Lay of the Land All new “statewides”; first time since 2002. Large Senate turnover – 8 (26%). 20-year average turnover rates: 3 (9.6%) in Senate & 27 (18%) & House. Average last two elections, higher turnover: 4 (13%) in Senate & 38 (25%) in House. In 2014: 8 (26% - higher) & 25 (17% - average). Majority of House members (76 – 51%) are currently either freshmen or sophomores. 28% of Senate & 24% of House Committees – their Chairs are not returning including Finance, HAC & Senate Ed.
Impact on Education-related Committees Senate Ed: Dan Patrick (Lt. Gov.-elect); Ken Paxton (AG-elect); Van de Putte (lost Lt. Gov. race but still in Senate – will Patrick reappoint her back to Senate Ed? Senate Finance: only change in membership of the current committee is that Patrick is now Lt. Gov.-elect; who will he appoint? House Public Ed: Davis, John (choose note to run for re-election; Ratliff (defeated in primary); *Villarreal (will resign to run for San Antonio mayor in 2015)
Impact on Education-related Committees Higher Ed: Branch (Chair; lost primary race for AG); Patrick, Diane (Vice-Chair; lost primary race). HAC – Article III s/c: Patrick, Diane; & Ratliff
84 th Texas Senate Eight* (26%) new Senators – Senate losing 138 years of experience. *Special election to be held to replace SD 18 Senator Hegar, the newly elected CPA. Partisan balance shifting slightly from 19 Rs (61%) & 12 Ds (39%) to 20 Rs (65%) and 11 Ds (35%). Senate rules require a 2/3 “vote” or 21 votes to bring up bills for floor debate. Will Lt. Gov.- elect fulfill a campaign promise (threat) to eliminate or modify the 2/3 rule?
84 th Texas House Balance of power between Rs will go from 95 (63%) to 98 (65%) & Ds go from 55 (37%) to 52 (35%). Rs pick up 3 seats. Additionally: Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) will resign to run for mayor (05/2015). Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will run for SD 18 to replace Senator Hegar (he drew a four-year term in 2013) was elected comptroller of public accounts. 25 (17%) freshmen; loss of at least 228 years of experience.
Institutional Knowledge vs. Fresh Ideas Lack of experience: 84 th : 25 (17%) of House & 8 (26%) Senate. 83 rd : 41 (27%)House & 5 (16%) Senate freshmen. 82 nd : 35 (23%)House & 2 (6%) Senate freshmen. Currently, 7 (22.5%) of Senators are in first or second term. Currently, a majority (76 – 50.6%) of House members are in first or second term. New Lieutenant Governor. House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio, HD 121) will be the “elder” statesman going in to his 4 th term as Speaker.
Background & Things to keep in mind: Very few legislative offices have the resources to hire staff dedicated solely to education issues. Legislative offices have limited budgets to run their Capitol and District offices: Senators receive $38,000 month or $456,000 year. House members receive $13,250 a month or $159,000 a year. Amounts could change as both adopt their policies and procedures for 2015. SDs: 811,150 vs. HDs: 167,600 residents.
Background & Things to keep in mind: Many offices use unpaid interns or low-paid staffers as session only employees – typically college/law/public affairs students building their résumés. Time demands on legislators & staff – 140-day regular session to get it all done; however, internal rules & deadlines crunch time demands even further. These things combine to give YOU an opening to educate members and staff on education issues.
Challenging Issues General Appropriations Act – state budget School finance – System declared unconstitutional by district judge; Order stayed until July 1, 2015; State has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court; Hearing will be probably be held before the start of 84 th session in January (01/13/2015); Attitude among legislators will be “let’s not do anything until directed to by the Supremes.” Possible ruling mid-session – if ruling upheld, will there be time to craft new system? (Hint: don’t plan any June vacations.) Others: accountability, assessments, ESCs, expansion of charters/choice/vouchers.
How to become legislators’ & staffers’ new BFF Tips to keep in mind: You are the education professional. They need you to share your experience & expertise. Often, legislators & staff “don’t know what they don’t know.” Share critical information about the district: finance status; student body; growth or no growth; accountability ratings; trends and projections; education associations the district belongs to; key personnel & contact information; give them info packet or flash drive with key information included.
How to become legislators’ & staffers’ new BFF When providing information, don’t overwhelm with education jargon and acronyms. Invite them to your district – bring out the dogs & ponies. Tell your story (warts & all); save surprises for birthdays. Don’t threaten with future electoral challenges if the legislators vote differently than you wanted – agree to disagree on issues if necessary. Pledge to work together to find common ground on other issues.
How to become legislators’ & staffers’ new BFF Visit District and Capitol offices regularly – before, during and after legislative session; however, don’t “camp out” in their offices while you wait for a hearing to begin or bill to be heard. They have lots to do every day! Don’t wait to make special requests: local bills; resolutions; flags; visits. Be flexible, if possible. Keep them informed about the affect of proposed legislation & finance proposals will have on your district – base your position on what is best for your school district. Be specific on how proposals will affect your district – either positively or negatively – backup with facts and data.
How to become legislators’ & staffers’ new BFF Inform them of your position before proposed legislation comes up in a hearing or is scheduled for a vote. Alert them if you are testifying and your position, particularly if you are testifying against a bill filed by your legislator. Remember that legislators, for the most part, only want to hear from their own constituents. Do not send form letters, petitions, robo-calls or form “e-mail blasts.” Remember to say “thank you” to members & staff.
It’d be funny if this cartoon didn’t depict the truth!
Resources – Helpful Websites Texas Legislature On-line: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ Texas Legislative Council - http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/ http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/ Senate Research Center - http://www.senate.state.tx.us/SRC/Index.htm http://www.senate.state.tx.us/SRC/Index.htm House Research Organization - http://www.hro.house.state.tx.us/ http://www.hro.house.state.tx.us/ Sunset Advisory Commission – TEA limited scope review (SAC decisions: December) and UIL (SAC decisions in 08/2014) - https://www.sunset.texas.gov/reviews-and-reports https://www.sunset.texas.gov/reviews-and-reports