Monday, June 1, 2009

Villarreal Celebrates Legislative Successes

 

Cites Financial Aid Funding and Top 10% Admissions Compromise
 
Austin - With the 81st session of the Texas Legislature drawing to a close, Rep. Mike Villarreal celebrated the accomplishments of the last 140 days. "Thanks to the hard work of community members participating in the legislative process, we had a very productive session serving the needs of San Antonio residents," stated Rep. Villarreal.
 
His major victories came in the area of education. As the point person on financial aid in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, he led the successful effort to increase TEXAS Grants funding by $186 million. As a result, 36,000 more students will receive a TEXAS Grant.  He also negotiated and defended the compromise solution on the top ten percent automatic college admissions policy, ensuring that the success of the policy continues while providing UT-Austin with greater admissions discretion. Rep. Villarreal also passed legislation to increase pre-k enrollment, establish an adult career education and green jobs program, improve teacher pay, and assign more effective teachers to low-performing schools. Additionally, Rep. Villarreal served on the House Conference Committee for HB 3, the school accountability bill. He added a provision to HB 3 to limit locally-required testing and found a compromise that requires fine arts and PE courses, while allowing students to satisfy the requirements through off-campus activities.
 
"Our work is still cut out for us, but we made important progress in investing in education and giving every student an opportunity to succeed," noted Rep. Villarreal.
 
Rep. Villarreal carried a full legislative agenda this session. He presented 53 bills and joint resolutions in House Committees, winning Committee approval for 36 of them. The House and Senate passed 21 pieces of legislation by Rep. Villarreal, on issues ranging from property appraisal reform to an innovative financing program for cities to provide low-cost loans to property owners installing solar panels or improving energy efficiency.  He also passed 43 amendments on the House floor. In addition to carrying his own legislation, he spent long hours serving in the House Ways and Means Committee and Appropriations Committee. Furthermore, as Co-Chair of the Women's Health Caucus, he helped lead the debate on reducing unplanned pregnancy on the House floor and in House Committees.
 
The legislative session also included disappointments. Rep. Villarreal led the effort to give Bexar County voters an opportunity to choose new funding mechanisms for local mass transit and other transportation projects. After filing legislation and working with Bexar County representatives to develop a consensus position, the House of Representatives chose not to support transportation local option legislation for any regions of the state.
 
Legislation Passed
 
1.        Authorize municipal financing of renewable and efficient energy improvements (HB 1937 on the way to the Governor)
 
2.        Increase use of low-emissions hybrid vehicles by state agencies (HB 432, which includes part of HB 657, on the way to the Governor)
 
3.        Provide a parenting skills and child development guide to parents of newborns (HB 1240 signed by the Governor)
 
4.        Expansion of small business employee on-site child care (HB 415 signed by the Governor)
 
5.        Restore child care licensing exemption for accredited private schools (SB 68, which includes HB 601, on the way to the Governor)
 
6.        Improve pre-kindergarten outreach and enrollment (HB 136 on the way to the Governor)
 
7.        Provide a TAKS exemption for student refugees, which are concentrated in Northside Independent School District in San Antonio (HB 3, which includes HB 1263, on the way to the Governor)
 
8.        Tighten the limit on the number of days public schools can give benchmark and other locally-required tests to students (Amendment to HB 3, on the way to the Governor)
 
9.        Allow high school students to satisfy graduation requirements in community programs outside of school, starting with a Bexar County pilot program for fine arts (Amendment to HB 3, on the way to the Governor)
 
10.      Require an evaluation and improvement plan regarding the equitable distribution of teachers to low-performing schools (Amendment to HB 3, on the way to the Governor)
 
11.      Reform teacher incentive pay and incentivize experienced and certified teachers to work at low-performing schools (HB 3646, which includes part of SB 1 amendment 89, on the way to the Governor)
 
12.      Establish the Jobs and Education in Texas (JET) adult career education program and the Green Jobs Skills Development Fund and Training Program (HB 1935 on the way to the Governor)
 
13.      Allow the mortuary sciences department at San Antonio College and other schools to establish on-site embalming facilities (SB 755/HB 1422 on the way to the Governor)
 
14.      Increase training for Appraisal Review Boards (HB 2317 on the way to the Governor)
 
15.      Direct the Comptroller to provide online technical assistance to local appraisal districts (HB 2317, which includes part of HB 2363, on the way to the Governor)
 
16.      Improve the property tax litigation and refund process (HB 986 on the way to the Governor)
 
17.      Reduce property appraisal litigation by providing property owners additional time to resolve their appeals (HB 986, which includes part of HB 4040, on the way to the Governor)
 
18.      Direct the Comptroller to study and make recommendations for establishing a "circuit breaker" system to limit property taxes based on homeowners' income (HB 3983, which includes HB 866, on the way to the Governor)
 
19.      Expand access to arbitration for homeowners appealing their property appraisals (SB 771, which includes part of HB 4040, on the way to the Governor)
 
20.      Establish a grant program to support Volunteer Income Tax Assistance centers that help low-income working families receive their tax refunds (HB 2888, which includes HB 955, on the way to the Governor)
 
21.      Expand access to dental care in community health centers (SB 97/HB 456 signed by Governor)
 
Appropriations and Riders Passed in the Budget
 
1.        Served as the lead House appropriator for financial aid, leading the successful effort to increase Texas Grants by $186 million over the LBB budget and $100 million over the Senate budget
 
2.        Required the Health and Human Services Commission to improve outreach and enrollment in the Women's Health Program in order to reduce unplanned pregnancies
 
3.        Secured $8 million for the San Antonio Life Science Institute, which had never previously received state funding
 
4.        Secured $500,000 for the San Antonio P-16 Council, which had never previously received state funding
 
5.        Secured $8 million for Teach For America, allowing TFA to expand to San Antonio, and developed performance measures to accompany state funding
 
6.        Increased funding for the Texas State Data Center at UTSA by $500,000 over the LBB budget
 
7.        Secured $50 million for the Professional Nurse Shortage program
 
8.        Created an exemption for certain teenage parents in the prohibition on HHSC-funded family planning assistance to minors
 
9.         Required academic institutions to report on the use of funding intended for museums
 
10.      Required four-year institutions to report on goals, obstacles and plans for improving access for transfer students
 
11.      Required Higher Education Coordinating Board and LBB to conduct a statistical study of the predictors of access and success in higher education
 
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