January 17, 2017
  • The Senate will reconvene at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.
  • The House will reconvene at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. 
CLICK HERE to view the full list of bills the Plano Chamber is tracking.   

85th Session of the Texas Legislature - The 85th session of the Texas Legislature kicked off at noon on Tuesday, January 10, 2017. As prescribed by the Constitution, the regular session of the legislature will last for 140 days. The last day of the session will be May 29, 2017. Both the Senate and House were in session on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. They gave each other the required permission to adjourn for more than three days. They took off Monday in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. state holiday and were back in session on Tuesday, January 17.

Texas Secretary of State - On January 5, Governor Greg Abbott appointed Rolando Pablos as Texas Secretary of State. The appointment followed the departure of Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, whose last day was January 4, 2017. In accepting this position, Pablos vacated his current appointment as Chair of the Texas Racing Commission. CLICK HERE for more information about Secretary Pablos and his credentials.  

Election of President Pro Tempore - The Senate unanimously elected Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) as the President Pro Tempore for the Senate. Senator Seliger will officially serve as Governor on occasions when both the Governor and Lt. Governor are out of the state.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held a press conference on January 9 announcing his intention to seek re-election as Lt. Governor in 2018. He put to rest rumors that he might run for governor in 2018 saying, "Put it in cement. I'm not in 2018 and never running against Greg Abbott for governor. He's a great governor, we make a great team."
On Tuesday, January 10, Lt. Governor Patrick gaveled in the Texas Senate. He said, "As the Capitol welcomes legislators from all over the State of Texas, I am proud to gavel in the opening of the Texas Senate for the 85th session of the Texas Legislature. Our state faces many challenges this session, but I have great confidence in the commitment of the hard-working senators of this state and the people of Texas who elected them. In all our deliberations, maintaining our conservative principles and protecting Texas values will be our top priority."

On Wednesday, January 11, the Senate adopted SR 3, the Senate rules resolution. Changes in Senate rules included: 
  • The Committee on Criminal Justice was changed from seven to nine members.
  • The name of the Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations was changed to the Committee on Veteran Affairs and Border Security and the Subcommittee on Border Security was eliminated.
  • SB 1 - 2017 Budget Proposal - "We will pass a balanced budget that will strengthen the Texas economy and assure that it retains its global competitiveness."
  • SB 2 - Property Tax Reform - "Texans pay the sixth highest property taxes in the nation and the high rates are taxing people out of their homes and hampering business growth."
  • SB 3 - School Choice - "There is broad support for legislation to ensure that every parent has the option to send their child to the school they believe is best for them."
  • SB 4 - Sanctuary Cities - "No city in Texas should be allowed to ignore the law. We will end this practice once and for all this session."
  • SB 5 - Photo Voter ID - "Nothing is more critical to our democracy than the integrity of the voting process. Photo Voter ID is essential."
  • SB 6 - Women's Privacy Act - "A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms. Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do."
  • SB 7 - Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships - "Pass the Trash" - "Legislation is needed to strengthen the reporting and training requirements, and establish appropriate penalties. Priority must be given to protecting our students at every level of the school system."
  • SB 8 - Fetal Tissue/Partial Birth Abortion - "We will continue to fight to protect the dignity and sanctity of life by increasing criminal penalties for buying or selling human fetal tissue, among other protections, and we will ban partial birth abortion in Texas."
  • SB 9 - Spending Cap - "We will continue to fight to strengthen the state spending limit so our government lives within its means."
  • SB 10 - Hailstorm Lawsuit Reform - "We will rein in the hailstorm lawsuit abuse that is damaging local economies around our state."

CLICK HERE to read Lt. Governor Patrick's top 25 priorities for the 85th Legislative Session. 

The House was convened by Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. He presided over the House until the Speaker was elected.

Election of Speaker - The first order of business after the swearing in was the Speaker of the House election. Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was unanimously elected to a record-tying fifth term as Speaker of the House. In accepting the gavel, Speaker Straus said, "What looms larger than any single bill is the set of core principles that I hope will guide our work." CLICK HERE to read his full remarks.

On Wednesday, January 11, the House spent four hours debating HR 4, the permanent House rules. Changes to House Rules included:
  • Making technical corrections to conform House committee jurisdiction lists to official names of state agencies that have changed.
  • Providing that bill authors are no longer allowed to request a bill analysis from the Texas Legislative Council; however, committees can continue to make the requests.
  • Providing that committee staff is no longer required to distribute non-Texas Legislative Council drafted bill analyses to authors at least 48 hours before the bill is laid out in committee for the first time.
  • Requiring posting of formal meetings on Senate bills.
  • Eliminating the requirement that the committee coordinator examine the feasibility of video testimony and establish procedures to permit individuals to submit testimony through an online video.
Floor amendments that were adopted included:
  • Adding "cybersecurity" to the jurisdiction of the Government Transparency and Operation Committee.
  • Requiring committees to make available to the public on the Internet any proposed committee substitute or amendment laid before the committee.
  • Requiring the House Administration Committee to ensure that an audio and video recording of the public hearings, formal meetings or work sessions of the Appropriations Committee or its subcommittees are available on the Internet in a timely manner.
  • Allowing a House member to permit a person to execute an electronic witness affirmation form from the member's capitol or district office (if practicable using available technology and available staffing).
  • Economic Strength - "We believe that our economic strength comes from a healthy and robust private sector. Our economy prospers when government stays out of the way. Low taxes and reasonable regulations - these are the Texas model. And with the 11th largest economy in the world, we know that the Texas model works. We believe that it's the private sector that creates opportunities, not the government, and certainly not the Legislature. But we can encourage economic growth by setting and acting on the right priorities. If someone wants to invest in Texas - if they want to create jobs and opportunities in this state - we should welcome them. This state should invite economic activity, not turn it away."
  • Mental Health - "With the right reforms to our mental health system, we can improve millions of lives and save millions of dollars in our jails and emergency rooms. Sensible decisions today will reduce costs in the long run."
  • Education - "Nothing will take this state further than a well-educated workforce. Great local schools are the backbone of this state and the heart of many communities. More than 5 million students attend Texas public schools, which cultivate a curiosity and a confidence that will carry those children through life. We want every campus to excel, but they need our help. Educators and this Legislature should aspire to be partners, not adversaries. Our school finance system may meet the legal definition of constitutional. But parents and taxpayers know something different. They know that the system is broken. And, they know that it's our job to fix it."
  • Child Protective Services - "We believe that children should never have to live in fear of their own parents... We've begun improving Child Protective Services, but our work is far from finished. We can all agree that protecting children is one of the state's basic and most important responsibilities. Traumatized children should not be sleeping in government office buildings because they have no safe home and no place else to go."
  • Biennial Budget Estimate - Last Monday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the state's Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), which projected the state to have approximately $104.9 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2018-19 biennium. CLICK HERE to read the specifics, including sales tax, motor vehicle taxes, Rainy Day Fund, overall state revenue, and more.
  • State Spending Cap - On January 10, Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) filed SB 9, which sets the state spending cap formula based on population growth and inflation. CLICK HERE to read more about SB 9 and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's response.
  • Texas Privacy Act - On January 5, Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced the filing of SB 6, known as the Texas Privacy Act, during a press conference. CLICK HERE to read Lt. Governor Patrick's statements. CLICK HERE to follow the bill and actions taken.
  • Texas Association of Business is coordinating Keep Texas Open for Business, which opposes SB 6. TAB President Chris Wallace called the 'Texas Privacy Act' discriminatory, anti-business, and unnecessary legislation that is "poised to have an immediate and detrimental impact on Texas' economy." CLICK HERE to read the summary. The full report can be found HERE.
  • Select Committee on Mental Health - The committee released its report and recommendations for the 85th session on January 5, 2017.
  • School Accountability System -The 84th Legislature passed HB 2804, changing the Texas school accountability system so that every campus and district receives one of five ratings from A-F. The ratings will be issued for the first time in August 2018. CLICK HERE to read the TEA's implementation indicators
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