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Future of Texas - Unscripted: Creating a Brain Institute of Texas

Published Apr 30, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta

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In this episode of Future of Texas – Unscripted, we discuss the legislation creating the Brain Institute of Texas (BITx). Partnership Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, Lindsay Munoz, discusses with Partnership Director of Public Policy, Ben Melson. 

In this episode we cover:

  • Upcoming deadlines in the final days of the legislative session
  • The state budget goes to conference committee
  • Census numbers are rolled out
  • Brain Institute of Texas has its day in the Texas House

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Infrastructure, Protecting the Texas Coastline, and the Energy Transition Top Discussions During Partnership D.C. Fly-In

Earlier this month, the Greater Houston Partnership hosted more than 50 business leaders, elected officials, and policy experts in our nation's capital to advance our region's most pressing issues. Throughout the week, several topics rose to the top of our federal legislative agenda, including the energy transition, infrastructure investments (specifically, the Texas Coastal Spine barrier), and the possibility of winning a headquarter location for ARPA-H.  Photos from the Partnership’s 2023 D.C. Fly-In are available here. Fly-In Meeting Highlights The 2023 D.C. Fly-In began with a political update from author and journalist Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, as he set the stage for the rest of the Fly-In by thoughtfully explaining our current political climate and how those dynamics will impact policy-making moving forward. Members of Congress and a Day on the Hill  The delegation heard from over a dozen Members of Congress on their policy priorities for the 118th Congress that will impact the business community and our region. Members of the Houston delegation expressed the importance of working with industry leaders to advance issues at the top of the Partnership's agenda, such as passing legislation to support the energy transition and protect our Texas coastline. House Members of Congress included:  Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07)  Congressman Randy Weber (TX-14) Congressman Tony Gonzales (TX-03)  Congressman Colin Allred (TX-32)  Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36)  Congressman Wesley Hunt (TX-38)  Congressman Dan Crenshaw (TX-02)  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)  Chairman Michael McCaul (TX-10) While on the Hill, the group also heard from Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and neighboring state Senator Markwayne Mullin on key issues in the Senate, like supporting American growth and businesses through the diversification of energy sources. The Office of Senator Cassidy also joined the group to speak about Texas and Louisiana’s shared interest in protecting the critical energy infrastructure that is located along our gulf coast.  We closed the day on the Hill with Wes Hambrick, Director for the Governor's Texas Office of State-Federal Relations, who spoke to our members about the importance of the Houston region and priorities laid out in the Governor’s budget.  At the Partnership’s delegation dinner at P.J. Clarke’s, Congressman Michael McCaul, shared his insights on America's national security, engaging with our allies, and the biggest threats to democracy.   Administration Officials Noah Deich, Deputy Assistant Secretary, DOE, under the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, gave his outlook on the future of the energy industry and the critical role Houston plays in leading the energy transition.  Secretary Don Cravins Jr., Under Secretary for DOC's Minority Business Development Agency, spoke about the department's initiatives to support the success of minority businesses domestically and abroad. Lynda Tran, Director, DOT, was accompanied by Coral Torres, Senior Advisor at the Federal Highway Administration, to provide an update on the department's key infrastructure investments in our region.  Alicia Brown, Administrator at NASA, discussed NASA’s current direction, exploration projects such as the Artemis program, and collaborating with domestic and international partners to advance its mission.  White House Officials  Asma Mirza from the White House's Infrastructure Implementation Team shared the administration's plan for rolling out large infrastructure bills like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  Finally, Heather Boushey, who serves on President Biden's Council of Economic Advisers, shared the current priorities of the Council as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes managing supply chain shortages amidst increasing demand and forming partnerships with businesses to anticipate and troubleshoot failures.  Industry Partners  The Partnership was joined by industry trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Partnership and our member companies often collaborate with these national trade groups on crucial federal policy issues.  Jack Howard, Senior Vice President for Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Amanda E. Eversole, Executive Vice President & Chief Advocacy Officer, American Petroleum Institute  Chris Jahn, President & CEO, American Chemistry Council (ACC) Houston in the Nation's Capital Overall, the 2023 Washington D.C. Fly-In cements a step forward in positioning Houston as a leader and partner in our nation's capital.  Learn more about the Partnership's Public Policy efforts here.
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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 11

This week, both the Senate and House hear testimony on public and higher education items, lawmakers consider bills impacting the Houston business community, and hearings for priority items like CCUS and economic development are expected to be scheduled.  Community college finance bill advances This week, community college finance reform legislation was heard in the House Committee on Higher Education and in the Senate Committee on Education. House Bill 8 by Representative Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) and Senate Bill 2539 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would fundamentally change how community colleges are funded in Texas, shifting toward an outcomes-based and industry-aligned model. The bills received overwhelming support from the public and a bipartisan group of legislators. The Partnership provided testimony in support of the bill’s transformative approach to community college financing.    How we got here: The Partnership has been a strong supporter of the reforms laid out in the legislation. The bills are based on the recommendations laid out in the Texas Commission on Community College Finance’s report.   What’s next: The speed at which these bills were heard and the overwhelmingly positive feedback they received demonstrates the significant support for the proposal, and it is expected to move quickly through the legislative process.  Lawmakers hold hearings on school curriculum; teacher pay raises  On Tuesday, the House Committee on Public Education took up an important bill addressing the need for all Texas students to receive high-quality instructional materials. House Bill 1605 by Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) incentivizes schools to adopt approved, grade-level curricula to improve education outcomes. The bill empowers teachers by providing access to high-quality instructional materials while maintaining flexibility in the classroom.  Why it matters: A Texas Education Agency (TEA) study found that only 19% of students in Texas were doing grade-level work, meaning the vast majority of Texas students receive below-grade-level instructional materials. Poor curriculum inadequately prepares students, places a greater burden on teachers, and creates barriers for parents and students to close the student achievement gap.    What’s next: The Partnership will continue to engage lawmakers and the Coalition for Education Excellence to support rigorous curriculum standards and investing in our Texas public schools. The bill was left pending in committee but is expected to be voted out next week. Also this week, the Senate Committee on Education took up Senate Bill 9 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), which addresses teacher pay and retention.  What is in the bill: Senate Bill 9 makes several proposals recommended by the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, which was commissioned to explore ways to develop a thriving teacher workforce in Texas. The bill significantly increases funding for the Teacher Incentive Allotment, raises base pay for teachers by at least $2,000, creates a specialized teacher-assistance unit within the Texas Education Agency, and creates a “teacher time study” to determine ways to help teachers increase efficiency by eliminating nonproductive requirements. SB 9 was left pending in committee and will be addressed at a future date. Go deeper: The Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2019 to provide a realistic pathway for top teachers to earn six-figure salaries and to help attract and retain highly effective teachers at traditionally hard-to-staff schools. Issues to watch: Business courts and economic development  House Bill 19 by Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction) was heard in Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on March 22. The bill would create a specialized court system for business cases. The business court judicial district would be composed of all counties in the state and would be served by seven judges appointed by the governor with approval from the Senate. The bill was left pending in committee but is expected to be voted out soon.  House Bill 15 by Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) was heard in House Higher Education on March 21.  The bill would establish the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas, dedicating $3 billion over 10 years towards improving brain health research and understanding prevention and treatment measures related to traumatic brain injuries. HB 15 received significant support from Houston’s health care and education leaders and is listed as a key item for Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont). HB 15 was left pending by the committee. Houston in Focus: The creation of the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas would likely result in significant research and clinical activity taking place in the Houston region and spur economic activity.  What’s next: CCUS and economic development Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS)  Senate Natural Resources committee is expected to hear Senate Bill 2107 by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) next week. This important bill establishes a robust framework to support CCUS deployment across the state.   Economic Development Incentives  The House Ways & Means committee is expected to consider House Bill 5 the week of April 3. House Bill 5, also known as the Texas Jobs and Security Act, would create a new economic development program to ensure Texas remains competitive in winning large capital-intensive projects.  Why it matters: In February, the Texas Senate and the House Ways & Means Committee received a letter from business leaders emphasizing the need for legislative action. To date, the letter has 232 business organizations signed on in support, including 103 chambers of commerce across the state.  During the 88th Legislative Session, the Greater Houston Partnership will provide a weekly update on newsworthy items from Austin. You can view more policy news and archives of our weekly updates here. Subscribe here to get our weekly legislative updates. 
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