May 24 , 2019

Inside this edition of Capitol Roundup:

Bills on the Move:

3 days until end of session

Two key AGC-TBB backed bills reach final approval and head to governor's desk

State leaders announce deal on budget and reforms to school finance and property taxes

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Quote of the Week

"Our constituents elected us to be bold. And with that, I give you beer to go, baby."

-Sen. Dawn Buckingham
The comment from Sen. Buckingham (R-Lakeway) came during a debate on the floor of the Texas Senate on Wednesday when senators passed a bill that would extend the life of the  Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Buckingham successfully added an amendment to the bill that allows breweries in the state to sell canned or bottled beer for consumers to take home.
Two key industry bills pass Senate and head to governor's desk

Late Monday night, the Texas Senate approved two bills strongly supported by AGC Texas Building Branch. The votes in the Senate marked the final legislative hurdle for the legislation before the bills head to the governor's desk where they will await approval by Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Right to Repair

The first bill -  House Bill 1999 - is a measure that has been a top AGC-TBB priority for several sessions. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill on a 29-2 vote at about 12:45 a.m. Monday night. Congratulations to bill sponsors Rep. Jeff Leach and Sen. Brandon Creighton. 

HB 1999  is the "right to repair" bill that would allow those involved in  designing or constructing a public, commercial building a chance to inspect and repair alleged defects before being sued. The measure also provides that a licensed engineer complete an inspection and provide a report. The bill does not remove the right for anyone to file litigation.

Contingency Lawyers in Defect Lawsuits

The second bill - House Bill 2826 - is a measure pushed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform and heavily backed by AGC-TBB. Senators passed the bill 27-4 at about 1 a.m. Monday night. Congratulations to bill sponsors Rep. Greg Bonnen and Sen. Joan Huffman. 

HB 2826 places limits on local governments hiring contingency fee attorneys for defects. It requires local governments entering contingency fee agreements to approve the contract in an open meeting that discusses the need for obtaining the service, the terms of the contract, and qualifications of the attorney or firm, and the reasons the contract is in the best interests of the residents of the political subdivision.

Updates on other industry bills

Two other industry bills that had gained momentum after passing one chamber did not advance in the second chamber this week. Once it was clear the bills would be voted out of their respective second-chamber committees, AGC-TBB worked with the bill authors to de-draft them as amendments to other bills that remained active on the legislative calendar. However, lawmakers did not vote on those measures. Overall, these two bills garnered strong support by lawmakers and will be back next session. 

Another series of bills that were stalled this session addressed the battle over local preemption, known as the "paid sick leave" bills. These bills would have barred local governments from regulating the terms of employment for private employers. Business groups are pushing for these measures to be addressed in a special session. 

Attorney's Fees for State Breach of Contract

One of the bills - House Bill 1185 - addressed the recovery of attorney's fees when the state breaches a contract with an amount in controversy over $250,000. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Cyrier and Sen. Bryan Hughes, had received tremendous support in the House where it passed 122-13 after unanimously passing the committee stage. While the measure received a hearing in the  Senate State Affairs Committee last week, time ran out before a vote could be recorded. 

Uniform General Conditions

The other bill - Senate Bill 1297would have allowed state school districts to utilize the same uniform general conditions (UCG's) adopted by the Texas Facilities Commission. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Beverly Powell and Rep. Eddie Lucio III, had passed the Senate on a 31-0 vote. The bill unanimously passed the House  Education Committee but was ultimately stalled in the Calendars Committee before it could receive a vote on the House floor. 

Local Preemption (Paid Sick Leave) Bills

These bills would have prevented political subdivisions of the state (including local governments like cities and counties) from adopting or enforcing ordinances, rules, or regulations that would regulate a private employer's terms of employment as they relate to various issues. The bills - SB 2485, SB 2486, SB 2487, and SB 2488 - addressed rules and regulations relating to employment benefits, overtime compensation, paid sick leave, and employee criminal history. Each bill unanimously passed the committee stage in the Senate and was approved by the full Senate before stalling in the House chamber. 
"Big Three" announce agreements on a state budget and property tax, school finance reforms 

Gov. Greg Abbott, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, held a press conference Thursday to announce they have reached an agreement on property tax and school finance reforms, the top two priorities for the state leaders, collectively known as the "Big Three." The leaders also announced an agreement on a two-year state budget. 

The "Big Three" - Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen - announced Thursday that they reached a deal on the state budget and reforms to school finance and property taxes.

While bill details have yet to emerge, the state leaders provided an overview of " The Texas Plan" for school finance reform contained in House Bill 3, which is closely tied to property tax relief in Senate Bill 2. 

The plan is expected to provide $4.5 billion for education reforms, which includes a general increase in per student funding by raising the basic allotment. An additional $2 billion will provide a $4,000 average increase in teacher compensation, which includes additional incentive-based supplements. 

House Bill 3 is also expected to provide roughly $5 billion in school district property tax relief by increasing the state's share of education funding from 38 to 45 percent. The relief would come in the form an average 8-cent property tax reduction per $100 in home value in 2020 and an additional 13-cent reduction in 2021.  For the owner of a $200,000 home, the reduction amounts to a decrease of roughly $160 in 2020.

Additionally, the bill would provide future school tax relief by limiting local school property tax revenue growth to 2.5% per year unless local voters approve the increase. The bill would work in conjunction with Senate Bill 2, which would provide ongoing property tax revenue limits (3.5 percent for most taxpayers) for cities, counties, and special districts unless the increase is approved by voters.
Session Countdown: 3 days until legislature adjourns

The regular session of the 86th Legislature officially concludes on Monday. Until then, lawmakers will meet today and over the weekend to address bills still active in the legislative process. 

Bill Statistics as of May 24
(includes bills and resolutions)
  • 3,502 - passed by at least one chamber (House or Senate)
  • 578 - passed by both chambers and sent to governor's desk
  • 349 - pending on governor's desk
  • 194 - signed into law by governor
  • 11 - taking effect without governor's signature
  • 1 - vetoed by governor
There are also 81 bills - 43 from the Senate and 38 from the House - sitting in conference committees.

Remaining Deadlines
  • Friday, May 24 - Last day for House to act on Senate amendments. 
  • Saturday, May 25 - Last day for conference committee reports to be distributed.
  • Sunday, May 26 - Last day for House to adopt conference committee reports or discharge House conferees and concur in Senate amendments. Last day for Senate to concur in House amendments or adopt conference committee reports.
  • Monday, May 27 - Final day of session. 
   
May 2019
MON 27th - Last Day of 86th Legislature
 
June 2019
WED 5th - SAT 8th - Convention @ Jackson Hole, WY
 
August 2019
THU 22nd - OCA awards @ Georgetown, TX
FRI 23rd - Board meeting
 
November 2019
FRI 15th - Board meeting