In a response to Governor Greg Abbott's call for legislative action, the Senate passed four bills on Thursday, addressing critical issues outlined by the governor earlier in the week. This move comes after the third special session concluded without the passage of a school choice bill, prompting Abbott to call a fourth special session to revisit the matter.
Among the bills passed, Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), proposed by Conroe Senator Brandon Creighton, focuses on school choice by advocating for the creation of education savings accounts valued at $8,000 each. These accounts, accessible through application, prioritize students from low-income backgrounds and can be utilized for various private education expenses such as tuition, transportation, and tutoring. Simultaneously, the Senate approved SB 2, a joint effort by Senators Creighton and Joan Huffman, aimed at increasing funding for public education. If enacted, SB 2 would allocate $5.2 billion, bringing the total new funds directed into state public education to nearly $9 billion since the last biennium.
The Senate also addressed the contentious issue of border security with the passing of two bills. Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), led by Senator Joan Huffman, mirrors previous legislation by allocating an additional $1.5 billion for the construction of a permanent border wall along the Rio Grande. This would bring the total state funding for the wall to over $2 billion for the biennium.
Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) represents a compromise between the House and Senate on the matter of state law enforcement officials' authority to arrest migrants entering the state illegally from Mexico. The agreed-upon legislation requires law enforcement officials to process arrested migrants, conduct fingerprint records, and background checks. If determined to be first-time offenders without posing a public safety risk, a judge may issue an order for their return across the border. Refusal could result in re-arrest, with the offender facing a second-degree state felony.
With the Senate having sent all four bills to the House for consideration, the focus now shifts to the lower chamber for further action.