Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > Feb. 6, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 3)

Feb. 6, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 3)

This week in Austin...

Legislators heard from community colleges, plus the state’s two largest universities, as budget writing became more intense. Members of both chambers are on the cutting edge – cutting here, adding there – to a budget that eventually must satisfy the state’s needs. Key areas of debate already have been identified as critical for this session: transportation, tax reform, water, gun rights and immigration.

Our students in action...

DCCCD students always make us proud, and they did just that on Tuesday during Community College Day activities in Austin. After a rally on the Capitol steps, our students were acknowledged on the floor of both chambers, and they spent some time watching state government in action. Chancellor Joe May talked to them during lunch, near the Capitol complex. He commended students for their involvement and for sharing their stories with members of the Dallas delegation and other Texas legislators. Dr. Justin Lonon, vice chancellor for public and governmental affairs, helped to coordinate that day’s activities.

Dr. May introduced Rep. Rafael Anchia from District 103, who also spoke to our students and others from North and West Texas. He has represented Dallas in the House since 2004. Students who attended the day-long event represented every college in our DCCCD system. Afternoon visits with elected officials gave students a chance to talk about what a community college education means to them and why the legislature needs to increase funds to meet growing needs. Students also tweeted and posted their comments and photos about DCCCD at Community College Day, and the Texas Association of Community Colleges reports that we were trending that day in Austin! Read more from Fox Austin: Texas Community College Day hosted at Capitol.

More on higher education...

University voices were heard this week, too, when students and alumni from Texas A&M University and the University of Texas visited their legislators on Wednesday to lobby for increased higher education funding and for tuition revenue bonds that are used to build new academic facilities. Read more in the Texas Tribune: Aggies, Longhorns on the Same Team for Higher Ed.

UT's new chancellor, Adm. William McRaven, spoke out about carrying guns on college campuses (see the next section), plus in-state tuition for undocumented students – a topic that will receive considerable attention during this session, based on comments by state legislators.

On Tuesday, the State Attorney General’s Office announced that it plans to appeal a recent federal court ruling which struck down a provision in state law that says military veterans and their families may receive free tuition as long as the members enlisted while they were living in Texas. Sen. Jane Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, asked for an update on the lawsuit. Nelson commented that the outcome of the appeal “obviously” would have an impact on the two-year state budget which legislators are working on. For details, read this item from the Austin American-Statesman: State to appeal ruling regarding free tuition for veterans.

Gun barrel diplomacy...

The debate continues about open carry on college campuses. An editorial on Tuesday in The Dallas Morning News supported the stand taken by community college and university leaders alike – no campus carry. Here’s what they said: Editorial: Texas bills to expand ‘campus carry’ of guns are misguided.

Yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that open carry legislation stands “a strong chance” of passing during this legislative session. “Heated exchanges” occurred in the state capitol this week, and the governor previously stated that he would sign open carry legislation if it reaches his desk, according to Tom Benning of The Dallas Morning News: Abbott says open carry still has a strong chance of passing.

Earlier in the week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he would send two open carry bills to the Senate State Affairs Committee, on the heels of previous comments that he felt open carry legislation didn’t have a great chance of passing. Read more from The Dallas Morning News: Patrick gives fresh push to open-carry firearms legislation. Open carry advocate groups quickly criticized that point of view, and the lieutenant governor has revised his stance since then.

The beat goes on...

The Senate Finance Committee kicked off its third budget hearing of the session, and members of the Legislative Budget Board provided an overview that explored state and local debt. Why the state portion has doubled in the last 10 years and how to stop the debt from increasing further was the topic of a lively discussion, according to the Austin American-Statesman: Senate budget writers bemoan escalating state debt. The Dallas Morning News also reported that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has lost its clout based on Texas House committee assignments and legislators who retired – specifically Reps. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie and Dan Branch of Dallas, who ran the budget and higher education committees, respectively. The story added that the Senate took a more partisan approach to its committee assignments. Read more from The Dallas Morning News: Dallas-Fort Worth area loses clout in Texas House committee assignments.

Bills, bills, bills...

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; and other bills. 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.