Legislative Update (2/15/19)
Friday, February 15, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
Yesterday was the deadline for each chamber (i.e., Senate and House) to pass its own general bills. Four education bills died on the House calendar and three on the Senate calendar because they were not considered by yesterday’s deadline. Click here for our latest bill tracking spreadsheet. Here is an overview of significant developments this week:
Teacher pay raise: The Senate passed SB 2770, its teacher pay raise bill, Wednesday afternoon. The bill was amended on the floor Wednesday to provide that the additional pay raise be paid to educators in “lump sum” payments each December, rather than in monthly salary installments. Problems arose yesterday when the amendment was posted online and only reflected $500 in December 2019 and $1,000 in December 2020 to teachers funded via the MAEP and to assistant teachers, with no additional payments in subsequent years.
MPE Executive Director Kelly Riley contacted Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison regarding the posted amendment’s language. He quickly responded that the original amendment online was incorrect and assured herthat the Senate’s intent was to provide the payments moving forward. Language was added to the amendment online late yesterday that provides for $500 in December 2019 and $1,000 in December 2020, as well as school years thereafter. SB 2770 now heads to the House for consideration and may very well be amended there.
Meanwhile at the other end of the capitol, the House let its teacher pay raise bill (HB 1349) die on the calendar yesterday morning without considering it. Thus, SB 2770 is the only pay raise bill alive at this point, which will allow the Senate leadership to claim credit for the pay raise in this election year. After Speaker Gunn let HB 1349 die on the calendar, Rep. David Baria attempted to suspend the rules to introduce a new $3,500 pay raise bill, as well as to resurrect HB 1349, but his motions were ruled out of order.
Vouchers: As we shared last week, SB 2675 was amended in Senate Education to only extend the repealer on the Education Scholarship Account Program (i.e., vouchers) from 2020 to 2024. The bill was amended on the Senate floor yesterday to require that any remaining voucher funds be returned to a public school district if a voucher student leaves a private school to return to his/her public district. After several senators expressed concern that the bill may be amended in conference to expand the program, Senator Tollison promised his fellow senators that the bill will be the same when it comes back to the Senate. House Education Chairman Richard Bennett has not allowed any voucher bills to come out of his committee. We’ll be watching to see if SB 2675 dies there, as well, as the bill is not needed. The program is currently authorized until June 2020 and it could be reauthorized during the 2020 Legislative Session if necessary.
Committees in each chamber will now consider general bills that originated in the other chamber and have until March 5 to do so. Legislators completed their work for the week yesterday and headed home for a long weekend. Both chambers will convene at 4:00 p.m. Monday.