State Rep. Travis Clardy called the 86th session of the Texas Legislature a resounding success during his first speaking engagement since the final gavel fell in Austin late last month.
Looking back at the session, in which legislators finally tackled school finance reform and largely avoided controversy, is like pausing to take pride in a freshly mowed lawn, Clardy told Nacogdoches County Republican Women on Monday at the Fredonia Hotel.
“You sit down on your front porch with a glass of tea, look out and say, ‘That looks pretty good. I did that.’ That had always been my experience until last session,” he said. “Last session didn’t end like that at all. It’s nice to be able to return to that feeling this session.”
One of the most significant accomplishments this year, Clardy said, was the passage of House Bill 3 — a complete overhaul of Texas public school finance.
The bill will increase per-student funding, expand pre-K offerings and rebalance the state’s “Robin Hood” system in which money is taken from wealthier school districts. The bill includes $6.5 billion to improve public education and pay teachers, plus $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes.
“We solved a real problem in real time with real money without having to be ordered (by the Texas Supreme Court) to do the job we were elected to do. We didn’t kick the can down the road,” he said. “It was very much a team effort.”
HB3 was awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature as of Monday afternoon.
The bill won bipartisan support during the final week of the Legislature, which wrapped on Memorial Day. It was a major victory compared to the end of the 85th Legislature in 2017.
“In the 85th we literally had gun play threatened on the floor of the House between two of our colleagues. There was pushing and shoving and fighting and a scrum, and that’s how we ended the 85th Legislature,” Clardy said.
Overall, the session seemed far more focused on the direction of first-term Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Clardy said.
“We didn’t get sidetracked this time talking about a lot of stuff that nobody cared about,” he said. “We didn’t spend time talking about bathrooms unless there was somebody visiting the capitol who said ‘Where’s the bathroom?”’
Clardy authored a number of pieces of legislation which are waiting to be signed into law. Abbott is expected to hold a signing ceremony today for House Bill 684 — known as Sam’s Law — which will create a statewide training program for educators and school employees to be able to better respond to students who have seizures.
Nacogdoches ISD already has such a program in place, except for a video training requirement, district officials have said.