From Schools and Taxes to Medical Marijuana and Chick-fil-A: Here's What Texas Lawmakers Did for You

AUSTIN -- New money for schools. Raises for teachers. Cuts to property tax rates.The Legislature largely delivered on its top priorities in what some are calling a historically successful, policy-driven, mostly drama-free session -- one that ended with thank-you speeches and bear hugs rather than the shouting matches and threats of the previous session.“In one session the House and the Senate have addressed property taxes, recapture, school finance reform, school reform, teacher pay, and in another bill, teacher retirement,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate. “One of those bills would have been a lot for any one session.”But of course, there were flare-ups. Despite a commitment to meat-and-potatoes tax policy, in the final weeks of the session, contentious debates centering around LGBT discrimination, voting rights and access to abortion took center stage.As a result of the work by Texas lawmakers over the past five months, by Sept. 1 you can take your craft beer to go, 18-year-olds can no longer buy cigarettes, and a wider range of patients can access medical marijuana products.“You’ll look back on this session and it may be the greatest session in modern times,” Patrick told his members this week. “Maybe ever.”Here are the highlights from the 86th Texas legislative session:School financeLawmakers successfully passed a bill investing $11.6 billion to give more money to every school district in the state.Teachers, who may have been holding out for the $5,000 pay raise promised by the Senate, will get a more modest bump in salary that depends on how much new money their school district receives.Educators will also have an opportunity to increase their pay as much as $32,000 if their districts participate in the new state merit pay program, awarding higher salaries to top-performing teachers.The bill overhauls the state’s funding formula, pumping more money into school districts with the highest proportion of needy students. It rewards districts with more money if school graduates enroll in college or the military. Full-day prekindergarten for low-income families is funded, and the bill extends the school year with summer programs for at-risk students.  Continue reading...

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