HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 10
This week, state lawmakers consider legislative items relating to Partnership priorities, Governor Abbott holds a press conference supporting the Texas CHIPS Act, TEA formally announces their intent to install a temporary board of managers, and Harris County Commissioner’s Court approves a measure expanding the district court system.
UPDATE: Partnership’s Executive Priorities
Economic Development Incentives
Last month, the Texas Senate and the House Ways & Means Committee received a letter from over 200 trade associations, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations stressing the need for legislative action. The Partnership was one such signatory.
What’s Next: The influential House Ways & Means Committee will consider House Bill 5 in the coming weeks. House Bill 5, authored by Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), would create a modern, transparent, and accountable tool to restock Texas’ economic development toolbox.
Community College Finance Reform
What's next: The House’s Higher Education Committee will hear House Bill 8, the community college finance bill, next Monday. This priority bill will convert the community college funding model into industry-aligned and outcomes-based.
Since the bill would transform the way colleges approach student education, it will be critical for the committee to receive feedback from the public on the initial bill draft. Committee members are expected to hear from students, colleges, businesses, advocacy organizations, and community leaders on how the bill would affect their operations and student outcomes.
Flood Infrastructure Fund
This week, Armando Walle (D-Houston), the Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman for articles VI, VII, and VIII, introduced a budget rider that would allocate $350 million from general revenue to the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF). This allocation is in addition to the $400 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds that both the House and Senate have placed in respective bills. Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) is also working to add funds to the FIF in the Senate’s budget.
Governor Abbott Urges Lawmakers to Support Texas CHIPS Act
On Wednesday, Governor Abbott held a press conference on the proposed Texas CHIPS Act, which would create the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium and Fund. The legislation aims to support and expand Texas-based semiconductor manufacturing by funding critical research and development efforts.
What they're saying: Joined by bill authors, Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Gov. Abbott noted that “to achieve our promise for the remainder of this century, we need to pass the Texas CHIPS Act…to ensure that Texas remains the national leader in semiconductor chip manufacturing, development, and exports.”
Why It Matters: The federal bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law on August 9, 2022. This proposed state legislation would ensure Texas maximizes the opportunity to win semiconductor projects and create jobs.
Data privacy and maternal health
House Bill 4 - Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake)
House Bill 4, the Texas Data Privacy and Security Act, is a comprehensive data privacy bill meant to establish a framework for how certain businesses process the personal data of Texas residents.
On Monday, the House Business & Industry Committee heard testimony on the legislation, and the bill was well-received by the committee.
Rep. Capriglione indicated this bill is a “compromise that goes above and beyond on consumer rights and minimizes the compliance costs for Texas businesses” and that “90% of this bill codifies practices that responsible companies are already doing.”
What’s next: The bill was left pending in the committee, with further action anticipated in the upcoming weeks.
House Bill 12 - Representative Toni Rose (D-Dallas)
House Bill 12, a bill to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for new Texas mothers from six to 12 months, is once again being considered by the Texas House.
On Thursday, the Partnership supported the passage of HB 12 during the House Select Committee on Health Care Reform’s legislative hearing.
Texas leadership widely supports the bill. House Speaker Dade Phelan endorsed the expansion of Medicaid for new mothers in his first list of this session’s priorities. Gov. Abbott also included the extension in his budget proposal.
What’s next: The bill was left pending in the committee and is anticipated to be favorably voted out next week.
TEA Makes HISD Intervention Official
In a move which has been expected since 2019, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath announced this week the TEA will take the steps necessary to install a temporary board of managers and a new superintendent for HISD.
In January, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed that Commissioner Morath has the authority and the duty to take action to correct HISD’s long history of failing to provide quality education across the district. Pursuant to a bill passed in 2015, if a public school fails state standards for five or more years, the commissioner can either choose to close the school or replace the district school board with a temporary board of managers. In the case of HISD, Commissioner Morath has decided to appoint a board of managers.
More than 40%of HISD students attend a school that received the equivalent of a D or F in the student achievement domain of the school accountability metrics. Sixty-eight % attend a C, D or F school.
What’s next: Commissioner Morath will appoint a new superintendent and a board of managers early this summer. The board of managers will be made up of qualified individuals residing in the district. The TEA is opening an application process for those in the community who want to serve on the board of managers.
Go deeper: Full interview with TEA Commissioner Mike Morath conducted by Houston Landing reporter Jacob Carpenter.
Harris County Approves Resolution to Add Courts
Bob Harvey, the Partnership's President & CEO, at Commissioner's Court on Feb 21st, testifying in support of the additional courts.
This week, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a resolution to create six new courts by a vote of 4-0, with County Judge Lina Hidalgo abstaining. This resolution is an important step in the process of expanding the court system. While district courts must be created through state legislation, the Texas Legislature requires a county resolution dictating the number of courts the county wants to create.
Why it matters:
Expanding the Harris County court system is a necessary step to address the county’s high criminal case backlog, a problem exacerbated by Hurricane Harvey and then by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past forty years, Harris County has only created one new court. During that same time, the county’s population has increased by over 2 million residents. New courts are needed to address the increase in cases based on population growth alone.
What’s next: The resolution to create the six new courts supports HB 130 by Representative Ann Johnson (D-Houston), which is the bill to statutorily create the new courts. HB 130 will most likely be added to an omnibus courts bill, which includes the requested new courts of every county across the state. The Partnership commends the Court for taking action and supporting additional courts in Harris County.
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.