The 86th legislative session ended Monday, and UT got a modest increase in funding, mirroring the last legislative session two years ago.
The University received a 4% raise in funding from the state budget, and the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas was given additional money to help rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. The Dell Medical School and the TEXAS Grant program, which supports students with financial need around the state, also got boosts.
In an email to the University, UT President Gregory Fenves thanked Texas’ “Big Three” — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — for their support of higher education in the session.
“They understand the tremendous value the public flagship university brings to Texas, and I am grateful for their strong support,” Fenves said in an email.
The Texas Legislature’s main priority to pass a cap on property tax rate increases made it through at the last minute. Community colleges, which feared the effects of the cap because property taxes are among their top three sources of revenue, were given more leeway than other entities affected by the bill. Most local taxing authorities will be capped at a 3.5% increase each year without voter approval, while community colleges and hospital districts were given 8%.
The “Tobacco 21” bill, which will raise the age limit for the purchase and consumption of tobacco to 21, and new restrictions and punishments for hazing also passed. The parents of Nicky Cumberland, the Texas Cowboys recruit who died last fall, testified in support of the House version of the hazing bill in March.
Several other bills relating to higher education also passed: Senate Bill 18, which will protect free speech on campus and expand First Amendment protections; Senate Bill 25, which ensures the transfer of certain amounts of course credit between community colleges and universities; and Senate Bill 212, which requires higher education institutions to fire employees who are aware of sexual harassment but do not report it.
However, a bill that would have expanded regulations for electric scooters and another to allow for class action lawsuits against social media companies that engage in censorship died in committee in the lower chamber.
The much-talked-about bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana also failed to make it to the governor’s desk after it was declared “dead on arrival” in the Senate by Patrick.
Abbott has until June 16 to sign or veto bills, and any that he doesn’t take action on become law automatically. Most bills will go into effect Aug. 26, with the exception of those that are effective immediately or that specify a different date.
Here are some other pieces of legislation that were passed this session:
House Bill 1545: A sunset bill to continue the funding for the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, but it also had an attachment that will allow craft breweries to sell “beer to-go.”
Senate Bill 7: This creates a state flood infrastructure fund to help communities better prepare for flooding events like Hurricane Harvey.
House Bill 1631: This bans red light cameras around the state by barring local jurisdictions from renewing their contracts with the private companies that provide and manage them.
Major legislation that died:
House Joint Resolution 3: To offset losses in property tax revenue, this bill would have increased the base state sales tax rate by 1%, bringing it to 7.25%.
House Joint Resolution 117: This would have allowed voters to choose between standard and daylight savings time in a statewide vote, eliminating the semi-yearly time change.