AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on June 6 signed three bills into law to improve school safety and expand access to mental health resources.

“After the horrific shooting (at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018) and the subsequent school safety roundtables, I made school safety an emergency item to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” Abbott said. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation to make Texas schools safer for students and teachers. I thank members from both chambers, as well as the many stakeholders, who worked tirelessly to get these bills through the Legislature and to my desk today.”

Senate Bill 11, by Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor and sponsored by Rep. Greg Bonnen, both R-Friendswood, strengthens emergency preparedness and response protocols, improves school facilities standards, establishes better threat assessment protocols, and provides schools more funding for school safety efforts, Abbott said. The bill also establishes the Texas Child Mental Health Consortium to leverage higher education expertise in the state to improve the mental health care systems for Texas children.

House Bill 18 by House Calendars Committee Chair Walter “Four” Price IV, R-Amarillo, and sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, increases mental health training for educators and other school professionals to aid in early identification and intervention; emphasizes importance of mental health education for students; and improves access to mental and behavioral health services through school-based mental health centers and the hiring of mental health professionals.

House Bill 1387 by Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, and sponsored by Senate Higher Education Chair Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, removes the cap on the number of school marshals that may be appointed per campus.

Abbott was joined at the bill signing by members Sens. Taylor, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, Watson, Sen. Higher Education Vice Chair Royce West, D-Dallas; and Reps. Greg Bonnen; Will Metcalf, R-Conroe; Price; and House Appropriations Chair John Zerwas, R-Richmond.

Hegar certifies budget

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 5 announced the certification of House Bill 1, the general appropriations act for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

HB 1, legislation appropriating $250.7 billion in total spending, was approved by both houses of the Legislature in late May. The next stop for the budget bill after Hegar’s certification is the governor’s desk for final approval. “I’m proud to certify this budget and send it on to Gov. Abbott for final approval,” Hegar said.

Hegar, who manages the state’s pocketbook, pledged to continue to monitor the Texas economy, noting that it has expanded at a rapid pace over the last 18 months.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in Texas over the last year and a half, which allowed lawmakers to make historic investments in education and provide much-needed property tax relief,” Hegar added. “Uncertainty in the global economy, however, as well as increasing unpredictability surrounding international trade policy at the federal level, may have dampening effects on the Texas economy in the coming years.”

Revenues increase in May

Comptroller Hegar last week said state sales tax revenue totaled $3.01 billion for the month of May, an amount 9 percent more than reported in May 2018.

The revenue growth was propelled by both business and consumer spending, Hegar said, adding that the strongest growth was in remittances from the manufacturing, wholesale trade and services sectors, with strength apparent in the retail trade sector.

Hegar also said state franchise tax revenue for May was $3.47 billion, up 7.4 percent from May 2018 and slightly above projections he presented to the Legislature in the Biennial Revenue Estimate in January.

Hurricane season begins

The Texas Department of Public Safety launched its hurricane readiness campaign just before June 1, the first day of hurricane season.

Gov. Greg Abbott said emergency management professionals across the state are prepared to assist in the event of severe weather. He urged Texans to heed all warnings from local and state officials and to have a plan in place to protect loved ones and property in the event of a hurricane.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can spawn tornadoes, dangerous coastal water conditions and storm surges, and can cause extensive flooding damage. DPS Director Steve McCraw said, “There are a few steps everyone can take now that can make all the difference, like assembling an emergency disaster kit and reviewing hurricane evacuation maps and routes. By helping your family plan ahead, you will be ready to respond quickly should a storm head your way.”

— Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association.