The 86th Texas Legislature ended Monday and could leave UTA with about $22 million more in state funding than the last session.
Lawmakers filed more than 7,300 House and Senate bills during the 140-day session and passed more than 1,400, according to the Texas Legislature website. This is about 200 more bills passed than the 2017 session. Bills passed through various committees and both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate chambers.
Gov. Greg Abbott has signed 293 of these bills into law and has until June 16 to sign or veto other passed bills. Legislation that Abbott does not sign or veto will also become law.
Bills that received two-thirds vote from the House and Senate will become effective immediately. Others will become effective dependent on dates specified in the bills.
State biennium budget 2020-2021
House Bill 1 is the state budget for the next two years. The bill was sent to the Texas comptroller on the last day of the session, May 27. The comptroller will have to certify that the bill spends no more than the amount of the state’s estimated revenue from taxes and other sources. Then HB 1 will move to the governor’s desk.
The governor has line-item veto power, allowing him to trim individual spending items from the bill.
Lawmakers invested about $2 billion more in K-12 and higher education than the previous budget.
The bill would provide UTA with about $389 million in total appropriations, almost $23 million more than the previous budget.
This comes after the 2018-2019 state budget cut UTA’s state funding by $6.9 million, according to a previous Shorthorn article.
Student union fee increase approval
House Bill 2718 was sent to the governor’s desk for final approval on May 28. This bill would allow the student union fee at UTA to be increased for the first time in about 35 years.
The student union fee is a mandatory part of each student's tuition and fees used to maintain and improve the University Center and its programs. The bill states that the fee could be increased to a maximum of $150 in fall and spring semesters and $75 in the summer.
The fee increase must be approved by a student body majority vote and the UT System Board of Regents.
Credit transfer reform
Senate Bill 25 was sent to the governor’s desk for final approval on May 25. This bill would reform core curriculum requirements for public higher education institutions across the state to easier facilitate transfers between all public colleges and universities.
The bill also intends to reduce wasted credit hours that don’t go toward students’ majors or don’t transfer between schools, thus reducing the cost of college degrees.
If passed, the bill would apply beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year.
Free speech at public colleges and universities
Senate Bill 18 was sent to the governor’s desk for final approval on May 26. This bill would require each higher education institution to adopt a policy by August 1, 2020, detailing students’ rights and responsibilities regarding speech assembly and expression.
The policy adopted by each institution would have to adhere to the expressive rights of individuals under the U.S. and Texas constitutions and establish disciplinary repercussions for people that impede on those rights established under the policy.
If passed, the law would go into effect Sept. 1, 2019.
Texas tobacco age requirement increase
Senate Bill 21 was sent to the governor’s desk for final approval on May 25. This bill would raise the age requirement for the purchase, possession and consumption of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The bill also includes e-cigarettes. The bill would provide an exemption to active U.S. Military personnel if they are at least 18 years of age. The age requirement would not apply to products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of a nicotine or smoking addiction.
An individual under 21 possessing, purchasing, consuming or accepting a tobacco product would be subject to a maximum fine of $100, according to the bill. If passed, the law would go into effect Sept. 1, 2019.