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HB 4537 Bill Analysis

HB 4537 by Rep. Middleton is the identical companion bill of Sen. Bettencourt’s SB 1968

Analysis by Texas Public Policy Foundation staff:

H.B. 4537 amends the Education Code to add Subchapter J which creates the Family Educational Relief Program for the purpose of giving children from low-income households more choice in education. The program would fund education-related expenses of participants.

A child is eligible to participate in the program if the child is eligible to attend public school and qualifies for the national free or reduced lunch program or is a sibling of a child who qualifies and is eligible to attend public school. A child is no longer eligible for the program if he or she graduates high school, is no longer eligible to attend public school, enrolls in a public school, or is declared ineligible by the comptroller.

Certain organizations will be designated as certified educational assistance organizations; to be eligible for certification, organizations must be able to perform the functions and administration required by the program and have 501(c)(3) status. A parent of an eligible child can apply to enroll the child in a certified educational assistance organization and must include eligibility verification information. Organizations may not keep information obtained to qualify the child beyond the period necessary to determine eligibility. The certified educational assistance organization must include on their website the expenses allowed under the program, the expense reporting requirements, and the descriptions of the responsibilities of both the participants and the organization. Priority for admission will be given to students who participates in the program the previous year, siblings of participants from the previous year, and children with the greatest financial need.

The comptroller will provide to certified educational assistance organizations and include on the website a list of preapproved providers and vendors. If the vendor is a private school, in order to be approved, the private school must be accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, administer annual assessment under Sec. 39.023, provide evidence of certain policies, and allow participants in the program to apply for any other scholarship offered by the school. If the vendor is a private tutor, therapist or teaching service, in order to be approved the vendor must be certified, hold relevant licenses, be employed (as a teacher or tutor) in an institution of higher education, and complete a national criminal history record review. If the vendor is an online educational course or program, the vendor must be accredited by an organization recognized by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission. All other types of vendors must present documentation and qualifications. An education service provider may not be required to change practices, policies, curriculum, or assessments to receive money under the program.

Parents of the participants must agree to only spend the money from the program on allowed expenses and notify the certified education assistance organization within 30 days of the child losing eligibility. Funds from the program may not be paid to any anyone related within the third degree or household member of the participant. An education service provider cannot charge a child participating in the program an amount greater than the standard amount and refunds or credit to the participant are not allowed. The following fees are approved education related expenses:

  • Private school, institution of higher education, or online course tuition;
  • Textbooks, uniforms or other required materials by the school;
  • Tutoring or teaching services; and
  • Educational therapy not covered by any federal, state, or local government (such as Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program) or private insurance.

90% of state’s average maintenance and operations expenditures per student in daily attendance will be placed in an account per participant. Any remaining money at the end of the fiscal year will be carried forward unless the account is closed. In the event the child no longer qualifies, the account will be closed, and funds returned to the Family Education Relief Program Fund. The fund may not be financed by federal money or money from the school fund, but the comptroller can solicit and accept gifts, grants, and donations from public and private sources. The comptroller will make quarterly equal payments to the account.

The comptroller will also make quarterly payments to each certified educational assistance organization to cover the organization’s administration cost though the total amount to all certified education assistance organizations cannot exceed 5% of the funds appropriated. Prior to the payment, each certified education assistance organization must compare participant and public school enrollment lists and notify the comptroller of any overlap. The comptroller may contract a private entity to conduct random auditing to verify compliance with the program.

An account will be suspended if the participant fails to comply with the rules of the program as adopted by the comptroller. Upon receiving notification of suspension of the account, a participant has 10 days to respond and take corrective action. On the 10th day, the comptroller will either close the account and remove the participant from the program, temporarily reinstate the account on a specified condition, or reinstate the account in full. The comptroller may recover money used for not authorized expenses from the participant or entity. If there is evidence of fraudulent uses of the account, the comptroller or organization may refer the case to the attorney general.

Every certified educational assistance organization must post on their website and send to each parent of a child with a disability who applies a notice stating private schools are not subject to the same laws regarding special education and a child with disability may not receive the same services at a private school along with a list of rights under federal and state law children with disabilities have at public schools.

H.B. 4537 amends the Government Code to add subsection (c) to allow the comptroller to obtain criminal history records for private tutors, therapists, and employees of teaching services who intend to provide services to a child in the program.

H.B. 4537 amends the Insurance Code to add Chapter 230 to create a tax credit for contributions to the Family Educational Relief Program that entities can apply for. The amount of credit an entity receives is equal to the lesser of the amount contributed during the period covered by the tax report or 50% of the entity’s state premium tax liability for the report. For the 2022 fiscal year, the total amount of credit cannot exceed $200 million and following years, the credit available will stay the same unless 90% of the available credit was awarded the previous year, then the credit available will increase to 125% of the previous year’s credit. The comptroller can require an entity to estimate the amount of credit it intends to apply for at any point in the year.

Prior to making a contribution to the fund, an entity can apply for preliminary approval of credit by filling out a form for the comptroller. The comptroller will grant preliminary approval on a first-come, first-served basis for as long as there is credit available without exceeding the year’s credit limit. For a standard credit application, the entity must apply within the tax period the contribution was made through a form created by the comptroller. The comptroller has discretion in choosing who receives credit and reasoning for denial cannot be requested though an entity can request a reconsideration within 30 days which is final. Credit awarded cannot be transferred to another entity unless all assets of the entity are transferred to the other.

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School Choice Gets the House’s Back Door Treatment

Thursday, April 22, 2021 – Budget Day in the Texas House of Representatives

Near 5:00 PM, Rep. Herrero introduced Amendment 84 with Rep. Huberty standing close behind him. He thanked “Dr. VanDeaver and all those that support public education…..Stand with our public school teachers.”

The amendment reads, “Prohibition on Use of Appropriated Money for School Choice Programs. Money appropriated by this Act may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, education savings account, or tax credit scholarship program or similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.

Rep. Steve Toth, whose district is in Montgomery County near Houston, spoke against the amendment, saying,

“Members, not all of us have choice. I have choice. If I lived in a district that didn’t adequately and effectively provide a good education to my child, I have choice, I can move to a different district. Parents desire choice. Parents desire to make that decision as to whether or not the educational experience their child is receiving is effective or not. Every parent deserves that choice.

This is a poll that was done by the Mason-Dixon Polling Strategy Company. It’s a nonpartisan organization.  They do polling for Republicans, Democrats, on all sorts of different issues. I’m kind of a polling nerd. I used to work for the Harris poll.

They went out to 625 registered Texas voters, margin of error of plus or minus 4%, with a 95% probability rate. And here’s what it says,

If you live in East Texas, 79% of Texans desire parental choice.

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 76% of parents desire School Choice.

Houston Metro, parental choice, 79%,

Central Texas, 76%

West Texas, 71%

And if you’re in a 50/50 district, here’s the most key thing of all, if you’re in a 50/50 district, independent voters, overwhelmingly, 74% believe in parental choice.

Let’s give underserved children the same choice that every single member of this Texas House and Senate has. And I ask for you to reject this amendment.”

Then Rep. Huberty, of the Public Education Committee, spoke for the amendment:

“Members, we’ve had this discussion in this body for years about this. The reality of the situation is we have plenty of options of choice within our public schools. That’s just false narrative. We’ve had the ability to send, when we talk about special needs kids as an example, we have the ability to put them in private placement, we have the ability to let them do that. We’ve expanded the options for parents through the pandemic, of creating opportunities. We’re talking about virtual schools now. We talking about all these wonderful options that we have there. So I respectfully ask you to vote for the amendment.”

Rep. Herrero said in closing: “Join all the members that are here in support of this amendment (indicating the members standing behind him) and stand with our public school teachers and support this amendment. I move for the adoption.”

Rep. Biedermann raised a point of order against further consideration of Amendment 84 under Rule 8, Section 4, of the House Rules on the grounds that the amendment changes general law through an appropriations bill. The point of order was withdrawn.

A record vote requested by Rep. Toth.

Final vote tally:  115 Yeas to 29 Nays, 2 present but not voting.

The 29 Republican representatives who voted in favor of School Choice by voting against this amendment to defund any form of it were:

Biedermann, Bonnen, Cain, Capriglione, Cason, Craddick, Frank, Gates, Hefner, Hull, Jetton, Klick, Krause, Leach, Metcalf, Middleton, Murphy, Noble, Oliverson, Parker, Patterson, Paul, Sanford, Schafer, Shaheen, Swanson, Tinderholt, Toth, Wilson.

Statements of vote:

Button was out of the chamber, but would have voted “no.”

Leach said he was shown voting no, but intended to vote Yes.

Leman was shown voting Yes, but intended to vote No.

Metcalf was shown voting no, but intended to vote Yes.

Shaheen was shown voting No, but intended to vote Yes.

(So apparently statements of vote changes afterwards are documented in the journal, but the tally does not change. Their votes stay as recorded. I crossed through the names who indicated they meant to vote for the defund amendment.) All the representatives not named above voted for the defund amendment.

This was a back door move to eliminate any chance of any kind of School Choice getting through, because while activists attentively watch the progress of bills, which all had to be filed by March 12, no one outside the back offices of the Capitol could have seen this amendment coming, and it was only filed the day of the Budget vote. And the great majority of Republican Representatives and all the Democrats voted in favor.

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Let Our Children Go!

There is ONE approved bill for achieving the School Choice for All Legislative Priority, and it desperately needs action right now.

Senator Bettencourt’s SB 1968 and its identical companion bill, Representative Middleton’s HB 4537, establishing the Family Educational Relief Program, are stalled.

SB 1968 was assigned to the Senate Education Committee, HB 4537 was assigned to the House Public Education Committee, and neither has been seen or heard since.

These bills MUST be given hearings by the first week in May, or they are high and dry.

Republican voters have been requesting School Choice for decades now, for the benefit of all Texan children. Polls demonstrate that in every region of Texas, over 70% of the population wants choice in schools. School Choice has been placed on the ballots of multiple Republican Primary Elections as Propositions, and each time has passed statewide by wide margins.

More than this, School Choice is one of the ten enduring Principles of the Republican Party of Texas, ahead of all the planks in the Platform. To that end, it has once again been voted by the thousands of state convention delegates as one of their priorities for the Texas legislators.

But unless legislators are swiftly shown that constituents’ will is forcefully behind this cause, this issue and these bills will be allowed to quietly lapse for the 13th legislative session in a row. Other issues have become more prominent this year and garnered much of peoples’ attention. Perennially, influential unions and associations, superintendents and school districts who think of families being allowed to choose as a threat to “Our Money” and “Our Students,” lobby powerfully to see that such legislation gets quashed at the outset and never sees the light of day.

But an enduring issue such as School Choice, with effects greater than can be measured, what with the quality of educations and success of children growing up now at stake, should not be disregarded any longer.

If you believe children should not be consigned to the school the district has assigned, then please contact legislators NOW to support SB 1968 and HB 4537.

To learn more about how the Family Educational Relief Program would work, see these articles:

PARKER: Is Texas Legislature Closer to Passing More School Choice Than Ever Before?
https://www.texasinsider.org/articles/parker-is-texas-loser-than-ever-to-more-school-choice

Is Texas About to Change How Parents Choose Their Children’s School?
http://texasinsider.org/articles/is-texas-about-to-change-how-parents-choose-their-children-s-school

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House Bill 281

HB 281:  Ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying

By Rep. Mayes Middleton

Relating to the use by a political subdivision of public money for lobbying activities.

Problem:

Under current law, political subdivisions may spend public funds to hire lobbyists for the purpose of supporting or opposing measures under consideration by the state legislature. According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, local governments spent as much as $41 million to lobby the legislature in 2017 alone. Taxpayers and ratepayers of political subdivisions and special districts that hire lobbyists are forced to pay for lobby efforts of their jurisdiction, even if these efforts take positions contrary to their policy preferences. Given that the interests of citizens may differ from those of their local governments, citizens’ legislative lobby efforts toward state elected officials might be adversely affected by the distinct disadvantage they face when contending with the agenda of taxpayer-funded lobbyists hired by political subdivisions.
Furthermore, the state has the sovereign role of creating or chartering political subdivisions as well as dictating their powers, mandates, and prohibitions. The state also provides state funds to political subdivisions for the implementation of state policy at the specific direction of the legislature. Many consider lobbying of the state legislature by political subdivisions to represent a clear and unacceptable conflict of interest between the state and its local entities. Simply put, the government should not be allowed to lobby itself.
Moreover, many lobbyists participate in the political process through campaign contributions, fundraising, electioneering, and other political activities. The receipt of public dollars by these individuals presents the unseemly possibility that public funds could be used to directly or indirectly fund political activity.
Given the significant amount of state funds that most local entities receive and the state’s similar prohibition on lobbying by state agencies, the state has a compelling interest in extending this prohibition to political subdivisions.

Solution:

Ban all political subdivisions, including cities, counties, independent school districts, and special purpose districts, as well as other public entities such as regional mobility authorities and toll authorities from hiring lobbyists or paying dues to an association of similarly-situated entities which lobbies. Important caveats to the prohibition on local government lobbying include the explicit authorization of elected officers of a political subdivision to support or oppose measures under consideration by the legislature. Additionally, employees of a political subdivision may provide information at the request of a committee in the legislature on behalf of the political subdivision.

Result:

Under this change, political subdivisions would not be able to spend public money to influence the legislature. Furthermore, this legislation would prevent political subdivisions from hiring lobbyists for the purpose of influencing the outcome of measures under consideration by the legislature. Local elected officials would remain empowered to personally advocate on behalf of their jurisdiction before the legislature as a natural extension of their representative duty.
This legislation would protect taxpayers from being forced to fund lobby efforts contrary to their policy preferences or interests; taxpayers could also be certain that their tax dollars are not used to fund political activity.

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TX House Ways & Means Committee Members

Please call these committee members’ offices and let them know you want them to support HB2, Property Tax Reform!

Capitol Office numbers:

Chair:  Rep. Dustin Burrows     (512) 463-0542

Vice Chair: Rep. Ryan Guillen  (512)463-0416

Rep. Dwayne Bohac  (512)463-0727

Rep. Sheryl Cole  (512)463-0506

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (512)463-0616

Rep. Jim Murphy  (512)463-0514

Rep. Candy Noble (512)463-0186

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez  (512)463-0674

Rep. Scott Sanford  (512)463-0356

Rep. Matt Shaheen  (512)463-0594

Rep. John Wray  (512)463-0516

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TX House State Affairs Committee Members

Please call these committee members and let them know you want them to support Ending Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying, HB 281!

Capitol office numbers:

Chairman:  Rep. Dade Phelan  (512) 463-0706

Vice Chair: Rep. Ana Hernandez  (512) 463-0614

Rep. Joe Deshotel   (512) 463-0662

Rep. R. D. “Bobby” Guerra   (512) 463-0578

Rep. Sam Harless   (512) 463-0496

Rep. Justin Holland   (512) 463-0484

Rep. Todd Hunter  (512) 463-0672

Rep. Phil King  (512) 463-0738

Rep. Tan Parker  (972) 724-8477

Rep. Richard Peña Raymond  (512) 463-0558

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez  (512) 463-0674

Rep. John T. Smithee   (512) 463-0702

Rep. Drew Springer   (940) 580-1770

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Feb. 27th House Ways & Means Committee Hearing Agenda

I encourage anyone who can to come testify in favor of HB 2, for Property Tax Reform.


House Committee on Ways & Means (C490)
Clerk: Paige Higerd    Phone: (512) 463-0822    Room: EXT E2.116

Hearing:   02/27/2019 8:00 AM

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

COMMITTEE:    Ways & Means

TIME & DATE:  8:00 AM, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PLACE:       JHR 140
CHAIR:       Rep. Dustin Burrows

HB 2           Burrows
Relating to ad valorem taxation.
HB 705         Geren
Relating to the substitution of a county sales and use tax for all or a portion of property taxes imposed by the county; authorizing the imposition of a tax.
The order in which bills are heard is at the discretion of the chair.

Testimony will be limited to two (2) minutes.

Chair: Rep. Dustin Burrows
Vice Chair: Rep. Ryan Guillen
Members: Rep. Dwayne Bohac
Rep. Sheryl Cole
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer
Rep. Jim Murphy
Rep. Candy Noble
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
Rep. Scott Sanford
Rep. Matt Shaheen
Rep. John Wray
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Feb. 27th State Affairs Committee Hearing Agenda

I encourage anyone who can to come testify in favor of HB 281, to End Taxpayer Funded Lobbying.


House Committee on State Affairs (C450)
Clerk: Kory Curtis    Phone: (512) 463-0814    Room: EXT E2.108

02/27/2019

10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess or bill referral if permission granted

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

COMMITTEE:    State Affairs

TIME & DATE:  10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess or bill referral if permission granted
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PLACE:       E2.014
CHAIR:       Rep. Dade Phelan

HB 41          Metcalf | et al.
Relating to paid leave for a state employee who is a search and rescue volunteer.
HB 81          Canales | et al.
Relating to the disclosure under the public information law of certain information related to parades, concerts, or other entertainment events open to the general public that are paid for with public funds.
HB 125         Martinez
Relating to the online publication of home addresses of certain occupational license holders.
HB 147         Moody | et al.
Relating to access to certain law enforcement, corrections, and prosecutorial records under the public information law.
HB 234         Krause | et al.
Relating to the local regulation of the sale of lemonade or other beverages by children.
HB 281         Middleton
Relating to the use by a political subdivision of public money for lobbying activities.
HB 305         Paul
Relating to the requirement that a state agency or political subdivision with authority to impose a tax post certain information on an Internet website.
HB 382         Ortega | et al.
Relating to the authority to establish a customer assistance program for certain municipally owned utilities.
HB 433         Shaheen
Relating to the disclosure of public money spent by certain political subdivisions for lobbying activities in a comprehensive annual financial report.
HB 444         Meyer
Relating to the criminal penalties for insider trading and other misuse of official information by public servants.
HB 793         King, Phil | et al.
Relating to certain government contracts with companies that boycott Israel.
Events

Texas Faith & Family Day at the Capitol

Make a difference for faith and family in Texas!

March 13, 2019

Join us for an impactful day at the Texas Capitol where you will equip yourself with important information on religious freedom, marriage & family, parental rights, and pro-life issues, rally with like-minded Texans from across the state, and engage your elected officials in person – all during the important 86th Texas Legislative Session.

For more details and to register, go to https://www.texasfaithandfamily.com/

Featured Speakers:

David Bereit – 40 Days for Life Founder

Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.) – Former Congressman

Schedule

Faith & Family Briefing Session

8:30 AM – 10:45 AM | Capitol Auditorium

Get important issue briefings from leading pro-family organizations and learn how to make an impact for family values during the legislative session.

Office Visits

11:00 AM – 11:30 AM | Capitol Building

After briefing session, you will have time to visit your legislators’ office, encourage them to support key legislation, and invite them to the Noon Rally.

Faith & Family Rally

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM | South Steps of the Capitol Building

Speakers: Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.), David Bereit, Sen. Kelly Hancock, Rep. Matt Schaefer, Rep. Matt Shaheen, Rep. Candy Noble

Lunch

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM | Texas Capitol

Lunch and further office visits

 

For more details and to register, go to https://www.texasfaithandfamily.com/