Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > June 5, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 16)

June 5, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 16)

This Week in Austin...

Hallways and offices in the Capitol are quiet. The 84th session of the Texas Legislature now is history, and the bills which passed and failed will affect the state over the next two years until lawmakers meet again. DCCCD’s advocacy team worked constantly on behalf of students and the communities we serve, and we wish to thank everyone who supported those efforts. Members of the Dallas delegation and other state legislators – as well as business leaders, community members, employees, students and friends – joined forces to help us with our legislative priorities and to ensure that student success, workforce and economic development, and community needs were met.

DCCCD’s Legislative Priorities: Results...

When we began this session, DCCCD focused on several key legislative initiatives, which once again were aligned with those of all members of the Texas Association of Community Colleges:

  • aligning skills with the workforce
  • measuring and funding success
  • collaborating on college readiness
  • creating pathways for transfer and articulation
  • providing Texas students with the tools and resources for Adult Basic Education and financial aid enhancements 

In addition to our common legislative agenda – with the approval of the DCCCD board of trustees, we also sought two DCCCD-specific priorities:

  • Grant DCCCD the authority to offer a baccalaureate degree in early childhood development to meet a teacher shortage and to provide access to pre-K programs for more young children.
  • Give DCCCD a local control option for any legislation that would allow concealed license holders (CHL) to carry handguns on campus; and give to the district a local control option for any legislation that would amend the “Noriega Bill,” which permits undocumented students who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition rates.

Of course, budget gets the most attention and is the only piece of legislation that lawmakers are required to pass during a session. The state’s budget of $209.4 billion was passed. While it included an overall increase of 7.4 percent for higher education, most of those funds were designated for tuition revenue bonds used by universities. The final budget in HB 1 included a total of $24 million in budget cuts for community colleges across the state, mainly because of decreases in enrollment. This cut translates into approximately $3.8 million for DCCCD compared to the previous biennium. Our business office had projected an even larger cut, so we are planning accordingly.

Our bill for a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education, HB 3836, passed the House but not the Senate. We had support in the Senate, but the chairman of that chamber’s Higher Education Committee would not allow a vote on the bill. As a result, it did not move forward. However, our chancellor met with community leaders this week to begin planning how we can take a pro-active role in solving a teacher shortage that affects 39,000 youngsters in Dallas County.

Campus carry (SB 11) continued to grab the interest of colleges and universities across the state throughout the session. You probably have read many stories by now about the 11th-hour passage of the state’s campus carry bill, which allows private institutions to opt out. DCCCD, as well as other public colleges and universities, cannot do that.

SB 11 allows the CEO of a community college system – after consulting with students, faculty and staff – to create reasonable rules and/or regulations regarding carrying concealed weapons on the campus of a college. Those areas are the “gun-free zones” that have been referred to in news coverage.

The provisions of the new law do not take effect for community colleges until August 1, 2017, which gives us time to carefully consider the unique aspects of our campuses, including where we have early college high schools, dual credit students, childcare centers and other sensitive areas. We will provide updates during this process.

Quick notes: Efforts to repeal the Noriega Bill failed. Ethics reforms collapsed. The governor’s pre-K bill passed, which he already has signed. A move to restrict Hazlewood funds for veterans and their dependents to attend college died.

Here are some “end-of-session” round-up articles from newspapers this week:

Texas Tribune -- The Brief: Closing the Books on the Legislative Session and What Happened to Higher Education Issues this Session?

Dallas Morning News -- From tax cuts to abortion to marijuana, here's what the Texas Legislature did, and didn't, do.

A Curtain Call…

Actions related to higher education were taken until the session ended. Any bill passed by both chambers which has been sent to the governor becomes law, unless he decides to veto it; that deadline is June 21. Last week’s legislative update reviewed a number of bills that affected higher education. One bill was amended in the Senate approved by the House and signed by Gov. Abbott this Wednesday:

HB 1583 requires that a minimum of five CTE AAS or certificate programs (including nursing and allied health) not previously offered in block format to now be offered each semester in scheduled blocks. The bill also calls for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to adopt rules related to this new requirement. 
In late June, we will share a complete list of bills passed during the session which affect DCCCD and higher education.

Although the 84th session of the Texas Legislature has ended, we will continue to provide information on the DCCCD website where you can read about bills of interest to the district at: http://www.dcccd.edu/AU/GovAffairs/EdLeg/Pages/default.aspx

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

As this legislative session ends, we wish to thank many people in the DCCCD family who have supported our advocacy efforts, as well as members of the Dallas delegation who also have supported our district and its work.

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.​​