Texas House committees receive interim charges

IMG_8509Yesterday, Texas House Speaker Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released his list of interim charges for House committees to study before the 2017 legislative session. The education-related charges include studying “ways to increase parental choice in education,” funding for school facilities and other needs, post-secondary readiness, and the risks of “inappropriate teacher-student relationships.” Payroll deduction for professional association dues will be studied by at least one House committee. The House Appropriations committee will study several issues that affect educators, including paying for programs that are funded outside the Foundation School Program addressing retired educators’ costs of living and health care needs. Similarly, the House Committee on Pensions will look at factors relating to the solvency of pension programs such as TRS.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) already issued interim charges to Senate committees back in October. As we reported here on our blog, the upper chamber’s interim charges call for the Senate Education Committee to study such issues as school choice and expanding charter schools. Additionally, Patrick has directed the Senate Committee on State Affairs to study the controversial payroll deduction issue.

View the full list of House interim charges here. Excerpts are posted below.

House Public Education Committee Interim Charges

1. Examine the effectiveness and efficiency of the Cost of Education Index (CEI). Determine if other mechanisms or methodologies could better achieve the intended purpose of this public school finance driver. Make recommendations for improvements or elimination of the CEI.

2. Evaluate the current state of school district facility needs and debt. Determine what constraints or limitations exist across the state, particularly in communities experiencing rapid growth, to fund facilities at the local level. Examine state laws, rules and best practice models for facility efficiency and long term taxpayer savings. Review the current facility funding programs, the Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) and the Existing Debt Allotment (EDA), to address school districts’ facility needs and provide property tax relief.

3. Examine the accessibility to broadband services for schools, libraries, and institutions of higher education. Study the feasibility and affordability of providing scalable broadband to schools and other public institutions. Research federal and state funding opportunities to support increased access to broadband. Review innovative efforts by school districts to integrate technology in the classroom. Explore ways to enhance high-tech digital learning opportunities in the classroom to improve student achievement and fulfill future workforce demands.

4. Review current policies and rules to protect students from inappropriate teacher-student relationships. Examine efforts by the Texas Education Agency, school districts, law enforcement and the courts to investigate and prosecute educators for criminal conduct. Recommend needed improvements to promote student safety, including examining current criminal penalties, superintendent reporting requirements, teacher certification sanctions and the documentation provided in school district separation agreements. Review school employee training and educational efforts to promote student safety.

5. Examine partnerships between higher education institutions, public school districts, and workforce that promote postsecondary readiness. Provide coordination recommendations to ensure vocational, career, and technical education programs are more accessible. Determine the most effective ways to invest in these partnerships and programs to direct at-risk students to stable career paths. Examine current rules and laws limiting employers from providing meaningful internships, apprenticeships, and other opportunities. Consider new methods to finance workforce training programs and associated assets in high schools and postsecondary schools, including ways to reduce or eliminate these costs and options to incentivize businesses to invest in training equipment for schools. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Economic & Small Business Development)

6. Review the state’s current education policies and initiatives regarding middle grades. Make recommendations to ensure a comprehensive, research-based state strategy for preparing students at the middle grades for high school retention, success, and postsecondary readiness. This review should include an examination of school-based strategies and best practices that encourage at-risk youth to finish school.

7. Review current public education programs that address the needs of high performing students. Identify the adequacy of these programs statewide in meeting the needs of this specific student group and explore additional means to promote high quality programs designed to meet the educational needs of these students. Study ways to increase the recognition of the performance of higher performing students on test-based and non-test based measures. Examine whether the current and proposed state accountability systems adequately promote districts’ addressing the needs of students across the performance spectrum, including those students significantly outperforming their peers. Recommend whether the academic performance of high achieving students should be specifically addressed as a separate indicator in the accountability system.

8. Study ways to increase parental choice in education, and review the successes and failures of school choice programs in other states. Examine the benefits and costs of implementing such a program in Texas. Recommend whether an expansion of school choice in Texas is needed, and suggest ways to ensure that any school receiving public support is held accountable for its academic and financial performance.

9. Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementing of relevant legislation passed by the 84th Legislature, specifically including HB 4, HB 743, HB 2205, and SB 149. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;

c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

 

House Appropriations Committee Interim Charges

1. Evaluate potential fiscal policy challenges or economic disruptions in the 2016-17 biennium, including the long-term impact of price declines in oil and natural gas on the Texas economy and any fiscal implications for the state budget. Examine options to mitigate the risk of unexpected downturns in state revenue. Examine further progress made during the 84th legislative session to reduce reliance on general revenue dedicated accounts for budget certification. Recommend new or alternative methods to further reduce reliance on dedicated accounts for budget certification purposes and maximize usage of dedicated funds for their intended purposes. Examine other accounts and funding streams utilized by state agencies and institutions of higher education for opportunities to further increase budget transparency.

2. Develop recommendations to codify the Strategic Fiscal Review process. Conduct additional Strategic Fiscal Reviews of selected state agencies to further examine and assess agency performance, and ensure taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively.

3. Examine Texas constitutional spending limits compared to limits utilized in other states, evaluate their effectiveness in maintaining fiscal discipline, and recommend potential modifications, if needed.

4. Evaluate deferred maintenance and physical plant needs of state buildings. Evaluate the appropriate funding mechanisms and timing that should be used to address the ongoing maintenance needs of state assets.

5. Monitor the accumulation of available funds within the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), particularly in light of the passage of HB 903 (84R). Determine the accuracy of prior ESF revenue predictions, the feasibility of long-term projections for the fund, and the effectiveness of proposed investments strategies utilized by the Comptroller of Public Accounts. Study the impact, if any, on the state’s credit rating when the ESF is utilized at various thresholds including usage for one-time expenses versus recurring costs. Examine potential limits in utilizing the ESF for specific uses, such as addressing unfunded liabilities or retiring state debt.

6. Monitor the implementation of HB 9 (84R) and study updated projections towards actuarial soundness of the Employees Retirement System. Examine issues and costs associated with granting cost of living adjustments or “13th Checks” to retired state employees and teachers.

7. Monitor the implementation of HB 2 (84R) as it pertains to the short-term funding provided to TRS-Care. Evaluate additional methods to address the health care needs of retired teachers in light of the current health insurance market, including the feasibility and costs associated with retired teachers not eligible for Medicare remaining on a school district’s health care plan until Medicare eligible.

8. Monitor the ongoing implementation of SB 20 (84R) and Article IX, Sec. 7.12 of the General Appropriations Act, HB 1 (84R). Study trends in state contracting as developed by the Legislative Budget Board and recommend new and/or modified strategies to ensure all contracting is executed in a transparent and judicious manner.

9. Review hospital reimbursement methodologies, including supplemental payments and the Medicaid add-on payments directed by HB 1 (84R) for safety-net and trauma facilities. In the review, include reimbursement methodologies for rural and children’s hospitals. Also, monitor the extension of the Texas Healthcare Transformation and Quality Improvement 1115 waiver.

10. Review the Texas Medicaid programs providing long-term services and support to adults or children with medical, physical, or intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Study reimbursement methodologies, the historical appropriated slot allocation compared to the actual fill rate, the procedure of releasing slots to providers, and the impact and timeline of carving services into Medicaid managed care. Identify potential obstacles for the delivery of community long-term services and support, including the availability of community care workers. Make any needed recommendations to improve community long-term services and supports.

11. Study the trauma system in the State of Texas, including financing, service delivery, planning, and coordination among Emergency Medical Services providers, Trauma Services Area Regional Advisory Councils, The Emergency Medical Task Force, and hospitals. Determine strengths and weaknesses including challenges for rural areas of the state. Make recommendations to reduce any duplicated services, improve the coordination of services, and advance the delivery of trauma services in Texas. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Health)

12. Examine the historical growth of the Texas Medicaid program, including factors affecting caseload and cost trends. Review legislative or policy initiatives created to detect or deter waste, fraud and abuse; to reduce cost; or improve the quality of healthcare in the Texas Medicaid program. Evaluate the effectiveness of, and identify savings associated with, these initiatives.

13. Conduct a review of current public education programs administered by the Texas Education Agency that are funded outside of the Foundation School Program. Make recommendations to increase, decrease, or eliminate programs based on measurable performance and effectiveness.

14. Conduct a review of current funding formulas for community colleges. Specifically, focus on the elements of the instructional funding structure created by the 83rd Legislature: core operations, student success points, and contact hour funding and also the adequacy of state funding to sustain community colleges in light of the variance in resources available to individual colleges. Make recommendations for possible changes to the funding structure of community colleges or changes in the levels of current funding given the future workforce and higher educational needs of the state. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Higher Education)

15. Examine the formulas used to fund institutions of higher education. Study the initial development of the formulas and the underlying assumptions used. Make recommendations for new discipline weights, if necessary, evaluating any discrepancies in formula funding for the same program offered at different types of institutions and the inclusion of new medical schools on general academic campuses.

16. Evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Public Safety’s use of funds appropriated during the 84th legislative session for border security operations. Examine existing data and reporting on border security metrics, and recommend improvements to ensure the availability of accurate information in considering sustaining or increasing border security funds.

17. Review historic funding levels and methods of financing for the state parks system. Study recent legislative enactments including the General Appropriations Act (84R), HB 158 (84R), and SB 1366 (84R) to determine the effect of the significant increase in funding, specifically capital program funding, on parks across the state.

18. Study the various methods of funding the state’s transportation network including recent legislative enactments such as Proposition 1 (83(3)) and Proposition 7 (84R). Review the current budget structure for the Texas Department of Transportation as it relates to transportation funding categories and make recommendations for future allocations to accurately address the transportation needs in the state.

19. Monitor the performance of state agencies and institutions, including operating budgets, plans to carry out legislative initiatives, planned budget reductions (if directed), caseload projections, performance measure attainment, implementation of all rider provisions, and any other matter affecting the fiscal condition of the agencies and the state. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;

c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

 

House Committee on Pensions Interim Charges

1. Study the impact that fluctuations in global financial markets have had on public pension funds. Analyze assumed rates of return on investments, structures among asset classes, long-term and shorter-term investment goals, and make appropriate recommendations to ensure the investment structure of public pension funds are meeting fiduciary responsibilities.

2. Examine Texas pension funds’ compliance with Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Financial Reporting Statements 67 and 68, and identify the effect the reporting requirements are having on the state’s pension systems.

3. Examine the immediate and long-term fiscal impact to the state of the unfunded liabilities for the Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Fund (LECOS) as part of the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). Make appropriate legislative recommendations.

4. Examine the fiscal and policy impacts of structural reforms that would increase state public pension plans’ ability to achieve and maintain actuarial soundness. Evaluate the feasibility, costs, and benefits of utilizing one-time funding increases to reduce or eliminate unfunded liabilities.

5. Evaluate the investment performance benchmarks utilized by the state’s pension funds and the impact portfolio diversification and short- and long-term market assumptions have had on achieving expected investment returns. Analyze the fee structure and investment strategy for various investment classes to ensure the costs are reasonable and competitive versus other large public and private pension trust funds.

6. Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementing of relevant legislation passed by the 84th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;

c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

 

Of note, the interim charges issued to the House Committee on State Affairs also call for study of the payroll deduction issue that was the subject of highly contentious legislation earlier this year. The specific charge to that committee is as follows: “Examine payroll deductions from state or political subdivision employees for the purpose of labor organization membership dues or fees as well as charitable organization and nonprofit contributions. Determine if this process is an appropriate use of public funds.”

The interim charges issued to the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues exhibit some overlap with education concerns. They include a charge to “examine evidence-based practices around early education and parenting support and education programs;” a charge to “make recommendations to increase community and regional options and strengthen community services to reduce commitments to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department;” and another charge to “review juvenile justice penalties and sanctions determined by or disallowed by age of the juvenile.”

TTVStay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates as interim committee hearings convene in both the House and Senate to examine these issues.

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  1. Pingback: House speaker directs committees to keep school finance on the front burner | Teach the Vote

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