Bills passed by House or Senate so far this week include:
SB 763, allowing districts to hire chaplains to perform certain duties. The bill has been revised from its original version (allowing districts to hire chaplains to perform school counselor duties) to allow their employment or acceptance as a volunteer to “provide support, services, and programs for students.” This bill has now passed both the House and Senate; the Senate must consider amendments made in the House to determine whether it will accept those amendments or request conference committee negotiations.
HB 4402, making revisions to the accountability system. Changes include: adding the option for districts to use a writing portfolio assessment method; ensuring that parents can request paper assessments for their children; moving to through-year assessments statewide by 2027-28 (currently a pilot program); adding new indicators to the student achievement domain, including extra- and co-curricular student success, successful completion of middle school CTE courses, and middle school success in accelerated math; and for high schools, passing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test or successfully completing a JROTC program. The bill now advances to the Senate.
HJR 155, proposing a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling statewide. The bill sponsor, Rep. Charlie Geren, added an amendment on the House floor that requires the legislature to allocate 80% of revenue received through the state tax on casino gaming to increase salaries for teachers and to provide cost-of-living adjustments to TRS retirees. According to discussion during the floor debate, the amount would be approximately $1 billion per year; the constitutional amendment and accompanying legislation do not include details on how the funding for salaries and retirement benefits would be allocated. The bill passed in the House on an initial vote of 92-51 Wednesday but must receive 2/3 approval on its second vote in order to be placed on the ballot for a public vote in November. The second vote has been postponed more than once, likely indicating that the 2/3 majority was not yet within reach. We will update this information if and when that vote is taken. UPDATE: The House bill accompanying the proposed constitutional amendment was killed by the author via a procedural maneuver, presumably because the 2/3 vote for the constitutional amendment could not be reached, so the issue is likely dead for this session.