HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 17
This week, economic development incentive program passes the House, curriculum bill moves forward, higher-education funding and court bills in positive positions in the legislative process, and a critical CCUS bill loses momentum.
Economic development bill passes the House
The Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved House Bill 5 by Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), which establishes a statewide economic development program so Texas can remain competitive in today’s global market.
Why it matters: The Chapter 313 economic development incentives expired late last year after the legislature failed to extend the program during the 87th session. This raised concerns about how Texas could remain competitive in recruiting new businesses to our state. Last year, Texas competed against other states for large-scale, capital-intensive projects that went elsewhere due, in some part, to incentive packages offered by other states.
“We’re no longer competing with [other] states and nations. We’re competing worldwide…This is basically going to be an economic development tool to continue to attract investments to Texas,” Hunter said.
Houston in Focus: 23 Houston-area Representatives voted in favor of House Bill 5, with 16 out of 36 Representatives of the Houston delegation also signing on as co-authors of the bill. House members in opposition to House Bill 5 expressed concern about the bill’s exclusion of renewable energy projects, while others had ideological issues with incentive programs altogether. The bill’s current version includes battery storage projects “regardless of the power source.”
What’s next: The Partnership appreciates the flurry of support for House Bill 5 posted on social media this week. After passage by the House, the bill heads to the Senate for committee consideration.
K-12 curriculum bill advances to the Senate
This week, House Bill 1605 by Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), which helps ensure students in Texas’ K-12 public schools are receiving rigorous and on-grade-level instructional materials, passed the House. This bill encourages districts to adopt high-quality instructional materials by providing the following:
$467 million to school districts at the rate of a $40 allotment per student for districts choosing to use any State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency-approved curricular resource.
$24 million to school districts at the rate of a $20 allotment per student for printing online materials.
$100 million in grants to school districts for teacher support and training.
Go deeper and explore the Texas Tribune’s Texas Schools database to learn more about the academic performance and college readiness of the state’s 1,207 districts and 8,966 public schools.
What’s next: House Bill 1605 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education. Since the Senate has already passed its companion bill, Senate Bill 2565, we can expect the item to be heard quickly in committee and receive a favorable vote on the Senate floor.
New university endowment bill moves forward in the Senate
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Finance heard House Bill 1595 and House Joint Resolution 3 by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). The bill and resolution would establish the Texas University Fund (TUF), a $3.4 billion research endowment supporting four Texas universities, including the University of Houston.
This significant investment in the state’s public higher education system provides UH with the funding it needs to compete for federal and private research opportunities, attract world-class professors and students, and strengthen talent pipelines. The fund also provides long-term financial certainty, allowing forward-thinking projects and investments.
Houston in Focus: If passed, the University of Houston could receive as much as $100 million annually to boost its research capabilities.
What’s next: With broad support from the Senate Finance Committee, the proposals are expected to continue to advance through the legislative process.
Harris county criminal courts and business courts bill advance
Adding New Harris County Criminal Courts
This week, House Bill 3474, by Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the state’s omnibus courts bill, passed the House. The bill establishes six new criminal courts for Harris County. The additional criminal courts were approved by Harris County Commissioners Court in an effort to add capacity in the county’s criminal justice system to address its high felony case backlog.
What’s next: The bill is expected to move through the Senate smoothly in the coming weeks. Once passed, the first three courts will be set up on October 1 to align with the County’s budget, and the Governor will appoint the new judges who will sit until the next election. The additional three courts will be up and running the following fall.
This week, House Bill 19 by Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction), which would create a specialized court system for business cases, passed the House. The bill would transform the state’s current judicial process and provide relief to the district court systems by “removing” action on certain business disputes and referring those cases to the newly established business court.
Go deeper: Read the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence's recommendation to implement business specialty courts in its December 2022 Interim Report.
Statewide CCUS regulatory Bill Won't Cross the finish line
This week, the Senate passed the gutted version of the statewide carbon capture (CCUS) regulatory bill, Senate Bill 2107 by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), with a vote of 29 Yeas to 2 Nays. However, the House is unlikely to hear the bill in committee.
Why it matters: As filed, the 22-page bill aimed to establish a regulatory CCUS framework clarifying pore space ownership, mineral estate protection, liability, long-term stewardship, and integration. These elements are critical for Texas to compete in the trillion-dollar global carbon storage industry against the 12 other states that have adopted similar legislation.
What’s next: The uncompromising attitude among opposition groups and lack of understanding on a complex topic suggests supporters of this legislation will have to regroup and determine a new strategy going forward.
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