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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 3

Published Jan 27, 2023 by A.J. Mistretta

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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. 

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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In the weeks before early voting, the Greater Houston Partnership will share essential information on key ballot initiatives impacting our region. This week, we focus on state propositions 5 and 6, which would allow Texas to invest in its higher education system and improve deteriorating water infrastructure. The 2023 Ballot On November 7, Texas will hold a statewide general election, allowing voters to decide on 14 to the state’s constitution. Since Houston will be the only major city in Texas conducting local elections, Houston voters will disproportionately impact the statewide results. In this general election, Texas could invest in its higher education system, improve deteriorating water infrastructure, expand equitable broadband access, and incentivize biomedical manufacturing and job creation. In addition, Harris County could receive much-needed funds to enhance and expand the Harris Health System. Proposition 5: Boosting Texas Universities with $3.4B Fund A strong college-educated talent pipeline is becoming increasingly important to attract the companies and investments that can power economies for decades. There are just two national top 50 public universities in Texas: The University of Texas at Austin (ranked 9th) and Texas A&M (ranked 20th). Consequently, Texas is ranked 23rd nationally in the number of students attending a top 50 public university.  With the goal of elevating other Texas universities to top-50 status and improving Texas’ competitiveness, the 2023 Legislature passed House Bill 1595 and House Joint Resolution 3, which will establish the Texas University Fund (TUF). The TUF is a permanent $3.4 billion research endowment that will appropriate up to $100 million dollars annually to four Texas public universities, including the University of Houston.  Why it matters: This historic investment will strengthen Texas’ higher education institutions by providing the necessary funding to improve Texas universities’ national rankings, which will help the state attract top talent and reduce “brain drain.” Additionally, it will allow Texas schools to compete for federal research grants, secure private research funding, drive increased alumni support, and position Texas as a top destination for premier higher education.   What’s next: Establishing the fund is contingent on voters passing Proposition 5. The Partnership urges support for the constitutional amendment creating the Texas University Fund, which will expand educational opportunities for all Texas students and strengthen the state’s economy. Proposition 6: One positive step toward addressing looming water challenges According to the most recent State Water Plan, the population in Texas is expected to grow by 73 percent from 2020 to 2070, while the water demands are projected to rise by nine percent. Meanwhile, the existing water supply is expected to decline by around 18 percent. The result would be a crisis-level water shortage of 6.9 million acre-feet per year by 2070. To address this need, the Texas Legislature passed a constitutional amendment to establish the New Water Supply Fund, the Texas Water Fund, and the Statewide Water Public Awareness Account and put dollars toward crumbling water infrastructure across the state. The measure will help address future shortfalls by enabling the state to take on new water infrastructure projects, thereby increasing access to water for residents.   What’s next: Establishing these funds and funding is contingent on voters passing Proposition 6. The Partnership urges support for the constitutional amendment creating the Texas Water Fund to assist in financing water projects in Texas. Important Election Information: Early Voting: Oct. 23 – Nov. 3 General Election Day: Nov. 7 Find more information on voting and polling locations. Find more information on each of these ballot measures supported by the Greater Houston Partnership at Houston.org/2023ballot.
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