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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 2

Published Jan 20, 2023 by Taylor Landin

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This week, Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick were sworn in for their third terms and the House and Senate released their budgets. The Partnership provides a breakdown of budget items related to its Executive Priorities.

Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov Patrick sworn in

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott was sworn in for his third term becoming the second longest-serving Texas Governor. 

The Governor’s inaugural address emphasized “Texas Exceptionalism,” highlighting the state’s historic budget surplus and our position as the economic leader in the nation.

During the address, Governor Abbott pointed to policy priorities for the legislative session, including: 
•    Improving power grid infrastructure 
•    Addressing parental rights in schools and public safety 
•    Carrying out the “largest property tax cut in the history of the state of Texas”

What's next: The Governor is set to formally lay out his priorities for the state’s legislature in the form of emergency items which will be announced during his upcoming State of the State address. 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was also sworn in for a third term during the inauguration day festivities. Like the Governor, he highlighted strengthening the power grid, parental rights, infrastructure, and property tax relief as top priorities.

Why it matters: Both inaugural speeches contribute to setting the tone for the session and send strong signals about the issues most important to both statewide leaders. 

Texas Senate and House release base budgets

On Wednesday, the House and Senate released their preliminary budget proposals for the 2024-2025 biennium. 

Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Dr. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, both introduced proposals spending nearly $289 billion, including an unprecedented $130.1 billion in general revenue. The proposals stay within the state’s statutory and constitutional spending limits, and neither appears to dip into the state’s rainy-day fund. 

The proposals may differ in some of the details, but both versions include:

  • $15 billion for property tax relief,
  • $36.1 billion for the Texas Education Agency - an increase in funding for public education compared to last biennium,
  • $1.8 billion for pay increases for state employees, and
  • $4.8 billion for border security.

Both proposals leave tens of billions in funding unallocated and given the unprecedented nature of the historic budget surplus, the proposed budgets will go through many changes over the next few months before final passage. The state’s biennial budget is the only bill the legislature is required to pass each legislative session. 

Go deeper: In the coming weeks, we will examine important issues like public education and how each fared in the base budget. View the entire 1,000+ page budget proposals available online at SB 1 and HB 1. 

Partnership’s top priorities in the budgets 

The Partnership’s top priorities in 2023 were reflected in the base budgets released by the Texas House and Texas Senate.

Higher Education Funding

Both House and Senate proposed budgets include full funding for two of the Partnership’s top education priorities: 

  • $2.5 billion to fund a new endowment for universities such as the University of Houston that cannot currently access the Permanent University Fund 
  • $650 million for improvements to community college finance system and workforce development 

Flood Mitigation: The Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF)

Both House and Senate budgets allocate $400 million to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for flood mitigation funding. 

Yes, but: Key state leaders have publicly called for FIF to receive billions in re-investment. The budget allocation to TWDB is important, but significantly more funding into FIF is necessary to meet the flood mitigation needs of local communities throughout southeast Texas.
Flood Mitigation: Coastal Texas Program

Both House and Senate proposed budgets allocate $300 million to the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD) to provide a state match for the program (Coastal Spine/Ike Dike). The state funding is expected to cover the 35% federal match necessary to begin construction on the project. 

Why it matters: The magnitude of this project exceeds the financial capacity of local governments. Without financial resources from the state, the project would not move forward.

House, Senate honor Houston Astros

Lawmakers took some time to celebrate the World Champion Houston Astros, with both the House and Senate passing resolutions honoring the accomplishment and welcoming the team to the floors of both chambers. 

 

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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 4

2/3/23
This week, freezing weather closes the Texas Capitol, the Partnership welcomes new board chair, advocating for ARPA-H in DC, and the Comptroller announces additional federal funding to address broadband needs. Winter storm closes the Capitol Severe weather across the state pushed lawmakers to stay home on just the fourth week of the 88th legislative session, as both the House and Senate chambers adjourned until Tuesday, February 7th.  Early in the week, Governor Abbott deployed the State Operations Center , to which 15 state agencies report, in preparation for winter storm Mara. While the power grid performed as expected, freezing temperatures and heavy ice brought down power lines, causing communities across Central and East Texas to lose power. Annual Meeting: Incoming Chair Marc L. Boom gives address On Thursday, the Greater Houston Partnership hosted its Annual Meeting. During the meeting, Dr. Marc L. Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist and the Partnership’s incoming Board Chair, provided an update of the Partnership’s work and its direction for 2023.  In his speech, Dr. Boom outlined how the business community can play a positive role in finding solutions in today’s increasingly polarized environment. Boom challenged the Houston business community to embrace “AND” solutions to the challenges facing our region.  Energy Transition: “We’re going to use fossil fuels far into the future AND we need to do so cleanly.”  Immigration: “We all need more workers AND we all need secure borders which we as a country control.”  Education: “We have [to have a] public education system focused on meeting the diverse needs of all of Houston’s young people, preparing them for the careers of tomorrow, AND [we have to] also hold school districts accountable for academic performance.” North Houston Highway Improvement Project: “The I-45 project [is a great example of] an AND of jobs AND mobility AND safety AND enhancing and protecting surrounding communities. The bottom line: Boom concluded with: “We need commitment and engagement of a broad, diverse group of business leaders to advance solutions through the fractious debate, singularly focused on Houston’s long-term success and creating opportunity for all Houstonians.” Go deeper: Watch Dr. Boom’s full Annual Meeting address here. The bottom line: Boom concluded with: “We need commitment and engagement of a broad, diverse group of business leaders to advance solutions through the fractious debate, singularly focused on Houston’s long-term success and creating opportunity for all Houstonians.” Go deeper: Watch Dr. Boom’s full Annual Meeting address here. Click to expand Houston Life Sciences Coalition and ARPA-H Even with the state legislative session underway, the Partnership’s work at the federal level continues.  The Houston Life Sciences Coalition, led by the Texas Medical Center, traveled to Washington this week to advance Houston’s opportunity to be awarded a headquarters location for a new federal agency charged with health innovation. The coalition made the case for Houston in meetings with administration officials and members of Congress.  The big picture: In 2022, Congress formally authorized ARPA-H and provided a $500 million increase for the agency, bringing its total funding to $1.5 billion. The bill also requires that ARPA-H have offices or facilities in not fewer than 3 geographic areas. The bottom line: ARPA-H’s mission is to accelerate transformative innovation in biomedical science and medicine, with the goal to maintain the country’s global leadership in science and innovation. By the numbers: The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical city in the world: 60+ best in class academic and clinical partners  10 Million annual patient encounters  11,000 total patient beds  120,000 employees $850 million of NIH Funding in 2020  2,000+ clinical trials annually  225+ active start-up life science companies What’s next: An announcement of headquarter locations by Secretary of Health and Human Service Xavier Becerra is expected this year.  Broadband gets a boost    Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced his agency will receive $363 million in federal grant dollars from the U.S. Treasury to increase access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet across Texas. The award will go toward the Bringing Online Opportunities to Texas (BOOT) program, a competitive grant process administered by the Texas Broadband Development Office (BDO). BOOT funding is designed to connect unserved and underserved locations that lack broadband access; a critical need was made apparent and exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Why it matters: The program will fund last mile broadband infrastructure projects and qualified projects that meet a specific criterion. Eligibility will be determined by the Texas Broadband Development map.  The funding, administered through the federal Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, will bring reliable internet service to about 152,000 locations across the state. By reducing the digital divide and closing the broadband last mile gap, Texans will have better access to remote health care options, as well as educational and employment opportunities. What's next: The Texas Broadband Development Office will begin accepting applications in spring 2023. 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. 
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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 3

1/27/23
This week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Senate committee assignments, the Partnership highlighted the importance of a strong public school accountability system, and welcomed it's members to Austin to advocate for our Executive Priorities. Senate committee assignments announced Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveiled committee assignments with Houston-area Senators chairing several critical senate committees. Of the sixteen full committees, six will be chaired by Houston-area Senators.  Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) will chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee responsible for writing the state budget.  Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) was reappointed chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and will be the only Democratic Senator to lead a committee.  Why it matters: This committee will have jurisdiction over any potential criminal court expansion, which could address Harris County’s prevailing backlog. Senators Bettencourt, Huffman, and Miles will join him on the committee. Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) was named chair of the Education Committee, which will now oversee K-12 and higher education. Several priority issues will funnel through Creighton’s committees, including public school accountability, K-12 curriculum reforms, and community college finance reform.  One more point: Freshman Senator Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) was appointed as vice chair of the Higher Education subcommittee.  Other notable Houston-area chairs and appointments: Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) will chair the Senate Committee on Local Government.  Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will chair the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Senator Borris Miles will also join her on this committee. Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) will chair Senate Committee on Transportation. Other Houston area senators joining Senator Nichols include Senator Carol Alvarado and Senator Borris Miles. The bottom line: Committee chairs influence what bills make it to the Senate floor and are viewed as strong policy leaders for the issues they oversee.  Go deeper: Click here to view full committee listings Preserving a strong public school accountability system is a top priority for the Partnership. This week, Taylor Landin, the Partnership’s Chief Policy Officer, led a panel discussion of education policy experts from Texas 2036 and the Texas Public Policy Foundation on the importance of accountability and assessments in order to produce students that are college, career and military-ready.  Our thought bubble: Without a strong public school accountability system and assessments, parents and communities are unable to determine which students are falling behind. And we know that if a child is not reading on grade level by the third grade, they are less likely to ever catch up academically.  Click to expand Bob Harvey at Partnership in ATX event The Partnership in ATX  The Partnership’s trip to Austin began with a Legislative Briefing on Energy, including expert panelists sharing their knowledge on energy transition, low carbon technology, and hydrogen before a packed room of legislative staff and policy thought leaders.  Panelists included:  Jeremy Mazur, Senior Policy Advisor, Texas 2036 Mark Klewpatinond, Global Business Manager, Hydrogen, Exxon Mobil's Low Carbon Solutions Carrie Lalou, Director, Business Development, Linde Gas US  The bottom line: Texas is uniquely positioned to lead the world in developing solutions to the dual challenge at the heart of the Energy Transition - how to meet the growing demand for energy while lowering global emissions. Leading the energy transition requires consistent legal and regulatory policy to create certainty, attract investment and accelerate project deployment.  An evening Legislative Reception brought together members of the Legislature, policy leaders, and the Texas business community to celebrate the Houston region.  Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, addressed the crowd and outlined the Partnership's 88th Legislative Session Executive Priorities.  Austin Buzz: Dan Patrick announces re-election and energy report released What’s New: Days after his being sworn-in to a third term as the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick made public comments indicating he will “absolutely” run for a fourth term.  Worth a read: Texas Oil and Gas Association released its annual energy and economic impact report that provides data on the impact of the oil and gas industry on the Texas economy.  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.   
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