Aug. 25, 2017

This week's Capitol Roundup :
  • Special session adjourns with plenty on table
  • Federal judge rules Texas House and Congressional districts unconstitutional
  • Thank you to our lawmakers advancing AGC Texas Building Branch's cause

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AGC Texas Chapters

Quote of the Week
"You can do what you want to do. I'm going to Italy." 
-Texas Sen. Jane Nelson
Sen. Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who is the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, made the comment on the Senate floor upon learning that the House had adjourned during the Legislature's special session this month.
Special session adjourns, Abbott says lawmakers can stay home for now

Gov. Greg Abbott's special session ended Aug. 15 when the House adjourned after a last-ditch effort to pass a property tax reform bill that failed in the Senate. Abbott has said he will not call lawmakers back to Austin for a second special session. 

During the near monthlong session, which began July 18, lawmakers managed to find compromise and pass legislation on about half of Abbott's 20-item agenda. The legislation includes:  must-pass "sunset" bills that will keep some state agencies from closing; a proposal to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud; a bill to extend the life of maternal mortality task force; reforming the municipal annexation process; limiting local ordinance regulating trees; and imposing new restrictions on abortion.

The House and Senate had been expected to compromise on a bill that would have called for voter approval of property tax increases over a certain threshold. A key point of contention, however, was whether that threshold would be a 6 percent tax increase (the House plan) or a 4 percent increase (the Senate plan). The House adjourned after passing its version, which meant the Senate could accept the House plan or gavel out with nothing, which is what happened. 

Despite Abbott calling property taxes his top priority for the special session, he did not seem fazed by its failure and has largely placed blame on House Speaker Joe Straus. "Our office believes this special session has produced a far better Texas than before," an Abbott spokesperson said after the chambers adjourned.

The so-called "bathroom bill" to regulate which restrooms some transgender Texans can use  never got a hearing in a House committee. And the two sides failed to strike a deal on two of Abbott's biggest priorities: property taxes and school finance.

The House voted just hours before adjourning to accept changes to a school finance bill that stripped out $1.5 billion in funding from the measure. "To say I'm disappointed is an understatement," House Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty said before the vote. 

Like Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also expressed pride in the Legislature's accomplishments during the special session. However, when it came to issues left on the table, Patrick blamed the House.  "Thank goodness Travis didn't have the speaker at the Alamo," Patrick said. "He would've been the first one over the wall."

Straus painted a much rosier picture, saying the House had done its job. "I'm proud of our House Members who worked diligently in the special session, passing legislation that was in the best interest of all Texans," a statement from his office said. "The House was thoughtful, respectful and decisive in its solution-oriented approach."

Though Abbott has said he currently sees no need for a second special session, there is a chance that lawmakers could be called back to tackle some form of property tax reform or to fix what a federal judge has called unconstitutional House district maps. 
Judge rules Texas House district maps unconstitutional, Abbott punts to Supremes

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Texas state officials must redraw at least nine Texas House district maps before the 2018 elections. With election filing deadlines looming, lawmakers have not yet been called to a special session to make the changes.

A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled Texas must address what it said was intentional discrimination against minorities. The violations stem from nine different House districts and could affect the configuration of districts in four counties.

The House districts flagged by the court are: 103 (Anchia), 104 (Alonzo), 105 (Anderson), 32 (Hunter), 34 (Herrero), 54 (Cosper), 55 (Shine), 90 (Romero), and 93 (Krause). They span the counties of Dallas, Nueces, Bell, and Tarrant.

The court's decision came a week after the same court also invalidated two Texas congressional districts - 27 (Farenthold) and 35 (Doggett) - and ruled that intentional discrimination against voters of color meant those districts needed to be redrawn as well. 

In both of the court's rulings, judges ordered Attorney General Ken Paxton to decide whether the Legislature would address redistricting to fix violations in the maps. Thus far, Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have said they do not intend to call lawmakers back to Austin. Instead, they will allow the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the cases.

"The judges held that maps they themselves adopted violate the law," Paxton said in a statement Thursday. "Needless to say, we will appeal."

The debacle could create a problem for lawmakers running for office in 2018, who must file for election Nov. 11, with early voting starting next February and primaries in March.
AGC Texas Building Branch thanks state legislators with ties to AGC and industry

As lawmakers head home for the year, AGC Texas Building Branch would like to extend its immense gratitude for Senate and House members that have helped advance our causes in the Texas commercial construction industry. 

Not only have these legislators fought for their issues in tough election campaigns, but they have also worked diligently throughout the 85th Texas Legislature's session that began Jan. 10, 2017. Despite the often contentious nature of the Texas Capitol, these lawmakers have remained true to their goals and have effectively collaborated with AGC-TBB on a number of issues this year and in years past.

AGC-TBB would like to especially thank the following lawmakers - all of whom will be running for re-election in 2018 - for their dedication to the industry during this session. Each of these House members has a unique connection to not only the industry, but also to AGC-TBB itself. 

Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin)
Rep. John Cyrier (R-Lockhart)

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio)
Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano)

Rep. Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco)
Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall)

Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville)

29-30 - AGC TBB Strategic Planning Meeting

3 -  AGC TBB Safety Committee Meeting - TEXO
17 - AGC TBB Board Meeting - Austin AGC Office