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88th Texas Legislative Session Summary

The Partnership’s Board of Directors and Public Policy Steering Committee developed a legislative agenda to address the most pressing issues facing the Houston business community and the greater Houston region. The Partnership’s legislative agenda rested on four executive priorities—economic development, higher education, energy transition, and flood mitigation.  


This year, the Partnership worked to advance solutions that strengthen the region’s long-term growth and provide opportunity for all. While not all priorities made it over the finish line, the Partnership made great strides in advancing these key policy issues during the 88th Texas Legislative Session.


Below are the Partnership’s Executive Priorities and a listing of bills supported by the Partnership during the 88th Texas Legislative Session.

Executive Priorities

Temporary Economic Development Incentives

House Bill 5


House Author: Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) 

Senate Sponsor: Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown)

  • Ensures a conducive business climate and fosters growth by developing a new, transparent, and accountable economic development program for Texas.
  • Makes the state attractive to emerging industries and ensures long-term competitiveness.

A state-wide economic development incentive program is critical to attracting businesses that invest in local communities and provide high-quality jobs. After the expiration of the Chapter 313 economic development program last session, Texas was in need of a new school property tax abatement program as a competitive economic development tool.

Texas has long been a national leader in securing large capital-intensive investments and attractive to businesses looking to relocate on nearly all measures companies consider. However, Texas often falls short on property taxes, and the lack of a new school property tax abatement program could cause it to fall behind other states in landing new businesses. In fact, Texas lost several multi-billion-dollar deals to other states due to the uncertainty around whether Texas would have an economic development incentive program after the expiration of Chapter 313.

After the last session, when the Texas Legislature voted to sunset Chapter 313, the Partnership and other business organizations began working on its replacement. Leading up to this session, a coalition of supporters conducted statewide polling, finding that Texans strongly support creating a new economic development program. The Partnership also partnered with statewide business organizations to mobilize regional partners to support House Bill 5, resulting in the collection of over 250 signatures from chambers of commerce and economic development organizations across the state on a letter of support for the bill.

House Bill 5, the XX Act, establishes a new, more transparent economic development tool for Texas that enables the state to continue to compete on a global scale for large-scale projects and bring investments to local communities. Many of the changes proposed in House Bill 5 directly respond to shortcomings of the previous incentive program. The new plan puts in place strong transparency provisions, keeps companies accountable for promises made during the application process, treats schools fairly, and gives the tools necessary for the state to compete for and win new projects. House Bill 5 provides the stability Texas needs and will protect Texas’ position as the nation’s economic powerhouse.



Houston Skyline

Texas University Fund (TUF)

House Bill 1595/House Joint Resolution 3


House Author: Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood)

Senate Sponsor: Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)

    • Establishes a $3.4 billion research endowment for the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, University of North Texas, and Texas State University.
    • Allocates up to $100 million annually for each university. Allocates dollars based on performance, including research expenditures and doctoral degrees awarded.

Texas currently has only two universities ranked in the national top 50 of public universities: the University of Texas (#10) and Texas A&M (#26). As a result, there is a shortage of available seats for the thousands of qualified Texas students that would like to attend a top 50 university. This lack of elite options restricts Texas’ ability to attract high-caliber students, professors, and researchers. It also negatively affects Texas’ ability to win competitive research and funding opportunities.

House Bill 1595 solves these problems by establishing the Texas University Fund, a permanent endowment that will appropriate billions of dollars to four of the state’s public universities, including Houston’s flagship university, the University of Houston.

This transformational 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.” The fund will also provide long-term financial certainty, allowing for forward-thinking projects and innovation. Finally, it will help Texas schools compete for federal research grants, secure private research funding, drive increased alumni support, and position Texas as a top destination for premier higher education.

The TUF will also bolster the state’s economy by making Texas more attractive to business. There will now be a true ecosystem of institutions engaged in high-level research and development, strengthening Texas’ talent pipelines.


Community College Finance

House Bill 8


House Author: Representative Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston)

Senate Sponsor: Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)

    • Overhauls the state’s method of financing community colleges, shifting toward an outcomes-focused, industry-aligned model.
    • Increases college affordability by creating new scholarships to support high-demand industries.
    • Improves college capacity by providing funding for student support and inter-institutional shared services, to better serve the state as its population grows.

Currently, Texas’ community colleges are funded by a combination of property taxes, tuition, and enrollment. This means community colleges remain fully funded regardless of student outcomes. However, a strong economy is supported by its workforce talent pipelines. Therefore, the ability for students to graduate, earn credentials, obtain self-sustaining wages and jobs in high-demand fields, pay off loans, or transfer successfully should all be part of the equation on how community colleges are funded.

The solutions provided by House Bill 8 provide for a transformational change by moving towards an industry-led, outcomes-based funding model, while also increasing college affordability and capacity. Community colleges will also work with employers to ensure they are producing the type and caliber of workers needed for the future economy.

The Partnership is proud to have supported the development of House Bill 8 by promoting industry voices at the Texas Commission on Community College Finance hearings, which was charged with studying how community colleges are funded and making recommendations to the legislature for improvement. The Partnership hosted a Legislative Policy Forum to spotlight the success of an industry-led, outcomes-based community college approach. The event gathered over 30 different legislative offices at San Jacinto College’s Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology for an immersive learning session.  As a result of these efforts, the final version of House Bill 8 is strong on industry leadership and alignment.

House Bill 8’s passage means that thousands of Texas students will be guided into high-demand careers with good pay and upward mobility, and employers will have access to a pipeline of skilled workers. Through House Bill 8, Texas becomes the first state in the nation to fully align community college funding with student outcomes, providing a competitive advantage for Texas businesses.


The Flood Infrastructure Fund

House Bill 1


House Sponsor: Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) 

Senate Author: Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston)

  • Allocates $350 million in general revenue for the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF).

Senate Bill 30


House Sponsor: Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood)

Senate Author: Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston)

  • Provides $400 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for FIF.

Following Hurricane Harvey in 2019, the Partnership advocated for the creation of the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) during the 2019 legislative session to address the need for adequate relief from flooding and protection from future severe weather events across the state. The FIF marked the first time for the state to provide funding to improve Texas’ flood recovery and resiliency, a space previously occupied only by local and federal resources.

As of February 2023, the greater Houston region received more than $159 million of the initial $793 million FIF appropriation, meaning Houston received 20% of the original fund dollars for flood mitigation projects.

In late 2022, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), the state agency charged with oversight of the FIF, signaled that the fund is oversubscribed and would soon be exhausted.

This session, the Partnership prioritized the effort to replenish the FIF and advocated for increased funding for flood mitigation projects. As a result, the Texas Legislature invested over $1 billion in flood prevention and resiliency work. The FIF received $350 million in general revenue funds in House Bill 1—a first for the fund as it was originally funded by a one-time infusion from the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund. Additionally, Senate Bill 30 provided $400 million in funding to FIF from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as a one-time investment in the fund.


House Bill 1 also included funding for the Lake Houston Dam Improvement Project, a priority flood prevention project for the region, as it will enable the rapid lowering of lake levels in advance of a flood, while also extending the life of the dam. The Partnership will continue to advocate increased investment by the state in resiliency projects for Houston.


The Coastal Texas Program

House Bill 2416


House Sponsor: Representative Dennis Paul (R-Houston)

Senate Author: State Senator Carol Alvarado (R-Houston)

  • Creates the Gulf Coast Protection Trust Fund.
  • Provides funding for the state’s contribution to begin construction on the Coastal Texas Program.

The Coastal Texas Program, also known as the Coastal Spine or the Ike Dike, will protect the Houston region from catastrophic weather events and storm surges like the ones experienced during Hurricane Ike. The barrier floodgate and levee system’s development will require significant investment from all levels of government, making its funding a priority for the Partnership.

At the federal level, as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA), Congress formally authorized the Coastal Texas Program with an estimated 65% federal cost share. The remaining funding will be fulfilled through state and local matching funds through two non-federal partners – the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD) and the General Land Office (GLO).

In 2021, the Texas Legislature created the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD) to become the non-federal sponsor of the Coastal Texas Program. This session, the Legislature voted to establish the Gulf Coast Protection Trust Fund with the passage of House Bill 2416. The fund, administered by the GLO, will be used for hurricane and storm surge protection flood infrastructure projects within the Gulf Coast Protection District, including the Coastal Texas Program.

The Texas Legislature’s investment in the Gulf Coast Protection Trust Fund will provide for the state’s portion of the state-local match requirement for the Coastal Texas Program to begin constructing the $13-17 billion gate system, which will serve as a dual surge protection and flood mitigation mechanism. House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, also provides $550 million to the GCPD to fulfill the state and local match requirements.

H_GHP_Downtown_Buffalo Bayou_Memorial Drive_2019

Carbon Capture Use & Storage: Comprehensive Regulatory Framework

House Bill 4484/Senate Bill 2017


House Author: Representative Greg Bonnen (R- Friendswood)

Senate Author: Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)

    • Affirms surface owner owns pore space, recognizes the mineral estate, and establishes a process for pore space integration.
    • Creates an ongoing stewardship program and addresses transferability of long-term liability.

Leveraging Texas’ comparative advantage and remaining competitive in the multi-trillion-dollar carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) industry is a top Partnership priority. After successfully advocating for the state to seek primacy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Class VI carbon injection storage wells last session – currently pending EPA approval – now is the time for Texas to address the regulatory and legal uncertainty hindering CCUS so we can stay competitive with the twelve other states that are ahead of Texas on clarifying law, including our biggest direct competitor, Louisiana. The Partnership joined a broad coalition to support a comprehensive CCUS framework thoughtfully crafted for success in Texas this session. The bill resolved significant legal complexities that pose the biggest barrier to CCUS while offering explicit protections for the mineral estate, providing additional revenue opportunities for landowners, and going above and beyond every other state to ensure potential wins for all parties.

The bill was effectively gutted after an unproductive committee hearing filled with mischaracterizations and misinformation by opposition groups over a fundamental aspect of the bill – integration – a process required to combat immense hurdles CCUS developers face trying to assemble the web of fragmented property rights needed for expansive deep underground pore space storage.

Work on this priority legislation began long before the legislature convened, with a series of policy summits in Austin to educate legislative staff. Ahead of the bill’s legislative hearing, the Partnership doubled down on advocacy and outreach – mobilizing companies, spearheading a letter-writing campaign, and amplifying our message through the halls of the Capitol. Looking ahead to 2025 more must be done to educate lawmakers on the intricacies of CCUS. Expanding CCUS should be a win for economic growth, the environment, and landowners – the Partnership remains committed to ensuring Texas becomes the rightful leader in CCUS.


Carbon Capture Use & Storage: Reducing Cost Barriers

House Bill 4983/Senate Bill 2203  


House Author: Representative Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth)

Senate Author: Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)

    • Establishes a carbon capture project franchise tax credit program.


House Bill 3355


House Author: Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa)

    • Provides carbon capture projects a property tax exemption through the existing Tax Relief for Pollution Control Property Program.

House Bill 1158/Senate Bill 2243


House Author: Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)

Senate Author: Senator Nathan Johnson (R-Odessa)

  • Makes carbon capture projects explicitly eligible for funding through the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.


House Bill 4557


House Author: Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)

  • Prohibits the application of “public nuisance” lawsuits against carbon storage projects to deter frivolous, costly, and time-consuming lawsuits aimed at strangling industry.

As of 2020, it was estimated carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) can cost between $50 and $100 per metric ton, leading many other state governments and the federal government to enact plans that would reduce financial roadblocks to scaling this technology and provide a signal to encourage more capital investments. In Texas, the Partnership supported a similar effort spearheaded by the Carbon Neutral Coalition. The slate of bills put before the legislature was intended to reduce the hefty price tag associated with CCUS. Unfortunately, with both key conservative-leaning and key democrat-leaning groups opposed to the measures, these bills ultimately failed to reach Governor Abbott’s desk.


Other energy transition issues


House Bill 4885


House Author: Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa)

Senate Sponsor: Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)

  • Establishes the Texas hydrogen infrastructure, vehicle, and equipment grant program as part of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.
  • Authorizes $98 million in funding within the state budget to fund the buildout of hydrogen infrastructure.


House Bill 2847


House Author: Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)

Senate Sponsor: Senator Kevin Sparks (R-Midland)

  • Grants that the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) has primary jurisdiction over all pipeline transportation and underground storage of hydrogen.
  • Establishes the Texas Hydrogen Production Policy Council to study and make recommendations relating to the RRC for hydrogen energy development.

Currently, Texas is home to more than 60 percent of U.S. hydrogen pipelines and 30 percent of the world’s hydrogen pipelines. This session, the State took a significant leap forward to build upon its progress and kickstart the diversified use of hydrogen. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made it clear that hydrogen will be a transformative fuel of the future, and the Partnership applauds the Texas Legislature for setting Texas up for success. Together, these bills provide the investment, regulatory certainty, and pathway needed to boost Texas’ three regional hydrogen hub applications vying for $7 billion from the DOE, including two from the Houston area.



Senate Bill 785


Senate Author: Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)

House Sponsor: Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)

  • Creates a clear definition of geothermal estate ownership in Texas by providing the landowner owns all geothermal energy and associated resources below the land.
  • Protects mineral estate.


Senate Bill 786


Senate Author: Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)

House Sponsor: Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)

  • Places jurisdiction of closed-loop injection wells under the Texas Railroad Commission to provide a more business-friendly, one-stop shopping approach for permitting and regulatory governance for geothermal energy.


Senate Bill 1210


Senate Author: Senator Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso)

House Sponsor: Representative Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen)

  • Allows orphaned oil and gas wells to be repurposed for geothermal energy production.

Texas is ideal for geothermal energy development due to its vast geothermal resources, favorable geological conditions, and strong energy infrastructure. This session, lawmakers advanced a series of bills that will improve regulatory certainty and signal to the investment community that Texas is open for geothermal business. These measures sailed through both the House and Senate chambers with nearly unanimous support. Geothermal will play an important role in accomplishing the energy-abundant, lower carbon goals of the energy transition.


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See the Partnership's Full Legislative Agenda

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87th Legislative Session Summary

Learn how key elements of the Partnership's legislative agenda fared during the 87th Texas Legislative Session. 

Convening to Make an Impact

The Partnership's impact work happens through Committees, which convene business and community leaders to fuel the growth and vitality of the Houston region. 

Public Policy Updates

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Public Policy

HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 20

During the final days of the session, House Bill 5 passes off the Senate floor and heads to conference, the budget moves one step closer to the Governor’s desk, and we take a look at Houston-specific bills passing the legislature. Economic Development Bill Clears the Senate Floor House Bill 5 was voted out of the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce on Sunday, paving the way for a vote on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The bill author, Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), accepted five amendments and the final measure passed with a decisive 27-4 vote.  What’s next: The Senate made significant changes to the version that passed the House earlier this month. We expect a conference committee to be named to work out the two versions. Following the work of the conference committee, each chamber must accept the conference committee report before the bill can head to the Governor’s desk.  The bottom line: Stakeholders have raised concerns about the changes made to the legislation, but all parties recognize the importance of creating a new school property tax abatement program. Without a new program, Texas will fall behind other states in landing large-scale, capital-intensive projects.  What they’re saying: During the committee hearing on Sunday, Senator Creighton (R-Conroe) emphasized the transformational change that comes when new and emerging industries decide to locate in local Texas communities: “If we’re going launch into a new phase of new economic development incentives… [we need to think about] the culture we want to create to really land these companies that will change lives forever for Texans.” House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 30 - The State’s Budget  The budget bill is the only bill the Texas Legislature must pass each session. This week, the two chambers struck a deal on a two-year budget for the State of Texas totaling $321.3 billion.  The Legislature entered this session with an unprecedented budget surplus. However, due to constitutionally mandated restrictions on spending, the Legislature had more money available than it could spend. The budget prioritized spending on tax cuts, colleges and universities, grid resiliency, broadband, and water infrastructure.  Houston in Focus: The budget deal includes $1.25 billion for flood mitigation and storm surge protection.  $625 million for the Flood Infrastructure Fund out of one-time General Revenue Funding.  $550 million for the Gulf Coast Protection District, with $350 million of the appropriation allocated to be used as state matching funds for the Coastal Texas Program.  $50 million for the Lake Houston Dam Improvement Project.  What’s next: After the Legislature passes House Bill 1, the General Appropriation Act, and Senate Bill 30, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, both bills head to the Governor’s desk, where the Governor has line-item veto power for budget items. The Governor’s veto period ends 20 days after the last day of the legislative session.  Houston in Focus: Bills Impacting the Region    Here is a look at several bills that have passed that will directly impact the Houston region:  Senate Bill 1057, by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), allows the City of Houston and Houston First access to funds for much-needed renovations to the George R. Brown Convention Center.  House Bill 3474, by Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the state’s omnibus courts bill, establishes six new criminal courts for Harris County.  House Bill 2416, by Representative Dennis Paul (R-Houston), creates the Gulf Coast Protection Trust Fund. The funding will be used for flood infrastructure developments within the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD), including the Texas Coastal Program, better known as the Coastal Spine or the Ike Dike.  House Bill 1595 and House Joint Resolution 3, by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), establishes the Texas University Fund (TUF), a permanent endowment fund investing in four Texas public university systems. The University of Houston will receive as much as $50 million dollars annually from the Fund.  What’s Next: End-of-Session Report    Upon final adjournment, the Partnership’s Public Policy Division will send one final update with a link to a comprehensive end-of-session report.  The overview of outcomes will provide insight into key policy issues facing the greater Houston region and how the Partnership advocated for these priority areas during the 88th Legislative Session. We look forward to sharing our work with you.    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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Public Policy

HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 17

This week, economic development incentive program passes the House, curriculum bill moves forward, higher-education funding and court bills in positive positions in the legislative process, and a critical CCUS bill loses momentum. Economic development bill passes the House The Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved House Bill 5 by Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), which establishes a statewide economic development program so Texas can remain competitive in today’s global market. Why it matters: The Chapter 313 economic development incentives expired late last year after the legislature failed to extend the program during the 87th session. This raised concerns about how Texas could remain competitive in recruiting new businesses to our state. Last year, Texas competed against other states for large-scale, capital-intensive projects that went elsewhere due, in some part, to incentive packages offered by other states. “We’re no longer competing with [other] states and nations. We’re competing worldwide…This is basically going to be an economic development tool to continue to attract investments to Texas,” Hunter said. Houston in Focus: 23 Houston-area Representatives voted in favor of House Bill 5, with 16 out of 36 Representatives of the Houston delegation also signing on as co-authors of the bill. House members in opposition to House Bill 5 expressed concern about the bill’s exclusion of renewable energy projects, while others had ideological issues with incentive programs altogether. The bill’s current version includes battery storage projects “regardless of the power source.” What’s next: The Partnership appreciates the flurry of support for House Bill 5 posted on social media this week. After passage by the House, the bill heads to the Senate for committee consideration. K-12 curriculum bill advances to the Senate    This week, House Bill 1605 by Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), which helps ensure students in Texas’ K-12 public schools are receiving rigorous and on-grade-level instructional materials, passed the House. This bill encourages districts to adopt high-quality instructional materials by providing the following: $467 million to school districts at the rate of a $40 allotment per student for districts choosing to use any State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency-approved curricular resource. $24 million to school districts at the rate of a $20 allotment per student for printing online materials. $100 million in grants to school districts for teacher support and training. Go deeper and explore the Texas Tribune’s Texas Schools database to learn more about the academic performance and college readiness of the state’s 1,207 districts and 8,966 public schools. What’s next: House Bill 1605 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education. Since the Senate has already passed its companion bill, Senate Bill 2565, we can expect the item to be heard quickly in committee and receive a favorable vote on the Senate floor. New university endowment bill moves forward in the Senate On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Finance heard House Bill 1595 and House Joint Resolution 3 by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). The bill and resolution would establish the Texas University Fund (TUF), a $3.4 billion research endowment supporting four Texas universities, including the University of Houston. This significant investment in the state’s public higher education system provides UH with the funding it needs to compete for federal and private research opportunities, attract world-class professors and students, and strengthen talent pipelines. The fund also provides long-term financial certainty, allowing forward-thinking projects and investments. Houston in Focus: If passed, the University of Houston could receive as much as $100 million annually to boost its research capabilities.  What’s next: With broad support from the Senate Finance Committee, the proposals are expected to continue to advance through the legislative process.  Harris county criminal courts and business courts bill advance  Adding New Harris County Criminal Courts This week, House Bill 3474, by Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the state’s omnibus courts bill, passed the House. The bill establishes six new criminal courts for Harris County. The additional criminal courts were approved by Harris County Commissioners Court in an effort to add capacity in the county’s criminal justice system to address its high felony case backlog. What’s next: The bill is expected to move through the Senate smoothly in the coming weeks. Once passed, the first three courts will be set up on October 1 to align with the County’s budget, and the Governor will appoint the new judges who will sit until the next election. The additional three courts will be up and running the following fall. Business Courts This week, House Bill 19 by Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction), which would create a specialized court system for business cases, passed the House. The bill would transform the state’s current judicial process and provide relief to the district court systems by “removing” action on certain business disputes and referring those cases to the newly established business court. Go deeper: Read the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence's recommendation to implement business specialty courts in its December 2022 Interim Report. Statewide CCUS regulatory Bill Won't Cross the finish line This week, the Senate passed the gutted version of the statewide carbon capture (CCUS) regulatory bill, Senate Bill 2107 by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), with a vote of 29 Yeas to 2 Nays. However, the House is unlikely to hear the bill in committee.  Why it matters: As filed, the 22-page bill aimed to establish a regulatory CCUS framework clarifying pore space ownership, mineral estate protection, liability, long-term stewardship, and integration. These elements are critical for Texas to compete in the trillion-dollar global carbon storage industry against the 12 other states that have adopted similar legislation. What’s next: The uncompromising attitude among opposition groups and lack of understanding on a complex topic suggests supporters of this legislation will have to regroup and determine a new strategy going forward.  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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