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Governmental Relations

Legislative Update - Friday, April 1, 2011

CSHB 1 House Appropriations bill

Debate on CSHB 1 on the House floor is expected over the next few days, beginning today, April 1.  There are over 300 amendments filed for discussion and consideration.  CSHB 1 would reduce funding for student financial aid, higher education group insurance, and state retirement contributions.  It also would reduce formula funding.  The bill would not provide funding for enrollment growth at any institution of higher education. CSHB 1 proposes an all state agencies biennium budget of $164 billion in state and federal funds, a reduction of almost $23 billion from the current two-year budget.  CSHB 1 would appropriate $59.7 million in general revenue for community college employee group insurance contributions, a decrease of $252.2 million from fiscal 2010-11 spending levels—yes, from $252.2 million reduced to $59.7 million. The state contribution rate would be $75 per eligible community college  employee, the same as for independent school district employees. Supporters of CSHB1 argue that community college personnel are local employees and that the proposed group insurance funding would provide a cost savings to the state.  College leaders, including Dr. Leslie, point out that community college employees are classified as state employees and should continue to be treated as other higher education employees for group insurance purposes.  Community college leadership emphasize that community colleges are seeing historic levels of enrollment growth and that the proposed funding levels would hamper the role community colleges play in educating Texans. They also point out that community colleges enroll more than 50 percent of higher education students in Texas, 735,000, and that community colleges offer the best chance of turning around the state’s economy with job training and education opportunities the state needs to improve its economy.  CSHB 1 would reduce formula funding for the Alamo Colleges from the original FY 2011 state appropriation of $72.1 million to $65.5 million for FY 12, plus reductions in employee group insurance, reduction in state contributions for retirement benefits, and no funding for enrollment growth. Formula funding reductions are not the whole story, the huge reductions in employee group insurance and zero funding for enrollment growth loom as major issues at the local level.  Proposed reductions in Human Services, Public Education (PK-12), and Higher Education are primary topics of discussion in CSHB  1.    

HB 4  Passes House

HB 4 passed the House on Thursday, March 30 by a vote of 100 to 46.  HB 4 makes funding reductions to most state agencies, including state appropriations to the  Alamo Colleges in the amount of $6.8 million for the current FY ending August 2011.  This formalizes the cuts we have experienced this fiscal year. There were various amendments introduced to restore current fiscal year reductions. Rep. Castro and Rep. McClendon presented an amendment to restore funding to the Alamo Colleges, UTSA and the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. It was tabled on a 101-45 vote, meaning the amendment failed.  A similar amendment to restore funding to community colleges by Rep. Walle of Houston also failed.  There were about 35 amendments presented to restore funding to various agencies and programs, all amendments failed by at least a vote of 93-51.

HB 275 Passes House

HB 275 passed the House on a 149-2 vote. HB 275 uses $3.1 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) for use during this current fiscal year. Failed amendments included the use of Rainy Day funds to restore the $76.1 million reductions to community colleges this fiscal year.

SB 354 Concealed Handguns on Campus reported favorably out of committe

In less than a minute, CSSB 354 was reported favorably out of the Criminal Justice committee on a 4-2 vote. The bill will now go to the full Senate.  CSSB 354 would allow concealed handguns in buildings of public institutions of higher education.

Academic  Advising Services Assessment

SB 36 by Sen. Zaffirini passed the Senate this week.  The bill directs the Coordinating Board to establish a method of assessing the quality and effectiveness of academic advising services available to students at each institution of higher education.  The method of assessment should include the use of student surveys and identify objective, quantifiable measures for determining the quality and effectiveness of academic advising services.

Leo Zuniga
Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications