“The interim charges I released today reflect my priorities, the priorities Texans shared with me as I traveled the state and those of the members of the Texas Senate,” said Patrick in a press release. “Our final list of 84 charges continued to be revised through this weekend. The committees will begin work in the coming weeks.”
In addition to looking back at how new laws have fared, Patrick’s interim charges also look forward to issues that lawmakers might act on next year, including subjects related to education, property taxes, and public safety.
Unsurprisingly, among the education issues listed is faculty tenure, something that Patrick proposed changing at a press conference in February in response to growing concerns about the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
Other education topics include parental rights over the schooling environment, enrollment and teacher employment trends in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, standards related to available library materials, “vaping in schools,” and studying the “current course requirements for students in United States History, and ensure elements of Critical Race Theory are not currently included in course curriculum.”
The Permanent University Fund (PUF), a massive endowment that benefits the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, could also return to the spotlight after a debate that evolved last year.
Patrick charged senators with the task of examining the “history and use” of the PUF, and to “explore the creation of a new legacy fund to address the needs of all other higher education institutions in Texas.”
Concerning property taxes, Patrick asked members of the Finance Committee to, “Review and report on proposals to use or dedicate state revenues in excess of the state spending limit to eliminate the school district maintenance and operations property tax.”
Other items include a review of tax exemptions and the use of homestead exemptions, appraisal reform, “the powers and purposes of various special purpose districts,” affordable housing, and hotel occupancy taxes.
Another fiscal issue for senators to review the state’s public pensions to make recommendations aimed at preventing investments in the funds from being used “to further political or social causes.”
Patrick has also charged senators with the task of continuing to examine bail reform, an issue that made some headway with some successful legislation in the previous session but also had proposed reforms that did not receive enough support in the Texas House to become law.
Members of the Criminal Justice Committee were also charged with investigating a recent release of “hundreds of criminal defendants onto the streets without bond or review by a magistrate.”
The lieutenant governor also asked senators to “evaluate the impact” of a Court of Criminal Appeals ruling, which said that the attorney general does not have the authority to prosecute election fraud.
Highlighted by Patrick in his press release, the lieutenant governor has also asked lawmakers to examine the problem of the theft of catalytic converters.
Patrick said that Houston saw 1,793 such thefts for all of 2020, but in just January and February of 2022, Houston “has already recorded 1,974 catalytic converter thefts.”
“Tragically, a day after Sen. Whitmire and I talked [about the issue], off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Almendarez, assigned to the auto theft division, came out of a grocery store and saw thieves stealing the catalytic converter from his truck,” said Patrick.
“A shoot out ensued, and he was killed in front of his wife. Last session, we passed House Bill 4110 concerning this issue but, obviously, more work needs to be done to stop these criminals in their tracks. If the family grants permission, I will recommend we name the legislation after Deputy Darren Almendarez.”
In his press release, the lieutenant governor said that by the end of the year, committees will file reports with recommendations on the charges.
“I have a deep appreciation for the leadership of our committee chairs and Senate members. I know the long hours they will pour into studying these issues, holding hearings and making recommendations. I thank the entire Texas Senate for their diligent work and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations,” said Patrick.
Earlier in March, House Speaker Dade Phelan released the interim charges for the lower chamber.
Update: This article was updated to include a reference to the interim charge related to the ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.