SENATE APPROVES PUBLIC SCHOOL RATING SYSTEM
|Senator Van Taylor of Plano laid out his bill to enhance ethics rules regarding conflicts of interests and lobbying for lawmakers.|
(AUSTIN) — The Senate gave tentative approval to a measure Monday to grade school campuses in a way that the author believes will be more clear to parents. Next year, individual schools will be rated as "exemplary", "recognized", "acceptable," or "not acceptable". Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor thinks that system could be confusing. "These four designations, I believe, lack the clarity of an A through F rating system." His bill, SB 6, would re-categorize these ratings, changing exemplary to "A", recognized to "B", acceptable to "C", and not acceptable to "D" or "F". Taylor said he hopes this new system will increase parental engagement as well as highlight problem campuses within each district. The bill was amended twice. The first moves the effective date back to the school year that begins in 2017. The second, by San Antonio Senator José Menéndez, would require that the grade be published along with the factors that led to the assignment of the rating. The bill will likely face a final vote later in the week.
The Senate also passed a bill Monday aimed at improving the quality of nursing homes in Texas and punishing the worst offenders. SB 304 by Georgetown Senator Charles Schwertner would revoke the license of any nursing home with three "immediate threat" violations. These are violations that, if not corrected immediately, could cause the serious injury or death of a resident. The bill would also make changes to oversight monitoring to increase overall quality at all of the state's nursing homes.
Also Monday, the Senate State Affairs Committee considered a bill that is aimed at strengthening ethics rules regarding lawmakers during and after their legislative terms of office. Governor Greg Abbott highlighted government ethics reform as one of his major issues during his State of the State address and he labeled it an emergency issue facing the state. SB 19, by Plano Senator Van Taylor, would begin addressing that issue by creating a cooling off period between the end of a legislator's term and when he or she can begin lobbying. Taylor said that many of his colleagues were surprised to learn that there is no restriction on how soon a former legislator can become a registered lobbyist after they leave office. His bill will require that legislators wait until one legislative session passes after their term expires before lobbying.
Taylor's bill also increases reporting requirements and restrictions against conflicts of interest. Lawmakers would have to disclose relationships that they, or members of their immediate family, have with government entities, and would have to report relationships with entities when they have more than $2500 in contracts with the body. "The idea is to ensure the people of Texas know unquestionably what the contracts are and where potential conflicts of interests would lie for a public official," said Taylor. Finally, SB 19 would prohibit former politicians who are convicted of corruption from their time in office from receiving government pensions.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 31 at 11 a.m.