TCA Capitol Report: March 10, 2023

TCA is looking forward to seeing some of our members Tuesday at our first Advocacy Day of 2023! More information on that below, but first we want to let you know about one of our priority bills getting a committee hearing on Monday.

The House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety will meet Monday and hear House Bill 1157 by Rep. J.M. Lozano. This bill would make clear in the Texas Education Code that students receive an excused absence if they miss time at school for an appointment with a mental health professional. The Education Code says that appointments to see health care professionals are excused, but some school officials have questioned whether mental health professionals are included. We support this bill and we are grateful to Rep. Lozano for authoring it. We are also grateful that it is one of the first bills to get a hearing in this committee, giving it ample time to move forward before the legislative session ends in late May. Please call the members of the committee to express your support!

Senate Committee Hears Bill on School Counselors’ Teaching Requirement
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee gave a hearing to Senate Bill 798, which would abolish the requirement that a certified school counselor in Texas have at least two years’ experience as a classroom teacher. The bill was left pending, which means the committee did not vote on it. Most bills do not receive a vote the first time they get a hearing, so this was not an unusual move. A committee Chair can (and often does) decide to bring up a bill for a vote several weeks after its hearing, or the Chair could decide to never bring the bill up for a vote, which is a common way for a Chair to kill a bill.

Thank you to all who acted upon our Action Alert calling on you to contact members of the Senate Education Committee and express opposition to this bill. If you have not yet contacted senators, it is not too late, and our Action Alert provides the key talking points you need. We especially want to thank Mary Libby, Director of Counseling at Northside ISD, for coming up to Austin to testify against the bill.



Rep. Lopez Files Two Bills Related to School Counseling
Rep. Janie Lopez, a new Republican House Member from Cameron County in South Texas, filed two important bills this week. The first is House Bill 2937, which is the House version of Senate Bill 907, which mandates lower student-to-school-counselor ratios.

Rep. Lopez also filed House Bill 3833, which relates to the duties of a school counselor. Existing law describes a school counselor’s primary responsibility as “to counsel students to fully develop each student’s academic, career, personal, social abilities.” HB 3833 makes some technical corrections, including a tweak to add emotional abilities as well. In addition, the legislation adds students “who are at risk of engaging in harmful or otherwise inappropriate behaviors in response to personal or academic problems,” to the groups of students whose specific needs should be addressed by school counselors. 

 We are grateful that Rep. Lopez has filed these important bills.

Today is the Deadline for Filing Bills

Today (Friday) is the last day that legislators can file bills this session, which means many ideas are about to perish because no legislator was willing to file them. Fortunately, all TCA priority bills have been filed in either the House or the Senate and in most cases, both. Of course, there are many ways to revive an idea even if it is not a stand-alone bill; still, missing the bill-filing deadline is often a bad omen. This is a key turning point in the legislative session as the focus shifts from getting bills written and officially filed to actually seeing whether those bills will get hearings — and votes — before House and Senate committees. You will now see more attention on bills that are about to come up for a hearing.

Bills on the Move
TCA is tracking almost 400 bills so far this session. We will keep you posted as bills are set for a hearing, reported from Committee, or set on the House or Senate Calendar. Bills we are watching this week include:  
Advocacy Day on Tuesday 
Our first Advocacy Day of this year’s legislative session has arrived! We look forward to seeing you at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 14. If you haven’t registered yet but want to attend, please register here by Monday morning.

Once you register, you will provide a full rundown of logistical information and helpful tips for accessing the Capitol. Here are the highlights:

Again, there is much more information in the email going out today to those who have registered, so please read it closely.

Also, regardless of whether you can make it to the Capitol on Tuesday, please continue to stay engaged with the resources and updates that we are frequently adding to our Advocacy Hub and make sure to share our content on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.