88th Texas Legislature convenes with huge surplus | TCTA
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88th Texas Legislature convenes with huge surplus

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The 88th session of the Texas Legislature began at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The session kicked off only a day after Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released an updated estimate of the revenue available for lawmakers to work with that included an unprecedented surplus of nearly $33 billion.

While “deficit sessions” are difficult because of the necessary belt-tightening that can affect all areas of government, including public schools, “surplus sessions” carry their own challenges. The question becomes how to handle this level of available funding – should legislators focus on reducing property taxes or spending money on public education, higher education, the criminal justice system, state agencies/employees, health and human services, or any other of the myriad areas of government that have designs on the surplus?

The Senate is likely to organize itself quickly under the continuing leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, with few changes in its membership. One anticipated change from previous sessions is the combining of the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees. With the retirement of Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor, Higher Education Chair Brandon Creighton is expected to lead a larger, merged Education Committee that includes a subcommittee devoted to higher education issues.

The House generally gets off to a slower start because of its larger turnover in members. Though there was a contested race, Speaker Dade Phelan was re-elected by his colleagues to that position by a vote of 143-3 and is expected to keep many of last session’s chairs in place.

The Speaker will consider the expressed preferences of House members in appointing committees, a task that will take a few weeks. Committee hearings on legislation, initially limited to the state budget bill, will follow.

As of noon Tuesday, nearly 1,700 bills and resolutions had been filed, just a fraction of the number (totaling over 7,000 last session) that will be filed by the March 10 filing deadline. TCTA will be following the hundreds of bills that could affect teachers, students and schools and will keep you updated here on their progress throughout the session.