special, session of the 85th legislature. The Texas Constitution requires that the Legislature meet for 140 days every odd numbered year, but the governor has the authority to call 30-day special sessions for specific policy initiatives determined by the governor.
Governor Abbott convened a special session starting July 18th with the call initially consisting of completing sunset legislation that failed to pass during regular session. Without this legislation, as of September 1st, the Texas Medical Board and several other agencies would have ceased to exist. This outcome would have endangered the health and safety of all Texans and needed to be fixed.
The Senate passed the sunset legislation early Thursday morning and after that bill passed the Senate, the Governor added several other items to the call for the special session. The Governor added a wide range of topics to the call, from the privacy or “bathroom” bill, to property tax reform and teacher pay increases.
I was pleased to see that the Governor also heeded the House’s calls to add reform of the retired teacher’s healthcare program and our broken school finance system. These are two issues that have been priorities for the House during the regular session and will continue to be priorities during the special session.
The retired teacher’s healthcare system, or TRS Care, was left underfunded by legislation in the regular session. The House attempted to increase funding for TRS Cares, but that amount was decreased when the legislation went to the Senate. As a result, retired teachers across the state saw their premiums increase by up to 500% without any increase in their retirement pay. This is unmanageable for our retired teachers and breaks the promise that we made to our educators.
Likewise, the House passed HB 21, which would have increased funding for our public schools and would begin the process of fixing our complicated and broken school finance system. More importantly for our rural school districts, it would have replaced the ASATR funding that is so vital to many of our school districts. Without this funding, not only will our school districts be left severely underfunded, some of them would become insolvent and have to close their doors.
While I have heard from hundreds of you between now and the end of the regular session, school finance and TRS Cares have been of the most concern in District 9. I look forward to working the Governor and the Senate to find real solutions to these problems that have real consequences for all Texans.
I would encourage you to let me know which issues in the special session matter the most to you. You can contact me at 512-463-0556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.