Return of the dead bills | TCTA
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Return of the dead bills

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In this final week of the legislative session, there are many education bills still moving, some in limbo, a handful that have made it to the governor’s desk, and hundreds that are dead – probably.

At this stage in the session, with a Tuesday deadline for the House to consider Senate bills, entire bills are being added on to other legislation in an effort to get across the finish line. But even when successful, it's possible that they’ll get taken back off during conference committee negotiations. Basically, you can never assume a dead bill is really dead, or a still-moving bill is going to survive.

For example, SB 288 is legislation that mirrors a proposal in the TRS Sunset bill, which is already on the governor’s desk. Technically, it is probably not necessary since it is already included in a bill that is likely to be signed into law. The legislation creates a new “three strikes” system for sanctioning retirees who violate the limitations on returning to work (if the retiree returns without sitting out a full 12 months). Under current law, upon the first instance of exceeding the time limits, the retiree loses his/her TRS check for the month. The revision allows TRS to warn the retiree first before monetary penalties kick in.

The bill was considered on the House floor Sunday. A floor amendment to SB 288 was needed to correct language to ensure it matched the Sunset bill. However, that amendment also added an entirely new section to the bill that had been the subject of other bills, allowing retirees to return without penalty for tutoring purposes during a declared disaster. (SB 1356, which has passed both houses, includes a similar provision.)

That same amendment added yet another bill, SB 202, that prohibits districts from passing along return-to-work surcharges to rehired retirees. (SB 202 is on the House's Wednesday consent calendar.)

A second amendment to SB 288 added language from HB 3929, allowing retirees to return without penalty if they are part of implementing a special education program. (That bill had never received a committee hearing in the Senate.)

So – three bills were added to an unneeded 2-page bill in the last days of the session. When the bill returns to the Senate, senators are expected to reject the House changes, and a conference committee will be appointed to determine what stays and what goes before a final vote is taken in each chamber.

If you can imagine this happening on a regular basis to the hundreds of bills that are being considered in the final days of the session, it is easy to understand how a bill that “died” earlier in the session can be resurrected. In this case, TCTA had supported the original bill, and did not oppose any of the amendments. But as in any horror movie, it can be frightening when bad things continue to come back to life. We're staying on top of the changes being made to education-related bills and will have a comprehensive recap - when it's all over.