LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - With a special session officially announced, East Texas legislators are standing together in their fight for education.
Monday morning, Governor Greg Abbott made it official that a special session would take place to address 20 items he wished could have been handled in the regular 85th legislature. The special session will focus on a wide variety of topics. Representative Trent Ashby believes that the critical one to pass first is the "Sunset Bill," which would fund five state agencies that are set to close on Sept.1.
"It is critically important that we do that for agencies like the Texas Medical Board, so we can continue to certify doctors here in Texas," Ashby said.
The session will also address the Bathroom Bill, Abortions, Voter Fraud, Material Mortality, Property Tax Cuts, Local Government Limits, Union Dues, End of Life Care, and multiple bills that effect education.
"I said it six months ago when this all started, and I will say it again, This is about education," Clardy said. "I think it should have been the focus for the first 140 days. Public education is the issue of this special session."
Clardy has been given the task to work on teacher retention and compensation, a plan he believes can bring some stability to a rough topic. Clardy is in the process of drafting a bill to present and will be open to changes along the way that could help identify good teachers out of college and provide funding to keep teachers in the profession.
"Lets move the ball forward and get some ideas. Lets take the best of the ideas. Lets take what we can manage in a 30 day special and lets move that forward and then lets start preparing for the 86th legislature," Clardy said.
Ashby is hoping some reform could take place that would help school finance and help property taxes. He is also hoping an ongoing debate about teacher retirement can be solved. Teachers from around East Texas have been against the recently signed House Bill 3976. It was sponsored by Lufkin State Representative Trent Ashby. One of the co-sponsors was State Rep. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Senator Robert Nichols. All three have defended the bill stating that even though it did raise premiums, the alternative would have been to let the system collapse, causing even more issues. Ashby said the blame does not need to be put on local leaders but those at the top of state government.
"Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick need to work with us on this," Ashby said. "Whether it is a long overdue cost of living adjustment, a 13th check or to find some money to buy down the deductible on the new TRS Care program. I think the governor needs to joins us in our fight for retired teachers. "
With only 30 days to act in the session, the local leaders say there is no time for rest.