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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 4

Published Feb 03, 2023 by Taylor Landin

Texas State Capitol in Austin

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.

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 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. 
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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 9

Legislative activity ramped up around the Capitol this week as the bill filing deadline approached. The Speaker announced his next batch of priority legislation, and the Partnership participated in Texas Energy Day. Bill Filing Deadline  March 10th was the bill filing deadline for the 88th Legislative Session. After March 10th, no additional general law bills can be filed, with some exceptions for local bills.  Houston in Focus - Here’s how the Partnership’s Executive Priorities fared: Economic Development House Bill 5: Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) filed legislation to create a new economic development incentive program. The proposed new program would provide temporary and limited competitive economic incentives to attract large-scale, capital-intensive projects related to manufacturing, national and state security, and energy infrastructure. Speaker Phelan supports the legislation, making it one of his top priorities.  Energy Transition House Bill 4484 and Senate Bill 2107: Two key members of the Partnership delegation - Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) and Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) - have teamed up to establish a statewide regulatory framework to support the development of carbon capture use and storage (CCUS). The bills provide much-needed certainty on pore space ownership and long-term liability.  University Endowment Senate Bill 19: The foundation was laid to make a massive investment in higher education with the filing of Senate Bill 19. Senate Bill 19 would establish a new endowment, the Texas University Fund, to benefit schools that do not have access to the Permanent University Fund. This new, $2.5B research fund would provide funding certainty and and a competitive advantage to Texas universities. Notably, this bill was filed by Sen. Joan Huffman, who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Finance committee, signaling the importance of this proposal to state leadership. Flood Infrastructure Fund  Senate Bill 30/House Bill 500: Senate Finance and House Appropriations Supplemental bills both allocate $400 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the Texas Water Development Board to help replenish the Flood Infrastructure Fund. Community College Finance House Bill 8: A bill to overhaul the community college finance system, House Bill 8, was filed this week by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston). This legislation corresponds to the recent recommendations made by the Texas Commission on Community College Finance and provides a framework for shifting toward an outcomes-based, industry-aligned funding model. The bill would also create a new scholarship fund so that a greater number of students can access higher education.  House Bill 8 was also added to Speaker Phelan’s list of top priorities for this session, giving the proposal some extra momentum.  The Partnership at Texas Energy Day Partnership team members joined hundreds of energy employees, trade associations, and chambers of commerce from across the state for Texas Energy Day. Speaking directly to legislators and regulators, attendees stressed the need for economic development incentives, as well as a regulatory framework for carbon capture use and storage. Speaker Phelan Unveils Third Batch of House priorities   Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) unveiled three additional legislative priorities centered on infrastructure development - internet, water, and housing, along with a priority on brain health. Broadband: House Bill 9 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) House Bill 9 would establish the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund to award grants, low-interest loans, and other financial incentives to expand access to and adoption of broadband service across the state. HB 9 will help close the digital divide by clarifying how legislators can allocate broadband dollars while maintaining “flexibility to address rapidly-evolving technology and consumer needs.” Water: House Bill 10 by Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville) House Bill 10 would create the Texas Water Fund to allocate resources toward water development projects in Texas, including projects to acquire water from other states and develop infrastructure to transport water.  If passed, a constitutional amendment would be placed on the November ballot.  Housing: House Bill 14 by Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) House Bill 14 would “streamline the approval process for property development and building reviews, requiring cities and counties that fail to complete such projects in a timely manner to utilize third-party reviewers.” Brain Health: House Bill 15 by Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) House Bill 15 would establish the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas, dedicating state dollars toward improving brain health research and understanding prevention and treatment measures related to traumatic brain injuries.  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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