Inside this edition of Capitol Roundup:
Last chance: Register for Legislative Day in Austin on Feb. 25-26
Abbott and business community back legislation to block paid sick leave ordinances
Senate's property tax bill passes committee stage
Runoff election field set in race to replace Rep. Justin Rodriguez in San Antonio; Abbott sets date for HD-145 runoff
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Quote of the Week
"We have a lot of money, more than which I have ever seen in my years as an appropriator since 2007. But it's never enough money."
Rep. John Zerwas
State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) made the comment this week during an interview on a Texas Tribune podcast concerning the next Texas budget. Zerwas is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which authors the state budget published every two years.
to listen to the full interview.
Last Chance: Register for the 2019 Legislative Day in Austin!
Join us at the Capitol for Legislative Day on Feb. 25-26! All chapter members are welcome to take advantage of this unique opportunity to meet with legislators and other AGC members from across the state. Register here.
Monday, Feb. 25 - Evening reception at The Austin Club starting at 5:30 p.m. for registration and cocktail hour.
Tuesday, Feb. 26 - Legislative Day in the Capitol Extension Auditorium (Room E1:004).
Abbott backs pair of bills aimed at blocking paid sick leave ordinances
Legislation filed this week that would prevent local governments from regulating how private companies provide benefits to their employees has the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott.
The pair of bills filed Tuesday by state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) come as a response to local ordinances mandating paid sick leave, which local officials approved last year in Austin and San Antonio. The companion bills filed by Creighton and Goldman - House Bill 1654 and Senate Bill 15 -
seek to create uniform statewide employment regulations and avoid a patchwork of varying local regulations across the state.
"Paid sick leave, for a lot of businesses, is a great strategy," Abbott told members of the National Federation of Independent Business. "It can be a recruiting tool that some businesses use to attract employees to go work for them, but it should be exactly that. It should be an option chosen by the business based upon their strategy of what they want to do, as opposed to a government mandate."
The paid sick leave ordinance passed last year by the Austin City Council was set to go into effect in October; however, a Texas appeals court declared in November that the measure was unconstitutional. That ruling is currently being challenged. Meanwhile, local elected leaders in San Antonio passed a similar measure that went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, but will not be enforced until August.
Several Republican members of the Texas Legislature have expressed their opposition to the local mandates, arguing they create an inconsistent network of regulations across the state that drive up the cost of doing business and limit job growth. On the other hand, advocates claim the measures create a healthier workforce.
Business groups back the legislation filed by Creighton and Goldman because the bills would not only create a more consistent set of regulations but would also
protect existing local nondiscrimination ordinances already passed by local governments. Several similar measures were filed even before legislators convened in January, and other similar bills were filed this week by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and Reps. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) and John Kuempel (R-Seguin).
However, the governor's office has clearly endorsed the legislation filed by Creighton and Goldman, which they have named the Consistent Employment Regulations Act.
"I'm proud of legislation that's being offered up by Sen. Creighton and Rep. Goldman that would slash through regulations proposed at the local level that would slow down or hinder small businesses in the state of Texas," Abbott told the NFIB members. "These bills are critical to cutting red tape and encouraging job growth and investment in every part of Texas," he added.
Senate property tax bill advances from committee stage
The Texas Senate's key property tax reform bill -
Senate Bill 2
- was amended and passed out of committee on Thursday and could be destined for a vote in the full Senate next week.
The five-member property tax committee passed the bill this week with its four Republican members voting yes and the committee's single democrat voting present. The vote came after the committee took public comments during hearings last week where the bill received staunch opposition from local city and county officials.
The bill -
which would mandate a 2.5 percent revenue cap for school districts and local governments - has the support of the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the Texas House as the three state leaders have united on reforming the state's property tax code and revamping school finance this session. Under SB 2, which is identical to House Bill 2, in order to exceed the cap, the elected officials will have to seek voter approval. Currently, that tax cap is set at 8 percent for local governments.
On Thursday, the Senate committee took just over an hour to approve 15 amendments to the bill, most of which concerned details of the appraisal review board process. However, one substantial amendment would allow smaller jurisdictions, exempted in the original language of the bill, to opt-in to the revenue cap.
One committee member, Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), said the cap will slow the growth of property tax bills and allow the state time to increase its own share of school funding.
"We need to get back to parity. That's one of the greatest elements of Senate Bill 2, to give the state the chance to regain its portion of school finance, but that's only done if we can compress those rates that have been unsustainable at the local level," Hancock said.
Republican and Democrat advance to runoff in Texas House race for San Antonio's District 125 seat
In a typically Democratic stronghold, a Republican has advanced with a Democrat to a runoff election in the race to replace state Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).
Rodriguez gave up the seat last month when he was appointed Bexar County commissioner. The runoff election date is yet to be determined.
After all precincts reported Tuesday night, Republican Fred Rangel got 38 percent of the vote, and Democrat Ray Lopez had 19 percent, according to unofficial returns.
Rangel is a businessman and activist and received recent endorsements from top state Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Lopez is a former member of the San Antonio city council.
The third-place finisher, Coda Rayo-Garza, just missed the runoff, coming in 22 votes behind Lopez, a former member of the San Antonio City Council.
The two other Democrats in the race, Art Reyna and Steve Huerta, netted 17 percent of the vote and 6 percent, respectively.
Election date set for runoff to decide Houston's District 145 House seat
The other vacancy in the House - Houston's district 145 seat - will be filled in a runoff election on March 5,
The race will determine who will succeed former state Rep.
, who won a state Senate special election in December.
Last month, Democrats Christina Morales and Melissa Noriega
an eight-person field for the seat, receiving 36 percent and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. Morales is the president and CEO of her family's funeral home in Houston, and Noriega is a former city council member.