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87th Legislative Session

A thriving business environment that fosters economic development is critical to making Houston greater. In order to advance the Houston region, the Greater Houston Partnership supports policies that create a business environment attractive to leading global companies and skilled talent. As we approach the 2021 State Legislative Session, the Partnership will focus on this impact agenda that addresses the most pressing issues facing the business community and the Houston region. We invite you to join us in advancing these solutions and other measures to strengthen the region’s long-term growth and provide opportunity for all. Together, we make Houston greater.

Executive Priorities

Access and Energy Competitiveness will lead the Partnership's legislative agenda in 2021. Learn more about the impact these issues have on the business climate of our region and how we will focus on the elements of each during session below. 

Access

The Partnership believes all Texans should have equitable access to the institutions that power a strong, diverse economy and create true opportunity for all. The business community recognizes our responsibility to help dismantle racial inequity and systemic racism, strengthen trust within our communities, and remove barriers to inclusivity and success. The Partnership supports policies related to equitable access to education, digital connectivity and health care.

Public Education
A strong public education system is vital for the long-term prosperity of our region and state. In 2019, House Bill 3 significantly increased the state’s investment in public education and directed considerable funding toward transformational initiatives many of which were directed toward underserved student populations. It is critical to protect these programs and maintain a well-funded, accountable and equitable public education system that serves all children and strengthens our talent pipeline.
 
Higher Education
The Partnership supports policies that protect higher education funding and innovative programming options in the Houston region while increasing educational attainment rates, particularly in high-demand fields. The Partnership will also pursue policies that lead to more equitable access and attainment across the regional higher education ecosystem.

Digital Divide
All Texans should have equitable access to digital connectivity that empowers their education, employment, health care, and the economy. The Partnership supports the creation of a statewide broadband plan that addresses the unique needs of communities across the state and establishes the framework to provide every household with the broadband connectivity required in the twenty-first century. 

Health Care
The Partnership believes in building a healthier Houston region by protecting public health and improving our health care safety net. A healthier region is supported by policies that increase patient resources, secure sustainable funding and provide greater access to preventative care. 

Hermann Park Reflecting Pool crowd

 

Energy Competitiveness

The Partnership is committed to ensuring that the Houston region plays a key role in the global energy transition to a more efficient and sustainable, lower-carbon future and to accommodate global demand growth. Permitting, regulatory and energy infrastructure solutions are needed to strengthen Texas' energy competitiveness. To advance the energy transition, legislation should position the Houston region to lead the development of carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS).

Permitting
Texas’ competitive advantage depends on the state addressing permitting issues hindering private investment in the energy economy. 

Regulation
The Partnership supports legislation to strengthen regulatory certainty and attract economic development in the industry, including policies related to CCUS projects.

Energy Infrastructure
The Partnership supports policies that position the Houston region to develop technology and construct the infrastructure needed to advance the region's position as the Energy Capital of the World.

Energy Corridor

Legislative Session News

Preserving Progress on Public Education a Priority in '21

The effort to overhaul the school finance system began with the...

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Likely Texas House Speaker Candidate Emerges

All signs indicate Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has ...

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Partnership Comments on Interim Charges Impacting Houston

The Partnership weighed in on nine of these issue areas importa...

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Issues

See the Partnership's Full Legislative Agenda

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Public Policy

Future of Texas: 87th Texas Legislative Session Preview with Texas Tribune's Evan Smith

Texas Tribune CEO and co-founder Evan Smith joins the the Partnership's Future of Texas series to preview what's to come in the 87th Texas Legislative Session. The leader of the pioneering nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news organization will offer insights on what's sure to be an unprecedented legislative session due to the pandemic, a new Texas House speaker, budget crunches and redistricting. Evan Smith is the CEO and editor in chief of the Texas Tribune. Previously he spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly, stepping down in August 2009 as the magazine’s president and editor in chief. On his watch, Texas Monthly was nominated for 16 National Magazine Awards, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and twice was awarded the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He currently hosts Overheard With Evan Smith, airing on PBS stations nationally. A New York native, Smith has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Hamilton College and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Instructions for accessing virtual events will be shared one day prior to the event date. Please be sure to add info@houston.org to your approved sender's list to ensure you receive the event access link. If you have not received event access information by 10:00 a.m. on Friday, December 4th, please contact Kim Kornegay, Programs Assistant, at kkornegay@houston.org. The Future of Texas series features elected officials shaping our state's future, giving Partnership members the opportunity to engage with these leaders and hear their perspectives on our city and state's most pressing issues. 

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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

Related News

Education

Is Greater Houston Getting a Fair Cut of Higher Education Funding?

11/20/20
Colleges and universities draw funds from various sources to sustain their operations, but it’s the state funding that often receives the most attention due to the complexities of the funding formula and the percentage of the funds provided. Unique to Texas is the distinction between institutions receiving dollars from the Permanent University Fund (PUF) and the Higher Education Fund (HEF), which helps explain why we see funding disparities among public higher education institutions in Texas.   The PUF is a constitutionally established public endowment dating back to 1876, supported by land grants previously appropriated to the University of Texas (UT), plus an additional 2.1 million acres located in West Texas. The land produces two lines of income—surface and mineral. A designated percentage of the PUF income is placed into the Annual University Fund (AUF) for the support of the UT System and the Texas A&M University (TAMU) System. The UT System receives two-thirds of the AUF while the TAMU System receives the remaining one-third. The estimated value of the PUF for the 2018-19 biennium was $22.8 billion with $1.8 billion distributed to the AUF.     The HEF was later established in 1984 by constitutional amendment as a counterpart to the PUF for Texas public institutions of higher education that are ineligible for drawing down funds from the AUF. The Constitution requires annual appropriations for the HEF until the corpus reaches $2 billion dollars, at which time 10% of any investment income will be added back to the fund as part of the corpus and appropriations will cease. The estimated value of the HEF funds for the 2018-19 biennium was $787.5 million.    Both the HEF and the PUF allocation (to the AUF) may be used to acquire land; construct, equip, repair, or rehabilitate buildings; and acquire capital equipment and library books and materials. Institutions may also use a portion of their funds to make debt service payments on authorized bonds. However, income from the PUF may also be used for support and maintenance of university programs at certain institutions; whereas, HEF funds may not. There are currently 22 HEF institutions statewide, including 5 in the Houston area, compared to 5 PUF Excellence institutions and 11 PUF-Debt Service Institutions statewide.   The sheer value of the PUF, the broader acceptable uses, and the fewer number of institutions with access to the funds have created a disparity in funding for HEF institutions, including those serving the Houston region. With an eye toward ensuring Houston higher education institutions have the same advantages as all other public universities in the state, the Partnership has launched the Greater Houston HUB (Higher Education United with Business). The HUB will serve as a platform to develop a better understand of the challenges facing the institutions and the needs of the business community; to find common areas for collaboration; and build awareness to address funding disparities.    To learn more about the Greater Houston HUB, click here. Connect with the Partnership's higher education policy team, Tiffani Tatum.
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Membership

Preserving Progress on Public Education a Priority in '21 Legislative Session

11/12/20
For decades, the Texas Legislature attempted to solve the complex issues in Texas public school finance, and for decades the body failed in that attempt. The systems that the Legislature and Supreme Court managed to create were riddled with inequities and failed to adequately prioritize the improvement of student outcomes. Instead, the system continued to support mediocre achievement gains for students of color, those experiencing poverty, and students with special needs. An overview of the previous funding system can be found here.    All of this changed during the 86th Texas Legislative Session with the passage of a landmark school finance reform bill, House Bill 3. The effort to overhaul the school finance system began with the creation of a School Finance Commission. Most interested parties were skeptical that any substantial change would be spurred on by the commission and most presumed that there was a lack of enthusiasm for true reform.    Guided by the leadership of State Representative Dan Huberty, State Representative Diego Bernal, and State Senator Larry Taylor, the commission produced a wholistic report that included recommendations for increasing equity and opportunity in all Texas public schools.    In lockstep with the Commission’s report, the legislature included nearly all of the recommendations in the final version of House Bill 3. In fact, all of the Partnership's school finance reform principles were included in the final legislation. Those principles include: Weighted formula funding for low-income and English language learner students. Additional dedicated funding for early education with an emphasis on programs that increase reading proficiency by third grade. Increase pay for the best teachers and incentivize those teachers to teach in the lowest-performing schools. Equitably reduce the burden of recapture and increase the state's share of public education funding. Ultimately, this legislation not only increased funding for all school systems, but also removed outdated formula elements and specifically included formula funding for traditionally underserved student populations.    This was a huge win for Texas and every generation of student that is or will be attending a public school. Now we must ensure that the new school finance system is maintained and fully funded this coming legislative session. This is why Public School Finance continues to be one of the top policy priorities for the Greater Houston Partnership. A statement submitted by Representatives Martinez Fischer, Beckley, J. Gonzalez, Goodwin, Israel, Meza, Morales, Muñoz, Ramos, Rodriguez, and Rosel to the House Journal at the passage of House Bill 3 sums this up well. HB 3 is one of the most significant bills to come before this body, but none of its provisions will matter, none of our work will matter unless there is a plan to sustain its investments in full beyond this biennium. Those of us voting in support of HB 3 today must hold ourselves accountable for finding those revenue streams in order for the 87th Legislature to honor this financial commitment. While COVID-19 is certainly a new reality for all of us, the legislature will be forced to confront hard financial decisions over the next several sessions. The Partnership will continue to play a lead role in advocating for the preservation of the reforms that were included in HB 3 and funding our public schools in their entirety this coming legislative session. Learn more about the Partnership's efforts around public school finance. 
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Become a Member Today

Interested in joining the Partnership? Take the next step and learn how you can make an impact on Houston.

Get in touch with our team to:

  • Learn more about the Partnership's policy priorities
  • Get involved in a policy committee and meet industry peers 
  • Help shape the Partnership's policy initiatives
Taylor Landin
Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer
Public Policy
E
tlandin@houston.org
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713-844-3624
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