• School finance trial continues
Many of you may be aware of the ongoing school finance trial in which over 2/3 of all Texas school districts are involved. In February, state district court Judge John Dietz issued an oral ruling in which he found the school finance system unconstitutional, both because of inadequate school funding and because of the way the state distributes money to districts. A more detailed, written explanation was expected in March, but was never released.
On Wednesday, the judge agreed to hear new testimony in light of the significant education legislation passed this session. The legislature was actually able to restore $3.4 billion of education spending that was cut last session, as well as pass HB 5 to drastically reduce standardized testing and SB 2 to increase the state's number of charter schools. All three bills are now waiting for the governor's signature, and the school finance trial's resolution may hang in the balance.
• Redistricting hearings held
We are now in week two of the special session on redistricting and have begun public hearings on the subject around the state. The Select House Committee on Redistricting held a Dallas meeting on Thursday, June 6th and have one scheduled in San Antonio on Monday, June 10th and one in Houston on Wednesday, June 12th. The Senate Committee held their meetings in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 7th and in Houston on Saturday, June 8th.
These public hearings are an important part of the democratic process to allow all interested citizens a voice in their future legislative and congressional maps. However, each special session can only last 30 days, so the legislature must be efficient and stay on track. So far we seem to be doing fairly well.
• School's out
As we move further into June, school's out and many of us are looking forward to summer activities. May I suggest one of our great state parks? There are four located in Senate District 3: Mission Tejas State Park (Houston County); Lake Livingston State Park (Polk County); Martin Dies, Jr. State Park (Jasper County); and Village Creek State Park (Hardin County). These are a great Texas resource and something of which we can all be proud.