WEEK IN REVIEW
SENATE APPROVES TEACHER GUN TRAINING BILLS
|Also this week: Greenville Senator Bob Deuell passed a bill that would expand the rights of patients and their families when making decisions about life-sustaining treatment.|
(AUSTIN) — Two bills aimed at training teachers how to deal with school shooters passed the Senate this week. These bills are the result of a session-long effort to find a way to deal with the increased threat of gun violence at schools, highlighted by the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting last December. The very first hearing of the 83rd session was a joint hearing to consider plans on how to make schools safer, and the bills passed this week are the culmination of that effort.
The first bill, SB 1857 by Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, would create a special training program for teachers and other school employees on how to deal with an active school shooting. The Department of Public Safety would be tasked with creating this program, which must include training in the protection of students, on how an armed concealed carry license holder should interact with the police during an active shooter situation, ways to keep intruders out of the classroom, and training to improve accuracy under duress.
The next bill would provide some funding to send district employees to concealed carry training at no cost to the district. SB 17, by Houston Senator Dan Patrick, would create a fund that would offset the training cost of up to two district employees for a concealed carry license.
Under current state law, there is no prohibition for a district employee licensed to carry a concealed firearm to come to campus armed. There are already a handful of districts in the state that have a system in place to have armed employees at schools, with more considering it. The bills passed this week would only make it easier to train teachers and other employees on how to deal with an active shooter and other violent incidents at schools, but these bills don't change laws related to who can carry where.
Also this week, Senate committees moved two key House bills, sending them to the full body for a floor vote. The first of these is HB 5, which would change graduation standards for Texas High School seniors. This bill is being sponsored by Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick and is the companion bill to his SB 3. The bill would do away with the current three-tiered system of high school graduation and replace it with a single diploma. Students could choose an endorsement plan, where they tailor their own course load to reflect what they want to do after high school, whether that be further education or entering the workforce.
The second bill, HB 4, came out of the Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, and it would create the framework to administer a fund to pay for water infrastructure in the state. Nearly identical to its Senate version, the bill sponsored by Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay would create the state water infrastructure fund of Texas. This fund would be overseen by the Legislature, and would be responsible for identifying and approving new water projects in the future. Actual money for the fund would come from a separate bill. Governor Rick Perry and legislative leadership have indicated that this money, about $2 billion, would come from the state's Rainy Day Fund.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 22 at 2 p.m.