March 27, 2017
Join the Plano Chamber of Commerce for our monthly Public Policy Committee meeting. This committee discusses legislation and issues that affect the business community. Attended by business professionals, elected officials, and key community representatives, these meetings are open to all members in good standing. CLICK HERE for more details.
  CLICK HERE to view the full list of bills the Plano Chamber is tracking.
The Senate was in session Monday-Wednesday of last week. On March 22, they recessed so there would be reading and referral of bills on Thursday, but the Senate did not transact any other business that day.

The Senate will reconvene on Monday, March 27 at 2 PM. CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules. 
The House was in session Monday-Thursday of last week. On March 20, they conducted routine business. The House will reconvene on Monday, March 27 at 2 PM. CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules.  
On March 20, the Senate passed 10 other bills, including but not limited to:
  • SB 132 by Brandon Creighton would allow state agencies to retain 1/2 (instead of 1/4) of the amount of general revenue saved under the Savings Incentive Program and would remove the 1% cap on the amount subject to retention. It passed unanimously.
  • SB 135 by Van Taylor would require state agencies to provide a prioritized budget request that reduces spending by 1%, 5%, and 10%. It passed unanimously.
  • SB 249 by Charles Schwertner would require the annual report on affordability & access that higher education institutions submit to their governing board to also be provided to the Gov. and legislature. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed unanimously.
  • SB 887 by Kel Seliger would require institutions that participate in a student loan program to provide students that receive a loan an estimate of the total amount of education loans previously received by the student, an estimate of the total payoff amount, and an estimate of the monthly repayment amount applicable to the student. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed unanimously. 
On March 21, the Senate passed 4 bills:
SB 312 by Robert Nichols, which is the sunset bill for TxDOT, passed unanimously after 3 floor amendments were adopted.
SB 2 by Paul Bettencourt, which would lower the ad valorem tax rollback rate from 8% to 5% and schedule an automatic election if a taxing jurisdiction exceeds that rate. The committee substitute and 4 floor amendments were adopted and it passed by vote of 18-12.
  • Sen. Bettencourt said, "Texas taxpayers know the truth. Property taxes are rising too fast. As appraisal values rise, tax rates do not come down enough to provide property tax relief. SB 2 will save future money for hard-pressed homeowners and business owners. ... SB 2's passage says, the plight of homeowners and business owners is recognized."
  • Texas Municipal League Executive Director Bennett Sandlin said, "The method the Senate has chosen for providing property tax relief guarantees that homeowners who qualify for the over 65 or the disabled exemption on their homes will get practically not tax cut. Anyone who calls this tax relief is really committing tax fraud. The 5% cap on city property tax increases restricts the ability of cities to fund police and fire protection, road construction, and economic development incentives. If legislators are serious about reducing property taxes for homeowners, they will throw this bill out and start addressing the real cause of high property tax which is the state's system of financing public education."
  • Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Jose Rodriguez said, "Local officials are elected to make tough decisions in the best interest of their community. Scores of them, from small Texas counties to large Texas cities, as well as their public safety leaders and financial officers, clearly told legislators that capping local discretion would hurt their ability to determine and serve community needs. Small communities cannot predict emergencies and should not be hamstrung by a legislative mandate. Further, SB 2 does nothing to address the true driver of property taxes - schools, which make up more than half of property owners' tax bills. Relief for property taxpayers will only come when the state finally fulfills its constitutional obligation to finance a public school system that meets the needs of Texas children." 
SB 17 by Jane Nelson would phase out the franchise tax in increments in each biennium the estimated general revenue growth exceeds 5%. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed by a vote of 23-7.
  • Sen. Nelson said, "There is widespread support to eliminate the franchise tax, which hinders the ability of Texas businesses to grow and prosper. As a business person who  paid this tax, I know how complicated and burdensome it can be - especially on small businesses. This legislation responsibly phases out the franchise tax while ensuring we retain the revenue necessary to meet the needs of our state. Our economy is healthier when businesses have fewer burdens and are free to grow.
  • Lt. Gov. Patrick commended Nelson and the Senate after the passage of SB 17 saying, "During the 2015 Legislative Session we reduced the franchise tax by 25% - a major cut, saving Texas businesses nearly $2.5 billion dollars. This year, despite a tighter budget, our goal is to continue to chip away at the franchise tax until it is eliminated completely."
  • Center for Public Policy Priorities Senior Fiscal Analyst Dick Lavine commented, "This short-sighted proposal would automatically lock in future revenue cuts, without regard to budget needs. The proposal would cut the rate of the franchise tax if the comptroller's biennial revenue estimate showed that general revenue related funds (available for certifying the budget) would grow by more than five percent in the next biennium. SB 17 would guarantee tight state budgets into the future, starting with a $1.1 billion reduction in franchise tax receipts for the 2020-2021 budget."
On March 22, the Senate passed 19 bills including, but not limited to:  
  • SB 29 by Creighton would prohibit governmental entities from entering into contracts for goods or services with companies that boycott Israel. It passed by a vote of 25-4.
  • SB 267 by Schwertner would authorize DSHS to issue an emergency order to suspend a hospital's license if there is reasonable cause to believe immediate danger to public health and safety exists. The committee substitute and one floor amendment were adopted and it passed unanimously.
  • SB 347 by Kirk Watson would subject regional water planning groups to open meeting and public information requests. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed unanimously.
  • SB 448 by Burton would require a chief appraiser to give notice and 60-day opportunity to respond before cancelling a deferral or abatement of taxes on the homestead of a person age 65 or older. It passed unanimously.
  • SB 559 by Kelly Hancock would clarify that a seller of utilities including a retail electric provider providing service to a customer located in a city with a population of 1,000 or more is subject to the utilities gross receipts tax even if the seller is not physically located in the market served. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed unanimously.
  • SB 679 by Hancock would authorize a chiropractor to form a health organization corporation in partnership with other licensed practitioners to perform a professional service that falls within the scope of practice of those practitioners.It passed unanimously.
  • SB 802 by Kel Seliger would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinator Board to conduct a study by Nov. 1, 2018 to identify best practices in ensuring that dual credit courses transferred to an institution of higher education for course credit, including courses offered for dual credit, apply toward a degree program at the institution. The study must evaluate existing articulation agreements that govern the transfer of course credit between institutions of higher education; and identify those institutions of higher education that are implementing best practices identified by the board. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed unanimously. 
  • SB 1009 by Charles Perry would allow groundwater conservation district to require in permit or amendment application other info for administrative completeness and reasonably related to an issue that a district is authorized to consider. It passed unanimously.
Total number of bills reported out of Senate Committees this week: 68
Total number of bills passed by the Senate this week: 34
On March 21, the House debated and gave preliminary approval to 3 bills. All 3 bills received unanimous approval on Third Reading on March 22. 
  • HB 101 by Tom Craddick would authorize the City of Midland to enter into a contract with any person to design, construct, or reconstruct a reclaimed water facility with a capacity of at least 10 million gallons per day.
  • HB 641 by Larry Phillips is the sunset bill for the Red River Boundary Commission.
  • HB 1257 by Kyle Kacal would make it a state jail felony to cause wholly or partly impairment or interruption of property used for flood control purposes or a dam. 
On March 22, the House gave preliminary approval to 5 bills.  
  • HB 268 by J.M. Lozano would allow obstruction or retaliation cases to be prosecuted in the county where the harm occurred or in the county where the threat of harm originated or was received.
  • HB 351 by Terry Canales would allow judges to consider a criminal defendant's ability to pay fines and court costs before sentencing them and allow judges to assess community services in lieu of fines or court costs. Two floor amendments were adopted and it passed to Third Reading on a voice vote.
  • HB 651 by Travis Clardy would change the election date for the Rusk County Groundwater Conservation District's board of directors to the November uniform election date.
  • HB 886 by Ken King would allow Hemphill County Underground Water Conservation District to hold its board of directors election on the May uniform election date. 
  • HB 1434 by Ron Simmons would allow informational materials and videos on driving with autism to be made publicly available inside driver's license offices to promote the "communication impediment" restriction available to drivers diagnosed with autism.
On March 23, the House gave final approval to the 5 bills that passed to Third Reading on March 22 and passed resolutions on the Congratulatory and Memorial Calendar.   
Total number of bills reported out of House Committees this week: 43  
Total number of bills passed by the House this week: 8  
On March 21, the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee took up HB 1005 by Cindy Burkett, which would prohibit state agencies from increasing professional licensing fees. CLICK HERE to read the list of those in support. There was no opposition. It was left pending. 


On March 20, the House Business & Industry Committee took up:
  • HB 285 by Roberto Alonzo and HB 475 by Ron Reynolds would increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. Texas AFL-CIO Legislative Director Rene Lara argued in support saying, "Working poor Texans need a substantial increase in the minimum wage to support their families and their communities. The era in which the $7.25 wage floor was decent money has long passed. This is an economic issue and a moral issue. Raising the Texas minimum wage as 29 states and the District of Columbia have done, would give more Texas families a fair shot at realizing their dreams. Full-time work in Texas should produce a fair day's pay." It was left pending.
  • HB 326 by Terry Canales would prohibit an employer from collecting or receiving any portion of gratuity paid to or left for a tipped employees. It was left pending.
  • HB 451 by Joe Moody would waive a governmental entity's immunity from retaliation lawsuits brought by first responders. (This would effectively overrule the Texas Supreme Court's decision in Travis Central Appraisal District v Norman as it relates to first responders.) CLICK HERE to read those in support and opposition. It was left pending.
  • HB 548 by Joe Deshotel would prohibit an employer from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history record info on an initial employment application form. It was left pending.
  • HB 577 by Paul Workman would prohibit a political subdivision from adopting an ordinance that prohibits, limits, or regulates a private employer's ability to request, consider, or take employment action based on the criminal history record info of an applicant or employee.
  • HB 840 by Lina Ortega would allow counties and municipalities to adopt a minimum wage greater than the state's minimum wage to be paid by an employer for services performed in the county or municipality. It was left pending.
  • HB 924/HJR 56 by Chris Turner would increase the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. They were left pending.
  • HB 937 by Senfronia Thompson would increase the minimum wage to the higher of $10.10 or the federal minimum wage. It was left pending.
  • HB 954 by Justin Rodriguez allow counties and municipalities to establish a local minimum wage greater than the current federal minimum of $7.25. It was left pending.
  • HB 992/HJR 57 by Amando Walle would increase the state minimum wage to $15. They were left pending.
The House Business & Industry Committee will meet March 27 to take up HB 252 by Ana Hernandez, which would require food and general retail establishments that employ at least 500 employees in Texas and at least 10 other retail establishments in other states to notify each hourly employee of the employee's scheduled work shift at least 2 weeks in advance.

On March 23, the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee took up HB 108 by Carol Alvarado, which would establish the Recruit Texas Program to support employers expanding or relocating operations in Texas with a focus on recruiting employers who will provide complex or high-skilled employment opportunities in Texas. It was left pending. 

On March 22, Gov. Abbott reappointed Ryan Brannan Commissioner of Workers' Compensation at the Texas Dept. of Insurance (TDI) for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2019. TDI's Division of Workers' Compensation regulates the workers' compensation system in Texas, ensuring injured workers receive the necessary benefits to quickly return to work, and that workers' compensation costs are kept at a reasonable level for Texas employers. Brannan has served as Commissioner of Workers' Compensation since August 2014.

On March 22, Gov. Abbott reappointed Jessica Barta to the Injured Employee Public Counsel for a term set to expire Feb. 1, 2019. The Public Counsel helps injured employees in the workers' compensation system, oversees the ombudsman program, and advocates on behalf of injured employees. Barta has served as the Injured Employee Public Counsel since October 2014. 
On March 22, the Senate Finance Committee discussed and unanimously voted out a substitute for SB 1, the general appropriations bill. The committee substitute appropriates $106.3b in general revenue, up from $103.6b in the filed bill. The difference is made up from delaying the $2.5b transfer of sales tax revenue to state highway fund from Aug. 2019 to Sept. 2019 (into the next biennium).
  • Chairman Nelson said, "This budget remains a work in progress, but we will continue our work to make the most of every dollar, meet our priority needs and keep Texas moving in the right direction. This committee left no stone unturned looking for savings, examining our budget drivers and looking for ways to make smarter use of our limited resources. CSSB 1 establishes a $106.3 billion budget for fiscal years 2018-19, which is well within the state's population growth times inflation and the spending limit."
  • Lt. Gov. Patrick said, "This budget fully funds K-12 education and actually increases spending on health care, including Child Protective Services - our two top budget drivers - without raising taxes or using the Rainy Day Fund. The Finance Committee has worked many long days and nights for several weeks to ensure that we have a budget that maximizes our resources in these lean times and reflects our conservative principles."
  • On March 20, Comptroller Hegar sent a letter to Nelson, writing, "If the estimated $2.2 billion in sales tax collections in fiscal 2018 for the highway fund were transferred in Sept. 2018 and the $2.5 billion in fiscal 2019 sales taxes were transferred in Sept. 2019, then there would be a gain to certification of $2.5 billion for the 2018-19 biennium."
  • In response, Speaker Straus said, "I want to be clear that counting money twice in order to balance the budget is not a good idea. I'm not interested in cooking the books just to avoid a vote on the Rainy Day Fund. I don't want to put our comptroller in the position of having to do some ridiculous maneuver in order to make this budget work. Gimmickry is not going to get us out of here this time. This is the Texas Legislature. We are not Enron."



  • Continues the current funding formulas for public education;
  • Adds $2.65b to cover student enrollment growth, which is projected to be more than 80,000 per year over the next two years;
  • Provides $65m for a public-private partnership to ensure high quality pre-k throughout Texas;
  • Includes $25m for E-Rate, a program to bring broadband infrastructure to Texas schools lacking those services;
  • Includes $5m for Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a program designed to help students pursue careers in technology;
  • Adds $316m to fund SB 788 by Huffman to mitigate Teacher Retirement System shortfall;
  • Increases financial aid for public institutions of higher education, including an extra $45m for TEXAS Grant funding;
  • Replaces special items with $700m in extra formula funding to ensure that at least 90% of higher education institution's FY 16-17 formula & special items are funded; and
  • Increases Graduate Medical Education funding by $44.1m with the goal of ensuring that residency slots are available for Texas medical school graduates.


  • Provides $3.4m for CPS, increase of $430m over FY 16-17 levels including: $180m increase to continue pay raises and 828 additional caseworkers and support staff approved over the interim; $116m to strengthen foster care capacity by increasing rates and expanding community-based foster care to 4 more regions;  and $55m to hire 386 new conservatorship caseworkers to reduce caseloads;
  • Provides an extra $15m in child abuse prevention funding to maintain programs & services;
  • Allows the DFPS to allocate $3m to address youth homelessness and human trafficking;
  • Provides a $780m commitment for new construction and significant repairs to the state hospital system, plus $145m for other critical life and safety capital needs at state hospitals and state supported living centers;
  • Adds $244m for mental health services in Article II, including: $63m to eliminate waitlists for community mental health services; $44m to maintain indigent behavioral health services to former clients of NorthSTAR; $10m to maintain funding for current purchased psychiatric hospital beds; and $35m to maintain state hospital service levels and increase maximum security capacity;
  • Provides $20m for Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a grant program to assist veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues;
  • Adds $18.2m for additional 276 Home & Community-based Services waiver slots for foster children aging out of the system;
  • Increases funding for Medicaid to provide caseload growth at FY 18 levels and assumes over $400m in cost containment initiatives; and
  • Maintains funding for women's health programs at current appropriated levels, $31m increase over current spending levels, and requires additional program reporting requirements


  • Dedicates approx. $5b for transportation in accordance with Proposition 7;
  • Adds $44.9m to Railroad Commission to maintain current operational stability and increase pipeline safety;
  • Provides $46.2m to fund preservation and updates to the Alamo;
  • Includes $40m to support infrastructure projects at Texas ports;
  • Maintains veterans' services at current levels;
  • Increases funding for the Commission on Jail Standards to improve the safety of local jails;
  • Provides additional resources to DPS to prevent crimes against children;
  • Fully funds the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute;
  • Maintains the $800m for border security approved last session;
  • Includes $25m for high caliber bullet-proof vests to protect Texas peace officers;
  • Increases Crimestoppers funding by $4m;
  • Adds $6.3m to strengthen oversight of guardianship;
  • Directs Dept. of Information Resources (DIR) to study Texas' vulnerability to cyberattacks;
  • Fully funds behavioral health peer assistance programs at the dental, pharmacy, nursing, and veterinary boards; and
  • Fully funds the prescription monitoring program at the Board of Pharmacy.

Long-Term Financial Obligations - On March 21, Comptroller Hegar released a special edition of Fiscal Notes highlighting long-term financial obligations facing Texas state government. Prior to the 2017 session, Hegar sent a letter to lawmakers outlining some of these obligations which, if left unaddressed, could negatively impact the state's credit rating and limit the amount of revenue available for general spending. The report examines 4 of these obligations:  

  • state employee pension funding;
  • the TRS-Care program, which provides health care coverage for retired public school employees and their dependents;
  • the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan; and
  • deferred maintenance projects for state buildings.

Comptroller Hegar said, "As a former legislator, I know too well the difficulties associated with the budgeting process, as lawmakers attempt to reconcile thousands of competing needs. Hopefully this report will be helpful as the Legislature works to put the finishing touches on the 2018-19 biennial budget. Although all of the issues discussed in this report cannot be addressed this session, it is important that Texas continues to take positive steps in each legislative session to address our long-term obligations."


The Senate Finance Committee will meet March 27 to take up:  

  • SB 9 by Kelly Hancock, which would base the Constitutional spending limit on population growth and inflation.
  • SB 275 by Kirk Watson would allow a 501(c)(3) organization to retain 50% of the state portion of the sales taxes it collects (if it has sales of at least $1m per year) to provide job training and placement services to persons with disability or other barrier to employment, including low educational attainment, criminal record, homelessness, and veteran status.
  • SB 533 by Jane Nelson would strengthen oversight of state contracting. Specifically:
    • Give Gov., Lt. Gov., and Speaker more oversight of major info resources projects;
    • Add the Comptroller to the Quality Assurance Team (QAT);
    • Require agencies to submit to the QAT a technical architectural assessment for major IT projects and contracts;
    • Require agency project delivery frameworks to be recognized as a best practice for major information resource projects and contracts;
    • Increase the cap on cooperative IT contracts from $1m to $5m;
    • Clarify that agencies may communicate with the private sector;
    • Lower the threshold for Contract Oversight Team review from $10m to $5m; and
    • Bring contract oversight to Regional Education Service Centers.
  • SB 624 by Van Taylor would provide that the interest rate on tax refunds would be the same as the interest rate on delinquencies.
  • SB 745 by Lois Kolkhorst would clarify that temporary employment services are exempt from the sales tax, and would establish that an employee of a temporary employment service is under the supervision of an employer if the employer has the sole right to direct and control the employee as necessary to conduct the employer's business or to comply with any licensing, statutory, or regulatory requirement applicable to the employer.
  • SB 1539 by Kirk Watson is the sales tax cleanup bill.
The Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee will meet March 27 to take up:
  • SB 460 by Eddie Lucio, Jr. would prohibit a political subdivision from issuing general obligation bonds to purchase, improve, or construct improvements or purchase personal property if the projected useful life of the improvements or property ends before the maturity date of the bonds.
  • SB 461 by Lucio would standardize the information that a political subdivision must include in ballot proposition for the issuance of bonds including requiring notice to contact total outstanding bond debt, amount to be authorized, amount of taxes imposed and increased.
The House Appropriations Committee had a meeting scheduled for March 23 to take up HB 2, the supplemental appropriations bill, but the meeting was canceled.

On March 22, the House Ways & Means Committee took up:
  • HB 390 by Donna Howard and HB 486 by VanDeaver would allow a school district that has held a successful tax ratification election (TRE) a 10-year window to lower its maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate and then to subsequently raise it back up without holding another TRE. They were left pending.
  • HB 589 by Dwayne Bohac would increase the maximum amount of items purchased tax-free during back to school sales tax holiday from $100 to $200 and would add e-readers & tablets to list of items eligible to purchase tax free during the holiday. It was left pending.
  • HB 595 by Paul Workman would provide a franchise tax credit of $1,000 per intern for businesses completing an internship program. It was left pending.
  • HB 1351 by John Wray would add compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas to the list of fuels taxed as motor fuels that cannot be subjected to additional state or local taxes. It was left pending.
  • HB 1890 by Capriglione would require a tax bill from a school district subject to recapture list on the tax bill the percentage of taxes to make recapture payments. It was left pending.
On March 21, the Senate Education Committee took up SB 3 by Larry Taylor, which would establish an education savings account program with funds to use for educational expenses including tuition, fees, textbooks, instructional materials, or tutoring. Payments per student would be 60% of state average expenditure per student if the family's income exceeds 200% of guidelines for free or reduced-price lunch program. For lower income families, payment would be 75% of state average. It would allow an insurance premium tax credit for companies contributing to Certified Educational Assistance Organization for scholarships and assistance for qualifying educational expenses to students who demonstrate greatest financial and academic need. To qualify. a student must be in foster care, institutional care, or household income under 100% of income guidelines necessary to qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunch program and must have attended public school during the entire preceding academic year. After 8 hours of testimony and 150 witnesses, it was left pending on March 21. On March 23, the committee met and voted it out favorably as substituted by a vote of 7-3.

Also on March 21, the House Public Education Committee took up:
  • HB 22 by Dan Huberty is a public school accountability reform bill. It was left pending.
  • HB 61 by Ryan Guillen would require the accountability system to take into account the percentage of students formerly receiving special education services who achieved satisfactory academic performance on assessment instruments administered in grades 3-8. It was left pending.
  • HB 79 by Guillen would prohibit a limitation on percentage of students in special education programs and allows alternative assessment instruments for students in special education programs. It was left pending.
  • HB 145 by Harold Dutton would require school districts that include at least 1,000 African American males in district's enrollment to receive performance ratings for the district and campuses to be based only on performance of African American males. It was left pending.
  • HB 515 by Gary VanDeaver would eliminate state-required assessments and end-of-course exams that are not required by federal law. It was left pending.
  • HB 546 by Joe Deshotel would eliminate state-required assessments that are not required by federal law. It was left pending.
  • HB 657 by Diego Bernal would allow a special education student to be promoted to the next grade level if the student made sufficient progress in the measurable academic goals identified in the student's individualized education program. It was left pending.
  • HB 795 by Jarvis Johnson would provide that in cases where there is a challenge made to an academic performance or financial accountability rating or determination, the committee appointed by commissioner to review challenges would be required to review it regardless of issues identified and the commissioner would be prohibited from limiting a challenge relating to a data or calculation error or inaccuracy attributable to the school district, even if the challenge demonstrates the data or calculation error or inaccuracy caused the district or school to have a lower academic or financial accountability rating. It was left pending.
  • HB 988 by Mary Gonzalez would require the Commissioner of Education to establish a Portfolio Assessment Pilot Program to assess students in grades 3 through 8 and use student performance under that method as a percentage of a student's overall performance on assessment instruments in addition to the student's performance on required assessments. It was left pending.
  • HB 989 by Mary Gonzalez would require the Commissioner of Education to establish a Portfolio Assessment Pilot Program to assess students in secondary grades and use student performance under that method as a percentage of a student's overall performance on assessment instruments in addition to the student's performance on required assessments. It was left pending.
  • HB 1057 by Senfronia Thompson would add the following to the indicators of achievement under the school accountability system. It was left pending.
    • international baccalaureate courses, the percentage of students,
    • the percentage of students who have received credit by examination,
    • the percentage of students who have been promoted to higher grade levels than the grade levels to which the students would ordinarily be assigned,
    • the percentage of students who have earned a diploma after not more than 3 years of high school attendance, and
    • the percentage of students in grades 7 and 8 who complete a pre-advanced placement course or pre-international baccalaureate course.
  • HB 1336 by Jeff Leach would require school districts' annual financial management reports to include a description of the district's total expenses related to administering a required assessment instrument. It was left pending.
  • HB 3104 by Gary VanDeaver would require a Job Corps diploma program to provide for the evaluation of student achievement in writing consistent with the requirements for school districts; and would make a Job Corps diploma program student eligible for a diploma if the student demonstrates performance that indicates that the student has successfully achieved the essential knowledge and skills required for graduation. It was left pending.
  • HB 3607 by Ken King would eliminate end-of-course exams. It was left pending.
  • HB 3828 by Dan Huberty would require Commissioner of Education to approve or reject the turnaround plan submitted for a campus by June 15 of each year and if rejected, state the reasons. It was left pending.
On March 22, the Senate Higher Education Committee took up:
  • SB 19 by Kel Seliger would freeze tuition and fees at Texas public higher education institutions for 4 years. Reps of Texas NAACP, and Texas Tech, University of North Texas, University of Houston, and University of Texas Systems testified "ON." It was left pending.
  • SB 250 by Charles Schwertner would be known as the Higher Education Accountability Restoration (HEAR) Act. It limits tuition increases to the rate of inflation (as determined by the Legislative Budget Board) without legislative approval. The same witnesses as SB 19 testified. It was left pending.
  • SB 442 by Jose Rodriguez would cap tuition at 2017-18 academic year rates. The same witnesses as SB 19 testified. It was left pending.
  • SB 543 by Kel Seliger would implement Performance Based Tuition, which would require institutions of higher education to meet performance metrics prior to increasing tuition.
  • SB 1323 by Judith Zaffirini would require universities to take into account the amount the legislature appropriates that is less than institution's core operational cost when determining resident undergraduate tuition. It was left pending.
On March 29, the House Defense & Veteran's Affairs Committee will take up HB 1117 by John Wray, which would expand eligibility for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program to include a student enrolled in an undergraduate Officer commissioning program such as the U.S. Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class (current law requires the student to be enrolled in a Reserve Officers' Training Corps program).   
On March 21, the Senate Business & Commerce Committee took up:
  • SB 1003 by Kelly Hancock would allow deregulated telecommunications companies to participate in the lifeline program. In support were reps of AT&T. In opposition was the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce. It was left pending.
  • SB 1004 by Kelly Hancock would prohibit a municipality from entering into an exclusive arrangement with a person for use of the public rights-of-way for the construction, operation, marketing, or maintenance of network nodes or node support poles. CLICK HERE to read the list of organizations and cities in support. It was left pending.
On March 22, Gov. Abbott reappointed Tonya Baer to the Office of Public Utility Counsel (OPUC) for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2019. OPUC provides professional representation to residential & small commercial utility consumers to ensure affordable and reliable utility services in the state of Texas. Tonya Baer of Austin has served as the public counsel for the OPUC since Oct. 2013.

HB 1818 by Larry Gonzales, which is the sunset bill for the Texas Railroad Commission, is on the House Major State Calendar for March 28. Proposed floor amendments to HB 1818 are due in the clerk's office by 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 27.  
On March 20, the Senate Agriculture, Water, & Rural Affairs Committee took up SB 864 by Charles Perry, which would require Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to identify any proposed alternative source of water in the notice for a water rights permit. CLICK HERE to read those in support. There was no opposition. It was reported out favorably and recommended for the Local & Uncontested Calendar. It is on Monday's Senate Intent Calendar (first placement).
On March 21, the   House Environmental Regulation Committee took up:
  • HB 1515 by Gary Ekins would extend the sunset date on the Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Program from Sept. 1, 2021 to Sept. 1, 2050. CLICK HERE to read the list of organizations in support. There was no opposition. It was left pending on Tuesday, but was reported out favorably on March 23 and recommended for the Local & Consent Calendar.
  • HB 1856 by Ken King would exempt a person that is arranging recycling from liability under the Solid Waste Disposal Act if the person would not be liable under federal law for the recyclable material. In support were the Recycling Council of Texas and Texas Chemical Council. There was not opposition. It was left pending.
  • HB 1874 by Rodney Anderson would prohibit a producer, wholesaler, or retailer of a battery from selling a battery unless the producer or stewardship organization implements a used battery stewardship program approved by TCEQ. CLICK HERE to read the list of those in support and opposition. It was left pending.
On March 22, the House Natural Resources Committee took up:  
  • HB 1083 by Mary Ann Perez would authorize water utilities to establish reduced rates for elderly customers. It was left pending.
  • HB 2005 by Lyle Larson would require the Texas Water Development Board, in consultation with groundwater conservation districts, regional water planning groups, and potential sponsors of aquifer storage and recover (ASR) projects to conduct studies of ASR projects identified in the state water plan or by interested persons; and report results of each study to regional water planning groups and interested persons. It was left pending.
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee met March 20 to take up HB 1424 by Jim Murphy, which would prohibit the operation of an unmanned aircraft over a correctional facility and over a sports venue if the unmanned aircraft is lower than 400 feet above ground level, unless it is operated by a governmental entity, law enforcement agency, or the owner or operator of the sports venue, or person under contract with the owner or operator of the sports venue. CLICK HERE to read the organizations in support and opposition. It was left pending. 
  • HB 9 by Capriglione is a cybercrime bill that would make it a 3rd degree felony for a person to intentionally interrupt or suspend access to a computer system or network without the effective consent of the owner. It would make it a Class A misdemeanor to alter data as it transmits between 2 computers in a computer network or system without effective consent of owner or introduces malware, including ransomware, in computer, computer network or computer system without consent. It would include enhance penalties for intent to defraud or harm another person. CLICK HERE to read the organizations in support. There was no opposition. It was left pending.
  • HB 1605 by Cesar Blanco would require Dept. of Information Resources (DIR) to report to the Gov. and legislature the identifying preventive and recovery efforts the state can undertake to improve cybersecurity. Registering support was Justin Yancy of Texas Business Leadership Council and one individual. There was no opposition. It was left pending. 
The House Government Transparency & Operation Committee will meet March 27 to take up:
  • HB 1116 by Kyle Kacal would repeal Section 2155.086 of the Government Code giving the Comptroller oversight over telecommunications contracts; and would abolish the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council.
  • HB 1118 by Kacal would abolish the Council on Competitive Government and transfer its functions to the Comptroller.
  • HB 1898 by Tomas Uresti would require the Texas DIR and Texas State Library & Archives Commission to study state agency digital data storage and records management practices and the associated costs.
On March 22, the House State Affairs Committee took up:
  • HB 89 by Phil King would prohibit governmental entities from entering into contracts for goods or services with companies that boycott Israel. It was left pending.
  • HB 665 by Terry Canales would prohibit the state or political subdivision from contracting for goods or services with an entity that has violated wage payment laws. It was left pending.
  • HB 1142 by Sarah Davis would be the Terror State Contracting Divestiture Act. It would prohibit a state agency, city, county, school district, special district, and the legislature from contracting with a business for goods or services, including public works projects, if that business is engaged in business operations with the Sudanese or Iranian governments, or a foreign terrorist organization designated by the U.S. State Department. It was left pending. 
On March 23, the House General Investigating & Ethics Committee took up:
  • HB 1295 by Giovanni Capriglione would require businesses that contract with a governmental entity or state agency to submit a modified disclosure of interested parties if there is any change from the interested parties previously disclosed by the next anniversary of the date the contract was signed by the state agency or governmental entity. The disclosure could be executed using the electronic signature of the authorized agent of the contracting business entity. It was left pending.
  • HB 1610 by John Kuempel would prohibit a state agency or governmental entity from entering into contract with a business entity that does not have a disclosure of interested parties on file with the Texas Ethics Commission and would require the disclosure to be submitted annually until expiration of the contract. A revised disclosure of interested parties would have to be filed within 30 days of a material change in the interested parties previously disclosed by the business entity. It was left pending.
On March 20, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee took up the sunset bill for the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners, State Board of Dental Examiners, Texas Optometry Board, and Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. They were all left pending. 


On March 21, House Public Health Committee took up:
  • HB 13 by Four Price would establish a matching grant program to support community mental health programs for individuals experiencing mental illness. It was left pending.
  • HB 63 by Sarah Davis would address oversight and conflicts of interest at the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). It was left pending.
  • HB 84 by Sarah Davis would extend the sunset review date for CPRIT from 2021 to 2023, and extend the time available for awarding cancer research and prevention grants from Aug. 31, 2020 to 2022. It was left pending.
  • HB 727 by Bobby Guerra would require home telemonitoring services provided under Medicaid to also be made available to a pediatric patient with chronic or complex medical needs, and would remove the Sept. 2019 cut-off on Medicaid reimbursement for home telemonitoring services. It was left pending.
The House Public Health Committee will meet on March 28 at 8 AM to take up:
  • HB 1787 by John Wray would clarify that declaration for mental health treatment could be legally executed after being signed by the principal and acknowledged before notary public.
  • HB 1908 by John Zerwas would raise the sale age of tobacco products in the state to 21.
  • HB 2697 by Four Price would establish a clear definition of telemedicine in state law and clarify that the same standard of care that would apply in a traditional, in-person setting also applies to telemedical services. It would allow practitioners to interact with patients through a real-time audiovisual interaction, or through an asynchronous "store and forward" process that includes clinically relevant diagnostic imagery as well as the patient's relevant medical history, lab results, and prescriptive history.
On March 21, the House Insurance Committee took up HB 1566 by John Frullo would address the practice of balance billing. CLICK HERE to read those in support. There was no opposition. It was left pending.

The House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee will meet March 28 to take up:
  • HB 497 by Matt Rinaldi would grant civil immunity to businesses that allow handguns on the premises with respect to claim that is based on the owner's or operator's failure to exercise the option to forbid the carrying of handguns on the premises by customers or employees. 
  • HB 556 by Mark Keough would provide that a person with control over the premises of a business or apartment complex who forbids entry on the premises by handgun license holder with a concealed handgun is strictly liable to a license holder who would have carried a concealed handgun onto the premises for damages for personal injury or death resulting from an occurrence on the premises in which the license holder would have been justified in using deadly force and that could have been prevented by the otherwise lawful use of a handgun by the license holder. And, it would give civil immunity to a business or apartment complex owner who allows handguns carried by a license holder for damages arising from the lawful carrying of a handgun on the premises.
  • HB 606 by Drew Springer would provide that if a business allows handgun license holders to carry, the business owner would be immune from civil liability with respect to a claim based on the person's failure to forbid the carrying of handguns on the property.
The Senate Transportation Committee will meet March 29 to take up SB 1522 by Robert Nichols, which would remove the cap of 6 members on the Aviation Advisory Committee of TxDOT.
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