Requirements in House Bill 3, the sweeping school finance law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019, require the state to plan for long-term workforce development.
On Feb. 13, Gov. Greg Abbott cited HB 3 in assigning the commissioners of three state agencies to identify strategies to meet the state’s future workforce needs through his 2016 Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative. He instructed them to deliver a report to him by Sept. 1.
“The passage of House Bill 3 marked the most significant transformation of our education system in decades and an unwavering commitment to shaping the future of our workforce,” Abbott said. “We must continue in our efforts to ensure Texans of all ages have access to high-quality education and workforce skills training that empowers them to achieve their full potential.”
Abbott assigned Commissioners Mike Morath, Texas Education Agency; Harrison Keller, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; and Bryan Daniel, Texas Workforce Commission, to:
—Recommend strategies to ensure students are prepared for future growth at each stage in the educational pipeline;
—Ensure students who pursue higher education and workforce educational programs can complete those programs in a cost-efficient and timely manner;
—Analyze and make recommendations regarding strategies to streamline educational pathways, ensuring students can seamlessly transition into high-wage and high-demand careers;
—Improve the capacity within the state to produce credentials of value aligned with the needs of high-wage and high-demand occupations;
—Analyze and make recommendations to increase the supply of highly qualified and well-trained individuals entering the teaching profession across the state;
—Explore and recommend options for increasing economic activity in rural Texas, reducing regulatory burdens, and expanding educational partnerships between businesses, school districts and colleges; and
—Identify strategies to align agency operations, increase program efficiency, improve data analysis and capacity.
AG sues over travel ban
Texas is on a list of 11 states banned by a California law for state-funded travel. The law, Assembly Bill 1887, applies to states that since June 26, 2015, have enacted laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Feb. 10 filed an original action against the State of California in the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to strike down the travel ban for states that uphold First Amendment protections for religious liberty.
What put Texas on California’s list was HB 3859, a 2017 law allowing faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to decline placements they believe would violate their religious beliefs.
“Boycotting states based on nothing more than political disagreement breaks down the ability of states to serve as laboratories of democracy while still working together as one nation — the very thing our Constitution intended to prevent,” Paxton said.
Revenue is distributed
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Feb. 12 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $1.04 billion in local sales tax allocations for February, which was 9.4% more than the amount distributed for February 2019.
The allocations are based on sales made in December by businesses that report tax monthly; October, November and December sales by quarterly filers; and 2019 sales by businesses that report tax annually.
In his announcement, Hegar pointed out that Christmas shopping typically occurring in November was shifted into December due to the relatively late date of Thanksgiving (Nov. 28), helping make the February allocations substantially higher than in previous months.
Report: Coronavirus case
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported Feb. 13 that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed one case of COVID-19 in a person who has been under quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland since returning from China on a U.S. State Department-chartered flight.
The individual reportedly is currently isolated and receiving medical care at a local hospital. Authorities said that because the patient has been under quarantine, the case does not change the risk of infection for people in San Antonio or other parts of Texas.
Meanwhile, federal and state health officials ask that travelers stay home, monitor themselves for symptoms and contact their health care provider if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in China.
The Texas Department of State Health Services offers additional information on COVID-19 for the public, health care professionals, health departments and labs at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus.
By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director, Texas Press Association