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 in Austin, the House passed legislation to invest in flood mitigation and recovery from Hurricane Harvey. The deliberations on school finance reform continued among House and Senate conferees. With only ten days left in the 86th Legislative Session, final legislative outcomes on the most prominent issues are finally coming together.
PARTNERSHIP EXECUTIVE PRIORITIES
On Thursday, Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) brought to the House floor Senate Bill 7, legislation to establish funds for Hurricane Harvey recovery and future flood mitigation. Representative Phelan introduced an amendment to SB 7 that incorporated the substance of his own flood mitigation bill, House Bill 13, into SB 7. The final legislation creates both a future flood mitigation fund and a fund that provides for Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery and United States Army Corps of Engineers projects. The Senate will have to either concur with the House version or go to conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.
SCHOOL FINANCE REFORM
On Monday, Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Partnership, and Scott McClelland, Chairman of the Board, visited the Capitol to discuss school finance reform with Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor. The Partnership presented its school finance reform priorities, which were well received by our state leaders. All expressed optimism that substantial school finance reform legislation would pass during the regular legislative session.
House and Senate members of the conference committee on House Bill 3 met on several occasions this week to discuss the differences between each chamber’s version of the legislation. Three main differences between the two chambers are clear. Those differences include the across-the-board pay raise for all full-time teachers and librarians, providing incentive funding to school districts where students meeting third grade reading standards, and a provision that changes the property value calculation for school districts from prior year property values to current year property values.
The conference committee members will continue to meet until they come to a compromise on all issues in the legislation. The bill will then be sent back to each chamber for final approval.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Partnership has made progress on workforce development this session by taking the lead on House Bill 3511 by Representative Gary Van Deaver (R-New Boston). This legislation establishes the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future and charges the commissioners to address specific recommendations designed to build a twenty-first century workforce pipeline in Texas. The bill was heard on Thursday in the Senate Education Committee. Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) is the Senate sponsor of the legislation. The committee recommended the bill favorably to the full Senate with a vote of 8 to 1. Two members of the committee did not vote, and the bill will head to the Senate for debate next week.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Land and Resource Management passed Senate Bill 421 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) on eminent domain. After negotiations throughout the session, landowners and industry have come together to support the current version of SB 421, which will now be taken up by the full House. It is important to note that we are paying careful attention to House Bill 1211, which is a potential vehicle for the most onerous eminent domain proposals to reemerge.
Texas Public Information Act
The House took up open records reform this week. Senate Bill 943 by Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) addresses contracting disclosures and was written to address concerns with potential disclosure loopholes created by the Boeing and Greater Houston Partnership open records Texas Supreme Court case rulings. Work on this bill began over a year ago led by Senator Watson and Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) and was done in collaboration with the Partnership, Boeing and numerous other companies and non-profit organizations. Senate Bill 943 increases public disclosure while protecting proprietary information and private organizations such as the Partnership. We expect the bill to pass the House and be sent to the Governor by next week.
NOTE: The next edition of the Legislative Session Update will publish on May 28th following the last day of session.