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Wrap-Up of the Regular Session of the 85th Legislature

Wrap-Up of the Regular Session of the 85th Legislature

Ann: “This is Ann Beeson, the Executive Director
at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. I’m here with a quick recap on the 85th Session
of the Texas Legislature. With a few notable exceptions, I’m sorry to
say that the session was one of the ugliest and least productive in recent memory. Lawmakers spent too much time crafting hateful
responses to manufactured problems, like so-called sanctuary cities and which bathrooms transgender
Texans use, instead of focusing on the real challenges facing our state. Let’s talk about what happened, what didn’t,
and what it means for Texans. One of the most spectacular tragedies of the
session was the failure to enact school finance reform. The House worked hard to craft a reasonable
plan, but zealots in the Senate stripped the bill of most of its funding and poisoned it
with vouchers that would use state dollars to subsidize private school tuition–a compromise
the House wisely rejected. And there was a lot of rhetoric about the
importance of Pre-K, but ultimately the legislature provided no new funding and instead passed
a mandate that will force schools to use existing funds to pay for Pre-K. At the same time the Senate was refusing to
pay the state’s fair share of public school funding, the real way to control property
taxes, it was pushing to limit the ability of local governments to raise the revenue
they need. That was one of many state efforts to take
local control from Texas cities, the engines of our economy. In June, Governor Abbott called a special
session of the Texas legislature to address 20 items, including school finance and vouchers
as well as a misguided second attempt to limit local governments’ ability to raise revenue. Another casualty of the session was Texas’
reputation for sensible immigration policies. Immigrants became the targets of fear-mongering
and bias, even though the Texas economy depends on their valuable contributions. Despite hours of testimony against the bill,
from law enforcement, local officials, educators, and faith leaders, the legislature passed
SB4, a “show me your papers” law that will force immigrants and mixed status families
into the shadows, threatening public safety and the Texas economy. Now let’s talk about the state budget, one
of the most important bills the legislature passes each session. Unfortunately, the state continued its record
of underinvesting in healthcare, education, and other critical services, despite our state’s
growing population and changing needs. Lawmakers kept complaining of a tight budget,
but they didn’t mention that they created the problem by passing short-sighted tax breaks
and revenue diversions last session. And this session they left billions of dollars
sitting in the state’s rainy day fund, a foolish policy that threatens our future prosperity. Texans will suffer from these state cuts,
especially with looming federal cuts to healthcare, food, and education programs on the horizon. There were some silver linings and it’s important
to celebrate the good laws that made it across the finish line. Mental health policy made great strides this
session, with both houses passing bills that make coverage more accessible and equal. Texans who receive surprise medical bills
after visits to emergency rooms will now have better protections, and grandparents and other
relatives who are raising children will receive additional financial support. We are deeply grateful to the many lawmakers,
legislative staff, partners, and supporters who persisted in the face of daunting odds
to fight for hard-working Texans and their families. We were inspired by all of you who called
your legislators, stayed up late to testify, and attended rallies to share your priorities
and your values with lawmakers. Though it was a discouraging session, we are
more committed than ever to our vision of a Texas that gives everyone, regardless of
background, the chance to reach their full potential. So rest up and join us to continue the fight.”

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