This Week in Texas: February 22, 2012

Posted February 22, 2012 in The Mignon Memo

The House Appropriations Committee held its first interim hearing yesterday with members receiving presentations from the Texas Comptroller’s Office, the Legislative Budget Board and the State Auditor.  Legislators were told that there will be $1.6 billion left once the current budget ends in August of 2013.  This is due to better than expected state revenues.  The Rainy Day Fund is expected to have a balance of $7.3 billion by the end of August, 2013.  The legislators were also reminded of bills that must be paid in the form of a shortfall in the Medicaid program ($3.9 billion) and shortfalls related to the foundation school program.  In  addition, the state must pay for the costs of fighting last summer’s wildfires and the increased costs of health care for prisoners.  These costs will be addressed in a supplemental appropriation bill filed during the next legislative session.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced last week that the Texas Education Agency will defer a rule that would have required new end of course student assessments (STAAR tests) to count for 15 percent of students’ final grades. For the 2011-12 school year, school districts may decide whether to count the exams toward students’ final grades.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would review a lawsuit challenging The University of Texas’ consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions.  The case was filed in 2008 by two white students who were denied admission. The University of Texas won at the district court level in Austin and in the Fifth Circuit Appellate Court.

Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman issued a press release stating that she believes the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s current structure is unsustainable due to its large market share and lack of a significant funding source.  She will bring in a consultant and name a technical advisory committee to come up with a new solution for the troubled entity.