Skip to main content

Legislative Session Update: Week 18

Published May 10, 2019 by Taylor Landin

During the 86th Legislative Session, the Partnership will provide a weekly update on our top executive priorities and other newsworthy items from Austin. 

This week, the Texas House ran into the first series of end-of-session deadlines. Public school finance reform legislation is heading to conference committee after the Senate passed House Bill 3 on Monday. The Partnership also led efforts to pass a workforce development bill off the House floor. 
  
PARTNERSHIP EXECUTIVE PRIORITIES
SCHOOL FINANCE REFORM

This week, the Texas Senate considered House Bill 3 by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty. Over the course of Monday afternoon, members of the Senate approved about 40 amendments to the legislation. Several major concerns dominated the debate: a potential move to current year property values rather than prior year property values to calculate school district funding, a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for full-time teachers and librarians, incentive funding for third grade literacy, teacher merit pay, and the STAAR assessment and its use as a measure in teacher evaluations. The legislation was eventually passed 26-2. Three Senators were present, but did not vote for or against the legislation, citing concerns with the lack of information regarding the total fiscal impact of the legislation on the state.
  
Major provisions include:

  • $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for all full-time teachers and librarians
  • Outcomes funding for third grade reading and college, career and military readiness
  • Funding for full-day pre-K for all eligible four-year-old students
  • Strategic teacher compensation with funding provided for merit and incentive pay
  • An increase to the special education funding weight
  • A pilot program to develop a formative assessment as an alternative to STAAR
  • 2.5 percent local school district maintenance and operations revenue cap
  • Move to current year versus prior year property tax values

The bill now heads to conference committee, a process that includes the appointment of five members from both the House and Senate to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The conferees include:
  
House Conferees: Representatives Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Ken King (R-Canadian), Mary Gonzáles (D-Clint) and Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio).
  
Senate Conferees: Senators Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Royce West (D-Dallas) and Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels).
  
The conference committee held its first meeting on Friday. Once a majority of conference committee members agree to a version of the bill, it will go to the full House and Senate for final approval.
  
FLOOD RESILIENCE
Severe weather in the Houston region this week was a reminder of the importance of passing flood mitigation legislation this session. Negotiations between the key leaders on this issue continue behind the scenes. As we shared last week, the House Natural Resources Committee passed Senate Bill 7 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). Now that the deadline has passed to hear House bills on the House floor, we anticipate the House will take up SB 7 in the coming days. Following that move, the conference committee will need to come together to agree upon the final legislation. 
  
WEEK IN REVIEW
Workforce Development

House Bill 3511, authored by Representative Gary VanDeaver (R - New Boston), creates the Commission on the Texas Workforce of the Future and was passed by the House on Thursday. The State of Texas faces an aging workforce and suffers from a lack of qualified individuals to fill high-need industry jobs and careers. This bill, which the Partnership strongly supports, would be the first of its kind to bring together leaders from Texas' five main business sectors, as well as representatives from the K-12 and higher education institutions, state agencies and legislators, in order to develop a strategic plan for Texas' workforce needs into the future. Now that the bill has passed the Texas House, it moves to the Senate, where Senator Carol Alvarado (D - Houston) will be its sponsor.
  
Economic Development – Chapter 312
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development took a step towards reauthorizing the Chapter 312 economic development program. House Bill 3143 by Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) was heard on Wednesday morning, and it received strong support from the business community. As discussed previously, the Chapter 312 program allows cities and counties to offer 10-year property tax abatements to spur economic development. Chapter 312 will expire this September unless reauthorized by the Legislature. Representative Murphy’s bill extends the Chapter 312 program for another 10 years and increases reporting and oversight requirements. One of those provisions, a 30-day public notice before a city council hearing, raised some concerns regarding potential breaches of non-disclosure agreements and opportunities for competitors to abuse the process. Overall, however, the business community testified in strong support of increased transparency for this important program. We expect concerns regarding the 30-day notice to be addressed in the next two weeks.
  
Health Care – CPRIT
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was originally approved in 2007, and its grants have since helped create thousands of jobs, generated billions of dollars in economic activity, encouraged biotech companies to expand or relocate in Texas, and supported world-renowned scholars, including a 2018 Nobel Prize recipient. House Bill 39 and House Joint Resolution 12 by Representative John Zerwas (R - Richmond) are necessary to maintain the current CPRIT program. HB 39 allows for grants to continue to be awarded past the original statutory deadline, and HJR 12 proposes a constitutional amendment allowing for an increase to the maximum bond amount authorized for CPRIT. Both bills passed out of the Senate this week and will be sent to the Governor’s desk.

Stay up-to-date with our Policy Team throughout the 86th Legislative Session by opting-in to this weekly update or follow the team on Twitter @GHP_Policy

Related News

Economy

Houston Business Barometer Week 9: Area Companies Look to Reassess Telecom Needs, Office Layout and Size Post-COVID

6/3/20
More than half of area companies say they have recalled some or all of their employees who had been working from home back to the workplace in recent weeks, according to the latest survey from the Greater Houston Partnership.  About 11% of those surveyed said they have recalled all of their employees to the worksite and another 40% say they have yet to recall employees who have been working from home.  Twenty-eight percent of the companies that responded to this week’s Houston Business Barometer survey said their firm’s short-term outlook was better this week than last week. Just 4.6% say their outlook is worse this week.   About 28% of respondents said their operations have been severely impacted by the pandemic, the same as last week. Another 34% report a moderate impact on their operations. Roughly 29% said their revenues have declined since their last billing cycle.  Approximately 36% of companies said they had partially or fully reopened their previously shuttered operations in recent weeks, while another 13% of respondents said they had not yet reopened. About half of respondents reported they never halted operations.  Eighty percent of survey participants to this week’s survey say they did not furlough employees during the shutdown. About 8% said they have recalled all or some of their furloughed employees and 12% said they have not yet recalled any furloughed employees.  Asked what elements of their business they might reassess in response to their COVID-19 experience, the top answers among respondents this week were: telecommuting practices, technology needs, office design and the size of their worksites/offices.  A total of 65 companies responded to the 9th Houston Business Barometer survey conducted by the Partnership between June 1 and 2.  See results from Week 8.     Get information and guidelines on reopening businesses safely from the Partnership's Houston Work Safe Program. Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information.  
Read More
Membership

Small Biz Insider: How a Downtown Family-Owned Business is Adapting to a Changing Business Landscape

5/28/20
Haig Tcholakian, co-owner, Phoenicia Foods Specialty Foods joined the Partnership’s Small Biz Insider series to share how the downtown specialty grocer has adapted through the various phases of the COVID-19  pandemic and his advice for other small businesses navigating this uncertain time.  Tcholakian and his sister Ann-Marie Tcholakian manage one of the three locations his family operates. Throughout the pandemic, the grocery store has remained operational and MKT Bar, the in-house restaurant and bar known for its karaoke nights and live music, reopened recently with limited capacity.   From the first six weeks after the Stay Home Work Safe order until now, Tcholakian highlights key lessons learned from the store’s experience adjusting to the pandemic measures over time and insights for other small businesses reopening or regaining footing. Here are five takeaways from the conversation with Tcholakian:  Remember what you do well – Your customers shop with you for a reason. Bring that to the forefront of what you are doing now, lead with that and continue to orient your adjustments and new efforts around your core mission.   Understand it’s a learning process – As a business that’s been open the entire time, we figured out most of our processes through trial and error. It took us six weeks to understand what works best for us. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach, but there are certain steps you can take to protect your business, your employees and your customers. Read the Reopen Houston Report, a resource guide containing industry-specific best practices to aid businesses in reopening or expanded their operation and guidance for employers.   Communicate with customers about the measures you are taking – You want customers to feel comfortable in your store and in your place of business. Make sure they are aware of the efforts being taken and how they can participate in the new processes.   Reorient staff to meet new needs – We’ve designated certain staff as “COVID cleaners" who focus on sanitizing door handles, buttons, high traffic areas, counters, etc. Dedicating staff to this effort allows us to be as thorough as possible.   Invest in an online presence – we are currently exploring ways to expand our product selection online. We have a website but because we have thousands of products, it’s been a challenge to house that inventory online. However, it’s going to be crucial to have moving forward and to our future success.  Click here for more COVID-19 resources and guidance for small businesses and sign up for email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. To aid companies planning to reopen or expand their operations, the Partnership is sharing Work Safe principles to help businesses protect the health of their employees and customers, minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.  The Small Biz Insider is a digital series highlighting the innovative business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders of the greater Houston area who are making a big impact in the small business community. 
Read More

Related Events

Economy

Future of Texas

Registration for this event is now closed.  State Representative Sarah Davis and State Senator Carol Alvarado will discuss the impacts that COVID-19 and the collapse in oil prices have had on…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners