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Phelan announces interim charges for Texas House

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(The Center Square) – Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, on Wednesday announced interim charges for the Texas House to consider ahead of the legislative session next year. One includes a measure to evaluate a school choice program House Republicans killed last year.

“The House has delivered a record number of achievements that strengthen our state’s leadership in economic growth and prosperity, while further establishing Texas as the nation’s trailblazer for conservative policy,” Phelan said in a statement. “Next session, we must continue to expand upon these groundbreaking efforts for all Texans.”

The interim charges “set the foundation for House committees to gather insight from stakeholders and interested Texans, identify legislative solutions for our most pressing issues and make recommendations to the full House Chamber for consideration next session.”

They include roughly 70 key issues to be reviewed by 25 committees. The committees are tasked with oversight of new laws that went into effect and with evaluating issues of concern raised by constituents and lawmakers.

The committees that appear to have the most to review are Higher Education, Public Education, Ways and Means and State Affairs.

The Committee on Higher Education is tasked with oversight of eight bills related to funding, tenure and employment of faculty, nursing-related education, among others.

The Committee on Public Education is tasked with overseeing the implementation of several bills related to instructional material and technology, establishing the Rural Pathway Excellence Partnership, enhancing teacher certification options, and evaluating early literacy and numeracy outcomes.

In the second item listed, a school choice measure appears to be included that House Republicans killed last year. Under “Educational Opportunity,” it states the committee is to “Consider issues and matters to increase educational opportunities in Texas to ensure that students and families have increased options to attend a high-quality school, regardless of circumstance. Evaluate the use of education savings accounts in other states and make recommendations for a Texas program, including suggestions on eligibility and prioritization of applicants.”

Last year, 21 House Republicans voted to kill a bipartisan school choice bill passed by the Texas Senate. After doing so, several of them announced they were retiring. Many who ran for reelection in the Republican primary election lost to pro-school choice challengers, The Center Square reported.

Gov. Greg Abbott is campaigning with the remaining pro-school choice candidates hoping they win their May 28 runoff elections. If they do, they will help pass his school choice bill next year and bring Education Savings Accounts to Texas, Abbott says.

The Committee on Ways & Means will evaluate several key property tax relief measures.

The Committee on State Affairs will address numerous bills related to funding broadband and telecommunication services, the Texas grid and modernizing generating facilities, a new Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium, evaluating the “escalating costs of insurance premiums,” and evaluating the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

It will also evaluate the impact on state agencies and law enforcement personnel involved in Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced 57 interim charges for the Texas Senate to consider last month.

Lawmakers in both chambers will hold meetings and hearings throughout 2024 on the issues identified by Phelan and Patrick and present their recommendations before the end of the year.