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HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 5

Published Feb 14, 2023 by Taylor Landin

Texas State House of Representatives

This week, Speaker Dade Phelan announcing House committee assignments, Senate Finance committee holds hearings on both Public and Higher Ed, the Partnership goes deeper on flood funding, and the Governor prepares for his State of the State address next week. 

1 big thing: Houston in the House
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) unveiled committee assignments with Houston-area members chairing or vice-chairing several critical committees. Of the thirty-six full committees, the following seventeen will have Houston-area representatives in leadership positions. 

  • Agriculture & Livestock - Chair Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park)
  • Appropriations - Chair Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood); joining Bonnen on this powerful committee from the Houston region include Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston), Gene Wu (D-Houston), Mano DeAyala (R-Houston), Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg), Jacey Jetton (R-Katy), Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), Steve Toth (R-Spring), and Armando Walle (D-Houston)
  • Business & Industry - Vice Chair Cody Vasut (R-Angleton)
  • Higher Education - Vice Chair Dennis Paul (R-Houston)
  • Homeland Security & Public Safety - Vice Chair Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston)
  • House Administration - Chair Will Metcalf (R-Conroe)
  • Insurance - Chair Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress); Vice Chair Ann Johnson (D-Houston)
  • Juvenile Justice & Family Issues - Chair Harold Dutton (D-Houston)
  • Licensing & Administrative Procedures - Vice Chair Armando Walle (D-Houston)
  • Natural Resources - Vice Chair Ed Thompson (R-Pearland)
  • Public Education - Vice Chair Alma Allen (D-Houston)
  • Resolutions Calendar - Vice Chair Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg)
  • State Affairs - Vice Chair Ana Hernandez (D-Houston)
  • Urban Affairs - Vice Chair Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg)
  • Ways & Means - Vice Chair Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
  • Select Committee on Health Care Reform - Chair Sam Harless (R-Spring)
  • Select Committee on Youth and Safety - Chair Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston); Vice Chair Lacey Hull (R-Houston)

Other notable Houston-area appointments:

  • Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) was selected Dean of the Texas House along with Tom Craddick (R-Midland)

Click here to view full committee listings. 

Committee assignments and our Priorities
Why it matters: Committee chair positions influence what bills make it to the floor. Below we will outline how the Speaker’s committee assignments will impact the Partnership’s top priorities for the legislative session.

Economic Development Incentives 

  • Proponents of a new economic development incentive program remain hopeful legislation establishing a new program will be filed in the coming weeks. Such legislation would likely be considered by the powerful House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development. Members of the Houston delegation serve on both committees.
  • What’s next: The Partnership will continue work and engage with key stakeholders on this issue, recognizing the critical role economic development incentives play in bringing opportunity to our region.

Energy Transition

  • Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) will again chair the Energy Resources Committee, handling priority issues like carbon capture use and storage (CCUS). Under Chairman Goldman's leadership last session, the committee helped pass legislation clearing a path for state primacy to permit carbon geologic sequestration wells. 
  • We look forward to building upon that success to ensure Texas can become a global leader in CCUS.

Flood Mitigation 

  • With both Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) and Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) chairing House Appropriations and Senate Finance, respectively, having deep knowledge of the region’s flood mitigation needs, the Partnership looks forward to working with the legislators on passing key legislation. 
  • To note: Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe),who helped create the Flood Infrastructure Fund during the 86th legislative session, also sits on Senate Finance.

Higher & Public Education 

  • Leadership changed hands in both the Higher and Public Education committees, as the Speaker selected new chairs for each. Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) was assigned Chair of Higher Education and Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado) was selected to lead the Public Education committee. 
  • What it means: It remains to be seen which direction the new leadership will take their committees, but it is encouraging that the Houston region is well-represented on both. 

The bottom line: Despite Houston area members seated on every committee, our efforts to pass meaningful legislation for the Houston region requires a diverse group of stakeholders including legislators across the state — from both parties, coalitions, trade associations, and industry partners. 

Senate Finance Tackles Education 
What’s new: This week, the Senate Finance committee held its first hearings on public and higher education. State agencies and educational institutions laid out their priorities and legislative requests to lawmakers.

Why it matters: This was the first look into the education-related policies and topics that will be most important to legislators this session and offered insight into the requests of educational institutions. Highlights include:

Public Education:

  • The committee explored ways to address school districts’ declining funding, which has resulted from declining student populations. One solution is to base funding on enrollment rather than attendance.
  • The Texas Education Agency committed to make significant investments in math-related instructional materials.
  • Teacher recruitment and retention strategies were discussed, including expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment and increasing base pay.

Higher Education:

  • The committee discussed workforce development and the ways that Texas’ colleges and universities are supporting our talent pipelines in high-demand fields such as nursing and teaching. 
  • Houston-area universities requested additional research funding, which would help attract federal dollars, high-quality faculty, and top students.
  • Several legislators raised the issue of high tuition costs and their prohibitive effect on student enrollment and success. The committee explored methods of increasing financial aid to make college more accessible to more students. 

Going forward, the outlook is optimistic as both chambers have proposed meaningful investments in education. These investments will strengthen the region’s and state’s economies, workforce pipeline, and long-term competitiveness.

Future Flood Funds Flowing?
What’s New: Next Monday, February 13, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on general appropriations bill for article VI, which includes the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF).

Why it matters: Houston is susceptible to severe weather events with recent storms resulting in billions in economic damage. While the Flood Infrastructure Fund is expected to be exhausted early this year, the legislature has an opportunity to replenish it and continue the necessary momentum in protecting life, property, and economic vitality. According to the Texas Water Development Board’s online tool, the Partnership’s footprint has received more than $159 million in flood mitigation dollars from this fund to date.

  • Brazoria County - $150,000 for one project
  • Chambers County - $4,656,000 for one project
  • Fort Bend County - $96,891,760 for seven projects
  • Harris County - $42,076,847 for six projects
  • Montgomery County - $9,055,000 for four projects
  • San Jacinto County - $48,100 for one project
  • Waller County - $502,500 for two projects
  • Wharton County - $5,753,032 for two projects.

By the numbers: The Texas Water Development Board, in their 2019 State Flood Assessment, estimated a more than $31.5 billion need in flood mitigation for the entire state of Texas. This year, the San Jacinto Region alone estimates $31.3 billion in flood mitigation needs. 

The bottom line: The Houston business community sees this fund as a crucial piece of the puzzle when attracting high-quality jobs to our region as many prospective employers consider factors like flooding a risk to investment.

What's next: Senate Finance will discuss Article IV (Natural Resources) on Monday where we can hear testimony involving flood mitigation.

What to Watch Next Week
Next Thursday, Governor Abbott will deliver his State of the State address and announce his emergency items for the 88th Legislative Session. 

  • Go deeper: The Governor, as required by the Texas constitution, must submit emergency matters to the Legislature. Emergency items are typically announced at the beginning of session. However, the Governor has the ability to submit emergency items throughout session for appropriations related to specific purposes. 

Why it matters: Legislators can immediately take up bills on emergency issues.

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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