A bill granting meet-and-confer contract negotiations to Austin's rank and file, non-public-safety employees, looks dead in the water. House Bill 2184, which would let municipal employee union American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees represent the city's workers in bargaining, seemed destined to pass the Senate until Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, intervened. No Senate bill can come up for consideration unless two-thirds of senators agree to hear it. Shapiro objected to sponsor Kirk Watson's motion to bring the bill for a vote, citing vague concerns that meet and confer was being overimplemented throughout the state. The two-thirds vote narrowly failed, 18-10, preventing senators from voting on it; with sine die Monday, it's unlikely to get further consideration. Wells Dunbar
The Lege has voted to include the Elgin and Smithville ISDs in the Austin Community College District. The legislation, HB 3236, was authored by Rep. Robert Cook, D-Eagle Lake. The change means that Elgin and Smithville high school students will have access to ACC's Early College Start Program, which lets high school students take college classes at a discount. "The change allows Elgin and Smithville school administrators to transition their students into higher education," said ACC district President Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow. Michael May
A bill to provide additional oversight to the Health and Human Services Commission's Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System, or TIERS, passed through the Senate Tuesday night. The TIERS system, which combines enrollment in state social-service programs through upgraded computer software, has been under heavy attack this session, especially after critical state audits and the cancellation of a contract with vendor Accenture. HB 3575, carried by Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, in the Senate, would provide increased monitoring and a legislative oversight committee. Specifically, the committee would ensure the agency makes progress in making enrollment faster and simpler. Kimberly Reeves
A bill to tweak the city's homestead preservation district, HB 470, passed the Senate on Tuesday night with only minor adjustments. Kirk Watson, who carried the bill, said last session's homestead preservation district bill created the concept and boundaries of an Eastside district. This session's bill set out some practical enabling legislation. Austin Dems Eddie Rodriguez and Dawnna Dukes carried the bill in the House. Austin's homestead preservation district, which is in both Reps' districts, is intended to create a land trust to preserve long-term affordability for local housing. K.R.
With numerous bills killed on a backlog of the House calendar the House passed eight bills on Tuesday in the same time the Senate passed almost 150 Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, offered up her dropout intervention bill as a vehicle for Senate education bills that were lost on the House calendars. Some of the bills amended included Shapiro's charter school accountability bill, three bills aimed at training and certifying teachers for students with disabilities, plus a bill supporting teacher reading academies, among others. K.R.
Lawmakers in the Texas House killed two questionable abortion-related bills, using technical moves to avoid bringing them up for a vote. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, successfully raised a point of order to kill Florence Shapiro's SB 785, which would require doctors to collect a litany of personal information about their clients seeking abortion. Lawmakers opposed to Dan Patrick's SB 920, which would force women seeking abortion to first view an ultrasound image of their fetus, squashed that measure by promising to bring a host of amendments to the floor debate thus holding up the stream of other bills waiting to be heard before the midnight deadline for Reps to consider and pass Senate-originated bills. As of midnight, both measures were dead, done, and buried. Jordan Smith