Many votes from the 82nd Session will be analyzed from now until election day, but one in particular that would have received plenty of conservative praise never took place. Freshman Rep. James White’s bill to end nearly all unfunded state mandates on our public schools never saw the light of day in committee, despite cries of a possible shortfall in education spending.
Don’t like the unfunded mandates that are routinely handed down to the state from Washington? Your Republican state legislators have probably gone on record detailing how much unfunded federal mandates cost the state of Texas, but many of them have done nothing to end the unfunded mandates the state of Texas imposes on local government entities.
Freshman representative and Taxpayer Champion James White (R – Lufkin) tried to change that this session. Nearly a month before the Legislature convened, he filed House Joint Resolution 46, proposing a constitutional amendment preventing the Legislature from imposing unfunded mandates on public schools without a 2/3 majority vote unless it’s to comply with federal law.
Rep. White’s bill would save school districts money each year by relieving them of the reported 78 unfunded mandates the state imposes. End-of-course exams, human sexuality instruction, school breakfast and lunch programs, school bus emissions testing and seniority-based salary step increases are just a few examples of the mandates that would be best left up to the individual school district to implement how they see fit.
It’s important to note that while many of these unfunded mandates strain our public education system and inflate operating costs, a few are to protect local taxpayers or ensure the safety of students. For instance, requiring school districts to hold elections or to post their ledgers and check stubs online are great tools for taxpayers to hold elected officials accountable and maintain an efficient school system. Similar requirements would (or at least should) have no problem obtaining a 2/3 majority of support in both chambers in the future if Rep. White’s bill had passed.
But, as you might expect, it didn’t. In fact, Rep. White’s bill was never even given a hearing in the House Public Education committee. Looking at the chairman and members of the committee might explain why. Here is a list of the members and their 2011 Fiscal Responsibility Index score:
- Rob Eissler (R – The Woodlands) Chairman D+
- Scott Hochberg (D – Houston) Vice Chairman F
- Alma Allen (D – Houston) F
- Jimmie Don Aycock (R – Killeen) C+
- Harold Dutton (D – Houston) F
- Ryan Guillen (D – Rio Grande City) F
- Dan Huberty (R – Kingwood) B
- Mark Shelton (R – Forth Worth) C
- Todd Smith (R – Bedford) C+
- Mark Strama (D – Austin) F
- Randy Weber (R – Pearland) A+
There was only one Taxpayer Champion and one Taxpayer Advocate on the entire committee of eleven members. And considering Chairman Eissler scored a D+, it is no wonder such a bill was stalled.
But all hope is not lost just because it didn’t gain any traction this session.
Taxpayers now realizing that the Republican “super-majority” was not as conservative as anticipated are going to be out in full force this election cycle, demanding true conservative leadership. Committee chairs scoring in the D’s are not going to cut it. Nor will primary challenges to proven conservatives, such as Rep. James White. Bills like this will have new life again next session, providing we continue to hold our legislators’ feet to the fire.