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Senate Sends Bathroom Bill to House, Gives Preliminary OK to Teacher Bonus/TRS and Payroll Deduction Bills

07.26.2017 — On Tuesday, the Senate gave approval to several bills impacting Texas public schools:

Bathroom Bill
After an eight-hour discussion on the floor on Tuesday, the Senate passed Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s SB 3, the “bathroom bill,” with a vote of 21-0. All Senate Republicans and Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, voted for the bill, sending it to the House. The bill would require public school students to use the multi-use restrooms, showers, and changing facilities that match the sex on their birth certificates or state-issued ID cards. The bill includes no criminal penalties for individuals who violate the law and does not stiffen existing penalties for crimes committed in restrooms, showers, or changing rooms. It would allow the attorney general to sue school districts that enact policies allowing transgender people to use the restrooms that match their gender identity. It also would prohibit people who were born male from competing in UIL sports against girls.

During the floor debate on SB 3, Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods, who was among 16 San Antonio-area superintendents to draft a letter in opposition to SB 3 that was sent to the governor, lieutenant governor, and Senate and House education committees, participated in a press conference conducted by law enforcement from across the state to express their opposition to the bill. Learn more and see video of Woods’remarks.

Teacher Bonuses/TRS-Care Funding
Following the marathon bathroom debate, the Senate gave preliminary approval to Sen. Jane Nelson’s SB 19 with a 28-3 vote. The version that passed did not include a controversial provision that would have required school districts to increase teacher pay by $1,000 starting in 2019 with no additional state funding. Nelson received pushback on that provision of the bill in public testimony last weekend. One teacher testified that she and other educators do not want pay raises funded by district cuts to other services and programs for students.

The final version that will go to the House uses Texas Health and Human Services Commission funds (by delaying a payment to health care companies providing Medicaid) to fund $193 million in teacher longevity bonuses over the biennium, starting in September 2018, for teachers with six or more years of experience. It would also provide $212 million to offset the skyrocketing costs retirees are facing with TRS-Care health insurance. It would help cut deductibles for retirees under age 65, reduce premiums for retirees over 65, and lower costs for retirees with adult disabled children. The bill does not provide funding beyond the biennium.

Teacher Association Dues Payroll Deduction
Also on Tuesday night, the Senate gave preliminary approval to SB 7 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, which prohibits payroll deduction of professional association dues by the state and school districts for certain public employees, including teachers and corrections officers, but exempting first responders, including police, firefighters, emergency personnel, as well as charitable organizations. The vote was 19-12, with the opposing votes coming from Senate Democrats and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.