Bills aim to impact Texas colleges, student lives

Legislation pending in Austin, including tuition freezes, sanctuary city policies and sexual assault transparency, could potentially impact students on a day-to-day basis.

With the 85th Legislature of Texas currently underway, here’s a quick rundown of the most noteworthy bills to keep an eye on.

— Compiled by David Silva

Tuition freeze

Senate Bill 19, which prevents public universities from increasing tuition costs for the next two years and limits cost increases to 1 percent plus the cost of inflation, was passed with a 29-2 vote on April 4.

Tuition increases may be performance-based, with a criteria determined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The bill is currently in the House, where it faces objections from lawmakers. A similar bill was proposed in 2015 but failed.

The bill faces resistance from university leaders, who are concerned about funding educational institutions following proposed 6- to 10-percent cuts to higher education in the Senate’s budget.

Sanctuary cities

The Texas Senate has cleared SB4 with a 20-10 vote. The bill states that law enforcement agencies in cities, counties and college campuses must follow state immigration laws or else be denied state funding.

This ultimately eliminates sanctuary cities, which decline to detain undocumented immigrants for federal authorities.

The bill was drafted in response to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who announced in January that her department would decrease its cooperation with federal immigration forces following President Donald Trump’s anti-sanctuary executive order.

The bill is currently in the state House, with proposed additional changes.

These changes include an amendment that would require officers to investigate the status of an undocumented immigrant only if that person has been arrested.

Sexual assault transparency

SB576 is intended to prevent sexual assault cover-ups in public and private Texas universities.

The bill is a response to the recent Baylor University scandal and the spotlight it drew to the lack of transparency of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The bill would require all higher education employees to report any accusations of assault, harassment or dating violence.

Employees that knowingly conceal such accusations could spend a year in jail. The bill passed the Senate with a 30-1 vote and is headed to the state House for consideration.

Transferability bills

SB 2086 focuses on ways to help course credits transfer within the public higher education system while SB 2122 would allow the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create transfer policies for lower division courses. Both bills are currently pending in the Senate.

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