Legislative Update
Friday, June 18, 2021

87th Legislature Wrapup

Greetings,

After 140 days of legislative action, the 87th Legislature—called the "most conservative session"—has adjourned. This session, conservatives commanded strong majorities in both chambers and took full advantage by filing and passing legislation that appealed to their voting base. Still, some of leadership’s priorities fell short as time ran out, setting up potential special sessions.

Thank you for your dedication to UTA and Go Mavs!

— UTA Government Relations

87th Texas Legislature at-a-glance

State budget

Overall

In late May, the Texas House and Senate passed the Conference Committee Report on Senate Bill 1, the general appropriations act, which establishes the state’s budget for the next two years. The Conference Committee Report is the final version of the budget passed by the Legislature, but it is subject to the Governor’s veto, which must be delivered by June 20, 2021.

The Conference Committee Report on SB 1 appropriates $248.5 billion in All Funds and $116.4 billion in General Revenue Funds for the 2022-23 biennium. This represents a 5.5 percent increase in General Revenue compared to the previous biennium.

Higher Education

The Legislature provides $8.5 billion in All Funds to formulas supporting institutions of higher education, including health-related institutions, Texas State Technical Colleges, Lamar State colleges, junior and community colleges, and general academic institutions. This represents a $486 million increase compared to the previous biennium.

General academic institution formula funding totals $3.9 billion in general revenue funds in the 2022-23 biennium, an increase of $300 million in general revenue, or 8.2 percent, compared to the previous biennium’s budget. This increased formula funding was sufficient to fund enrollment growth of general academic institutions at the same rates as in the 2020-21 biennium.

UT Arlington state funding for 2022-23

UT Arlington funding

UT Arlington’s budget outcomes exceeded expectations, despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 costs and revenue losses and the impact of the pandemic on state revenues. UT Arlington’s total formula funding totals $216.9 million in general revenue in the 2022-23 biennium, an increase of $15.3 million, or 7.6%, compared to the previous biennium.

In addition to formula funding, the budget also provides an additional $4 million in general revenue to UT Arlington to establish a new Center for Rural Health and Nursing.

The Legislature upheld the decision to reduce nonformula funding by 5%, a reduction of approximately $0.5 million for UT Arlington that was applied across nonformula support items (formerly known as “special items”).

Finally, UT Arlington’s core research support funding increased by $712,838 compared to the previous biennium, bringing UTA’s total core research support funding to $14,227,326 for the 2022-23 biennium.

In total, UT Arlington’s general revenue funding totalled 269.7 million, an increase of $19.6 million in the 2022-23 biennium compared to the 2020-21 biennium, an increase of 8.7%.

UT Arlington also receives funding indirectly through programs administered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Governor’s Office, consisting of grants, endowments, and other sources of funding for higher education established by the Legislature. Highlights of some major funding sources outside UT Arlington’s bill pattern are:

  • The budget provides $110 million of new funding for student financial aid at the Higher Education Coordinating Board, a large portion of which will be allocated to TEXAS Grants. This approach of funding financial aid programs but leaving the allocation of resources between programs to the discretion of the Coordinating Board was requested to give the agency flexibility based on the state’s needs.
  • TEXAS Grants, a funding line-item distinct from the one above, is maintained at the same level as 2020-21 by restoring the general revenue reduction of $43 million, returning total funding for the program to $866.6 million for the 2022-23 biennium. This funding is sufficient to provide TEXAS Grants to approximately 56% of initial year eligible students.
  • Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) is provided with $40 million for the 2022-23 biennium, the same amount as the previous biennium.
  • Higher Education Group Insurance (HEGI) is funded with general revenue at a certain percentage of the full ERS premium rate. The remainder of costs associated with group insurance benefits are funded by institutions with statutory tuition revenue. For the 2022-23 biennium, HEGI appropriations are funded at 78.2% of the full ERS premium rate compared to 79.4 percent in the 2020-21 biennium. However, while the rate declined slightly, these changes resulted in an increase of $1 million in general revenue funds for UTA compared to the 2020-21 budget, based on data reported by institutions and total funding provided to the program. UTA's total is $25.6 million.
  • No new Tuition Revenue Bonds (TRB) were authorized by the 87th Legislature, but members suggested that TRBs may be considered during a special session to follow.
  • The Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) was funded at $33.25 million, a 5% decrease from the 2020-21 biennium. No appropriations were made to address the funding backlog. UT Arlington’s share of the TRIP distributions is $1.7 million for the 2022-23 biennium, an increase of $930,233 from the previous biennium.
  • UT Arlington is currently undergoing audit to attain Tier One status and become eligible for the National Research University Fund (NRUF) distributions, a fund supporting research at emerging research universities that meet certain criteria. If UT Arlington becomes eligible for the NRUF, it is anticipated that the university will receive distributions of $6,261,389 in FY 2022 and $6,361,606 in FY 2023, based on estimated appropriations to the Available National Research University Fund made in the Conference Committee Report on SB 1.
  • The Nursing Shortage Reduction Program (NSRP) is funded at $18.9 million for the 2022-23 biennium, a reduction of $1 million from the previous biennium. The 2022-23 budget includes a new NSRP rider to study and make recommendations on the allocation method of the program’s funds.

Legislation affecting Higher Education

Academic Affairs

  • Tenure Review Legislation: Died at the end of session
  • SB 1227: CLEP scores. The bill prohibits a public institution of higher education from requiring a score higher than the minimum score recommended by the American Council on Education, unless the institution's chief academic officer determines that a higher score is necessary.
  • SB 1677: Reduces reporting requirements. The bill would authorize the Higher Education Coordinating Board to discontinue reporting requirements if the commissioner of higher education determines that the required data can be obtained from a different source.
  • HB 1027: Textbooks. This bill would require that institutions disclose to students the cost of any electronic textbook or course material that is required for a course. Originally it required universities to allow students to opt-in to paying for the course work, but the legislation does NOT dictate opt-in or opt-out in its final version. The bill requires each public institution of higher education, not later than the 30th day before the first day that classes are conducted for each semester or academic term, to compile the course schedule and list of required and recommended course materials, make that information available to college bookstores and other providers of course materials, and state or provide in a prominent location in the schedule a website link to the following: (1) the full amount of any fee or charge for course materials assessed by the institution or another entity under an agreement with the institution, including a statement regarding whether the fee or charge is included in the cost of tuition; (2) if course material is in a primarily electronic format, the terms under which the publisher or provider collects and uses student data obtained through use of the course material; and (3) any provision that allows the student to opt-out of the fee or charge.
  • SB 937: Military-Service Excused Absences. This legislation amends the current statute to allow for excused absence from a public institution of higher education for a student called to required military service, as opposed to solely “active” service.

Research

  • SB 1525: Governor’s University Research Initiative Expansion. The bill would expand the categories of persons for whom institutions are eligible to receive matching funding from the Governor’s University Research Initiative.

Financial Aid

  • SB 1860: Texas Application for State Financial Aid Delay. This bill delays implementing the electronic Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) for one year so that it will align with the new version of FAFSA. Signed by Governor. Effective Sept. 1, 2021.
  • SB 1019: Student Loan Reporting Data. This bill requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to provide greater detail in reporting student loan data. It would require the board, in its annual financial aid report, to include a breakdown of student loan data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, degree type, and enrollment status, including whether the student has graduated.
  • SB 1888: Scholarships for High School Graduates that Graduate Early. This bill is meant to help institutions recruit high-achieving students who graduate early by creating a scholarship program that would award any student who graduates at least a year early the maximum amount of a TEXAS Grant for that year. The scholarship would NOT be counted toward the student’s overall financial need, and the student would therefore be eligible for whatever need-based assistance they would be eligible for without the scholarship. The scholarship would expire after one year. The institution would then have to accept the student’s scholarship as full payment of tuition and fees for that year. Basically, if a high school student graduates at least a year early, they are guaranteed a tuition-free first year of college at any public Texas general academic institution, and the institution picks up the tab for any tuition or fees not covered by a full TEXAS Grant award plus need-based financial aid.

Contracts

  • SB 219: Construction Liability/Contracts. This bill puts the liability on the architect/designer for design flaws instead of the builder. Currently, if a building or construction project fails due to faulty design in Texas, the liability rests upon the construction company, not the architect or the person who made the faulty designs.
  • SB 13: Investments. This bill requires state agencies that invest funds to divest those funds from financial institutions that have boycotted oil and gas investments.
  • SB 799: Contracts. This bill raises the dollar amount thresholds for contracting reporting requirements.
  • SB 783: USA Steel. This bill requires universities to use U.S.-made steel in all construction projects. This is already done by UT System institutions.
  • HB 3215: Building Standards. This bill lowers the energy efficiency requirements for building new buildings by replacing the national standard with ANSI/RESNET/ICC 301 as the minimum standard.
  • HB 3130: Information Technology. If an institution contracts with an internet company to build an app “including a function of a native mobile application,” the institution must work with the Texas Department of Information Resources. Signed by Governor. Effective Sept. 1, 2021.
  • SB 19: Contracts and Guns. This bill prohibits state agencies from hiring or contracting with any company that has a policy that “attempts to restrict gun or ammunition sales.” It requires provisions to be placed in all contracts between state agencies and companies with more than 10 employees for contracts over $100,000.

Campus Operations

  • SB 797: National Motto in Buildings. This bill requires, rather than authorizes, a public school and an institution of higher education to display in a conspicuous place in each building of the school or institution a durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto, "In God We Trust.”
  • SB 36: Hazing Reform. Peace officers or law enforcement agencies may now collect qualifying reports of personal hazing offenses. Education Code 37.152 establishes that a person commits the offense of personal hazing if the person engages in hazing, solicits, or aids an act of hazing, recklessly permits hazing, or has firsthand knowledge of the planning of the incident or firsthand knowledge that the incident has occurred and knowingly fails to report that knowledge in writing to the dean of students or other appropriate official of the institution. The bill removes the specification that the requisite report of the offense must be in writing. The bill also creates the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Collaborative Task Force on Higher Education Mental Health Services.
  • SB 279: Suicide Prevention on Student ID Cards. This legislation requires each student identification card issued by a public institution of higher education to have printed on the card the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line. The card also may include, as applicable, the contact information for a local suicide prevention hotline, the campus police department or security or a local nonemergency police contact, and the campus health clinic or a local health clinic.

Gun Legislation

  • HB 1927: Guns. This is the “Constitutional Carry” bill that would allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon with or without a permit to carry that firearm. NOTE: A license to carry is still required on campus. UTA retains the same rights to restrict licensed gun carrying as was provided under the existing campus carry law.

Information Technology

  • SB 475: Cybersecurity. The bill would amend Chapter 2054 of the Government Code to require the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to appoint a data management advisory committee, composed of each state agency's designated data management officer, to advise DIR's board and the agency on establishing statewide data ethics, principles, goals, strategies standards, and architecture. The bill also would require each state agency with more than 150 full­time employees to designate a full­time employee to serve as a data management officer.
  • HB 3130: Information Technology (see above listing in Contracts).

Student Affairs

  • SB 36: Hazing Reform (see above listing in Campus Operations).
  • HB 4361: Off-Campus Workforce Education. This bill authorizes an institution of higher education to enter into an agreement with an employer to provide a credit or noncredit off-campus workforce education or lower-division program to the institution's students at a site requested by the employer without the approval of a higher education regional council.

Human Resources

  • SB 44: State Leave for Disaster Volunteers. Legislation now requires state employees who are volunteers with any Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster organization to be granted leave to serve during a disaster without any deductions in employee salary or benefits, provided the leave is authorized by the employee's supervisor. The bill would cap at 10 the amount of leave days granted for service in one fiscal year.

Title IX

  • SB 1371: Campus sexual assault. Cleanup bill for SB 212 (86R), filed at the request of the Texas A&M University System and University of Texas System.
  • SB 45: Protection for victims of sexual harassment. Extends from companies with more than 15 employees to all companies, regardless number of employees.
  • SB 1164: Improper relationships and educator misconduct. Expands penalties to private coaches, tutors, and hired caregivers.
  • HB 1172: Sexual Assault Victims’ Advocate. Ensures victims of sexual assault have the right to an advocate’s presence during law enforcement interviews and prohibits the use of polygraphs on victims.
  • HB 2706: Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) program. Amends code to include a “health provider” that operates a SAFE program is eligible to receive reimbursements for emergency medical care expenses.

Legal

  • SB 1385: Athlete Compensation—Name, Image, or Likeness. This bill allows student athletes to be compensated for their name, image, or likeness (NIL) so long as they do not use the University’s NIL in earning the compensation.

Community College Baccalaureate Expansion

  • HB 885: Navarro College baccalaureate. This bill amends the statute on which community colleges can authorize a baccalaureate-degree program to include Navarro College. It is their intent to offer a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.
  • HB 3348: Baccalaureate degrees at junior colleges. This bill raises the general cap on the number of baccalaureate degree programs a public junior college may offer from three to five.
  • SB 1102: Texas Reskilling & Upskilling Through Education (TRUE) Initiative. This bill was the community college main initiative this session and supported by the Dallas-Fort Worth business community. It establishes the Texas Reskilling & Upskilling Through Education (TRUE) Initiative. TRUE establishes a grant program for community colleges to offer accelerated learning opportunities. This will continue investment in small business development centers.

Parity Cap

  • SB 1531: Excess Credit/Community Colleges. To help address the concern of the overaccumulation of credit hours at community colleges, this legislation sets a threshold of 15 semester credit hours in excess of those required for an associate degree plan, beyond which any additional hours may not be supported by formula funding, and by allowing a public institution of higher education to charge a higher tuition rate for classes exceeding that threshold.

General Higher Education Bills

  • SB 1126: Texas Women’s University System. The bill prescribes how TWU would become a system and officially authorizes and recognizes TWU Denton, Dallas, and Houston as independent institutions.
  • SB 1780: Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute. The institute— Health Science Center at Houston—will plan and develop a public health reserve force that will better prepare Texas and Texans for the next pandemic. It is led by the UTHealth School of Public Health in partnership with state and local public health agencies, health care organizations, and university partners throughout the state.
  • SB 1295: Comprehensive Regional University Support. This legislation creates an outcomes-based funding model focused on at-risk students at comprehensive universities. NOTE: This bill has no impact on UTA and was not funded in the budget.

Statewide topics

  • Statewide Broadband Access: HB 5 would create the State Broadband Development Office (SBDO), which is administratively attached to The Comptroller’s office. It would require the SBDO to develop a state broadband plan to expand access and to establish and annually update a map that designates the eligibility of each area in the state. The map would have to be published by the SBDO on its website by Sept. 1, 2022.
  • Teacher Retirement System (TRS): The budget continues reforms made in the 86th Legislative Session for the Teacher Retirement System, which serves employees of both public and higher education in Texas. In addition to statutory retirement contributions to the TRS Pension Trust Fund, SB 1 provides $897.6 million, an increase of $39.5 million, to maintain current health insurance premiums and benefits for retired teachers enrolled in the TRS-Care program.
  • Election & Ballot Security: SB 7 would amend various codes related to election integrity and the prevention of fraud in the conduct of an election. Several new election fraud-related criminal offenses would be created punishable at the felony and misdemeanor level, with the level and degree based on the specific circumstances of the offense. Ultimately, this bill did not pass, but the Governor has threatened to call a special session for another attempt after House Democrats staged a walkout to kill the bill.
  • Public School Funding: Upon signing of HB 1525, SB 1 provides $464 million for increases to Foundation School Program (FSP) formula funding and various student allotments. Additionally, SB 1 provides $664 million for targeted programs to help students and schools affected by the pandemic.
  • Contracting: SB 13 would prohibit state agencies from contracting with or investing in financial companies that boycott fossil fuel-based energy firms. SB 19 would add limitations to state agencies on contracting with companies that have policies that discriminate against firearm companies. SB 2116 seeks to restrict a governmental entity from entering into an agreement relating to critical infrastructure in Texas with a company from or controlled financially by China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, or a country designated as a threat to critical infrastructure by the governor.
  • Stop Local Police Defunding: HB 1900 and SB 23 establish restrictions and requirements on cities that take steps to reduce appropriations to local law enforcement.
  • Alcohol to Go: Abbott signed a bill to permanently allow Texans to include alcohol in takeout orders from restaurants.
  • Telemedicine: Along with HB 5 expanding broadband access, HB 4 expands delivery of certain health care services in this state, including Medicaid and other public benefits programs, using telecommunications or information technology.
  • Social studies: The Legislature approved a new version of a controversial bill aimed at banning critical race theory in public and open-enrollment charter schools. HB 3979's supporters say it merely ensures students are not taught that one race or gender is superior to another. Critics say it limits how teachers can instruct schoolchildren about America’s history of subjugating people of color.
  • Abortion: Abbott signed into law a measure known as “The Heartbeat Bill” that would prohibit abortions in Texas as early as six weeks. Any private citizen now is empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected.
  • Guns: Sitting on the governor’s desk is a bill to allow the carrying of handguns without a permit. The governor has said he would sign it. HB 1927 would eliminate the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they are not barred by state or federal law from possessing a gun. The state also passed multiple measures, including SB 19, which would add limitations to state agencies on contracting with companies that have policies that discriminate against firearm companies.
  • Homelessness: In response to a camping ordinance in Austin, the legislature voted to ban homeless encampments throughout Texas.
  • Marijuana: An effort to expand the state's medical marijuana program passed at the last minute. HB 1535 would expand the state’s medical cannabis program for people with chronic pain, all cancer patients, and Texans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • National anthem: SB 4, also known as the so-called “Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act,” would require any professional sports teams with contracts with the state government to play the national anthem before the start of a game.

Upcoming Events

June 20, 2021—The last day the Governor can sign or veto a bill passed during the 87th Regular Session.

August 30, 2021—The 91st day following final adjournment of the 87th Regular Session. Bills that do not specify an effective date will take effect on this day.

March 1, 2021—Primary Election

November 8, 2022—General Election

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