March 6, 2017
DON'T MISS IT
  
COLLIN COUNTY DAYS
Info Session 2 - Wed., March 15, 7:30 AM - Join Collin County chambers of commerce, city officials, business professionals, and community leaders for the second info session featuring a Workplace Development discussion. The panel will include input from local corporations, school districts, representatives, and more. CLICK HERE for details and to register.

Collin County Days in Austin
- Network with Collin County community and business leaders during two days of speakers, meetings, and meals in Austin from March 28-29, 2017. The second block of hotel rooms is still available at the Embassy Suites. CLICK HERE to register.

CANDIDATE FORUMS
Collin College Board of Trustees Candidate Forum - April 5, 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM at the Plano Chamber office immediately following the Public Policy Committee.

Plano City Council Candidate Forum - April 11, 7:30 AM - 9:00 AM at the Plano Chamber office.

Plano Mayoral Candidate Forum - April 13, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM at the Capital One Conference Center, which will also include a Meet & Greet with all Plano City Council candidates.

Plano ISD Board of Trustees Candidate Forum - April 18, 7:30 AM - 9:00 AM at the Plano Chamber office.

PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEE
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.
NOTABLE MEETINGS
CLICK HERE to view the full list of bills the Plano Chamber is tracking.
SENATE NEWS
The Senate was in session Monday through Wednesday of last week. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, March 6 at 2 PM.

CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules. 
 
HOUSE NEWS 
The House was in session Monday-Thursday of last week. They conducted routine business on Monday and Tuesday. The House will reconvene on Monday, March 6 at 2 PM. CLICK HERE to view upcoming schedules.  
STATEWIDE NEWS 
SB 6: "BATHROOM BILL"
The Senate State Affairs Committee will meet on March 7 at 8 AM to discuss SB 6, which would require school districts, political subdivisions, and state agencies to develop a policy requiring multiple-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities to be designated for and used only by persons of the same biological sex ("biological sex" is defined as the physical condition of being male or female as stated on a person's birth certificate).
 
A private entity that leases or contracts to use a public building would not be subject to this policy. It would enhance the penalties for offenses that are committed on the premises of a bathroom or changing facility. It would also:
  • prohibit political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing an order, ordinance, or other measure that relates to the designation or use of a private entity's bathroom or changing facility or that requires or prohibits the entity from adopting a policy on the designation or use of the entity's bathroom or changing facility; and
  • prohibit a political subdivision from considering whether a private entity competing for a contract for the purchase of goods or services has adopted a policy relating to the designation or use of the entity's bathroom or changing facility.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
HOUSE ECONOMIC & SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE 
On March 2, the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee held an
organizational meeting and received invited testimony. Chair Angie Chen Button appointed a Subcommittee on Small Business chaired by Will Metcalf and with Reps. Hubert Vo, Ernest Bailes, Jeff Leach, and Lina Ortega. The committee will hear additional invited testimony at its meeting on March 9 and will start hearing bills the following week. The invited witnesses were:
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas - Keith Phillips reported that the Texas economy is shifting into second gear after the energy slowdown, but Texas is better off than other energy states. Job growth in Texas last year was below the national average for the first time in 13 years, but he predicted Texas will be back above the national average again this year. He concluded by saying that the only risk to the Texas economy would be if oil prices declined or if there was a decline in exports due to federal policy. In response to a question from Rep. Ortega, he said 38% of Texas exports go to Mexico.
  • Texas Workforce Commission - Larry Temple, Executive Director of the TWC, discussed the programs his agency administers including the unemployment insurance (UI) program and two veterans assistance programs - College Credit for Heroes and Texas Wide Open for Veterans. He also talked about the Tri-Agency Initiative and last week's rollout of the Texas Internship Challenge database matching businesses that offer paid internships with interested students. Courtney Arbour, Director of Workforce Development at the TWC reported on the 28 local workforce boards and their role in establishing local priorities and how training money is spent in their area.
  • Governor's Office of Economic Development & Tourism - Bryan Daniel, Executive Director, pointed out the many awards Texas has received for its economic climate, including the recent announcement by Site Selection Magazine that Texas won the Governor's Cup for the 5th year in a row. In the last two years (Since Gov. Abbott was elected), the office has worked with 390 business prospects and sent 142 leads to local economic development entities. 15 companies were awarded Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) grants resulting in 5,600 direct jobs, another 7,500 indirect jobs, and $656 million in capital investment. And there are 11 potential projects pending decisions. He also talked about the Enterprise Zone Program, Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, Governor's University Research Initiative, and outreach to small businesses.
  • Economic Incentives Oversight Board - Massey Villareal, Chair of the Economic Incentives Oversight Board - which was established by Angie Chen Button's HB 26 in 2015 to review and evaluate existing economic development incentives - reported that the board had its organizational meeting in Dec. and will meet again in June. He said, "Incentives play an important role in capital investment and economic growth. Texas has a model that other states try to duplicate." He said that it is important to maintain all existing incentives and his board, in addition to look at existing incentives, will look for new ways to drive economic development, particularly for small businesses.
  • Comptroller's Office - Russell Gallahan discussed his office's role in administering Chapter 313 agreements. He said the program has been popular, successful and no other state does it. It provides a 10-year property tax limitation of school district maintenance and operation taxes. Most of the projects are manufacturing and renewable energy. He also talked about the 28 local economic development corporations and Type A and Type B sales tax projects. Since their creation in 1989, they have generated $738 million for local projects.
BUDGET & FINANCES
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
The full House Appropriations Committee met on March 3 to consider budget recommendations and receive invited testimony on Articles IV (Judiciary), V (Public Safety & Criminal Justice), VI (Natural Resources), and VII (Regulatory). The subcommittees met earlier in the week.
HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE
On March 1, the House Ways & Means Committee held an organizational meeting and received invited testimony from:  
  • Ursula Parks, Director of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), discussed HB 1, which provides $221.4 billion in all funds and $108.9 in general revenue, representing a $5 billion or 2.4% increase over the current biennium.
  • Comptroller Glenn Hegar discussed his revenue estimate for the upcoming biennium. He projected the state to have approx. $104.9 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2018-19 biennium. That amount represents a 2.7% decrease from the amounts available for the 2016-17 biennium due to decreased sales tax revenue, dedication of $2.5 billion in sales tax per year going into the State Highway Fund, and a lower beginning balance, which was $7.3 billion last session compared to $1.5 billion this session.
  • Dale Craymer of Texas Taxpayers & Research Assoc. (TTARA) said that Texas is a low-tax state for individuals, but not for businesses. He provided statistics from the Council on State Taxation indicating that Texas ranks 47th among the states in terms of state and local taxes levied on individuals, 42% below the national average. While Texas' ranking for businesses is 19th among the 50 states, 4% above the national average due to Texas' heavy reliance on property and sales taxes. Texas is a high-tax state for capital-intensive industries, which is one reason that Chapter 313 tax incentives are essential.
  • Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities said that most states have a three-legged stool of taxes - sales, property, and income. Texas' tax stool only has two regressive nature of sales taxes that fall disproportionately on lower-income families. He discussed property taxes and the perception that businesses do not pay their fair share of property taxes and asked the legislature to mandate sales price disclosure for business property.
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE  
The Senate Finance Committee's Workgroups met last week in formal meetings that were not posted. On Feb. 28, the Senate Finance Committee took up:
  • SB 15 by Don Huffines and SJR 1 by Donna Campbell would exempt the homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder killed or fatally injured in the line of duty. Registering support were reps from Texas law enforcement and EMS associations. CLICK HERE for the full list. Both SB 15 and SJR 1 were reported out favorably.
  • SB 17 by Jane Nelson would phase out the franchise tax in increments in each biennium the estimated general revenue growth exceeds 5%. Senator Nelson said, "Under this bill, as the economy grows so does tax relief. This bill keeps Texas on the path to responsibly eliminating the franchise tax while ensuring we can meet our needs."
    • Testifying in support and opposition were representatives from organizations across Texas. CLICK HERE for the full list. It was voted out favorably as substituted.
  • SB 142 by Van Taylor would allow a deduction of the federal COGS as an option under the franchise tax. In support were reps from Texas Public Policy Foundation, NFIB-Texas, and Texas Assoc. of Builders. Dick Lavine of CPPP registered opposition. It was left pending.
  • SB 518 by Borris Miles would provide a franchise tax credit of $1,000 per intern for businesses completing an internship program. It was left pending.
  • SB 532 by Jane Nelson would direct the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to assess each state agency's Information Technology (IT) security including identification of vendors that operate and manage the agency's information technology infrastructure. It would require agencies to consider cloud storage options, including any cost savings associated with purchasing those services from a commercial cloud computing service provider or a statewide technology center established by the department for their data storage needs. And, it would require DIR to produce a report on state agency use of commercial cloud services along with the cost savings. CLICK HERE for Sen. Nelson's remarks.
    • There were no witnesses, but James LeBas of Rackspace Hosting and Justin Yancy of Texas Business Leadership Council registered support. Ray Sullivan provided written testimony in support on behalf of Dustin Brighton and the Internet Association. It was voted out favorably as substituted.
  • SB 550 by Donna Campbell would establish a franchise tax credit or insurance premium tax credit for rehabilitation of a certified historic structure. Registering support were reps from Ryan, LLC and Preservation Austin. It was reported out favorably.
  • SB 575 by Charles Schwertner would increase the small business franchise tax deduction from $1 million to $4 million. Will Newton of NFIB-Texas testified in support. Speaking in opposition were Dale Craymer of TTARA and James LeBas on behalf of Texas Chemical Council. Registering support were 5 statewide associations. Registering in opposition were 7 statewide organizations. CLICK HERE for the full list. It was left pending.
On March 6, the Senate Finance Committee will meet to take up the following bills:  
  • SB 132 by Brandon Creighton would allow state agencies to retain one-half (instead of one-fourth) of the amount of general revenue saved under the Savings Incentive Program and would remove the 1% cap on the amount subject to retention.
  • SB 135 by Van Taylor would require state agencies to provide a prioritized budget request that reduces spending by 1%, 5%, and 10%.
  • SB 200 by Donna Campbell would require the comptroller to establish the Political Subdivision Public Information Warehouse website containing information regarding all active political subdivisions authorized by law to impose an ad valorem or sales tax or to issue bonds, notes, or other obligations.
  • SB 594 by Creighton would require the comptroller (instead of a committee comprised of the governor, comptroller, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, and land commissioner) approve the manuals related to appraisal of open-space land qualified for timber.
PUBLIC EDUCATION
On Feb. 28, the House Public Education Committee heard invited testimony on issues related to school finance from ISDs across Texas and statewide organizations. CLICK HERE for the full list.
 
The House Public Education Committee will meet on March 7 at 2 PM to take up:
  • HB 94 by Harold Dutton would increase the basic allotment from $4,765 to $5,800.
  • HB 186 by Diego Bernal would require the TEA to study the costs of education of a student who is educationally disadvantaged and students of limited English proficiency, determine if the allotment is adequate, and if not, what an adequate allotment would be.
  • HB 223 by Donna Howard would allow compensatory education allotment funding to be used to provide child care services or assistance with child care expenses for students at risk of dropping out of school or to pay the costs associated with services provided through a life skills program for student parents.
  • HB 395 by Cecil Bell, Jr. would add advanced technology applications courses to the career and technology education allotment.
  • HB 587 by Dwayne Bohac would give technology applications courses the same weight as the career and technology education allotment under the Foundation School Program.
  • HB 811 by Ken King would extend the expiration date for Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR) from Sept. 1, 2017 to Sept. 1, 2021.
  • HB 883 by Ken King would increase the weight in the foundation school program for career and technology education program students from 1.35 to 1.6.
  • HB 1245 by Philip Cortez would allow funding for career and technology education program in the 8th grade (current law is grades 9-12).

HIGHER EDUCATION 

On March 1, the House Higher Education Committee heard invited testimony on access, affordability, and success at higher education institutions. Invited witnesses included reps from university systems across the state. CLICK HERE to read the full list.
ENERGY
On Feb. 27, the House Energy Resources Committee held an organizational meeting and received invited testimony from Pamela Bolton of the LBB. All 3 Railroad Commissioners - Wayne Christian, Christi Craddick, and Ryan Sitton also testified.
  • Commissioner Wayne Christian gave an overview of the agency's responsibilities. He said, "The Texas Railroad Commission is the oldest regulatory agency in Texas, founded 126 years ago. The agency currently has over 685 employees statewide, with nine oil and gas district offices and seven pipeline regional offices. We are charged with the development and implementation of rules for regulated industries on energy exploration and production, and we have jurisdiction over oil and natural gas exploration and production, coal and uranium surface mining operations, infrastate pipelines, natural gas utilities, and liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas."
  • Commissioner Chairman Christi Craddick talked about the commission's legislative budget request. She said, "The last biennium has presented a budget challenge for our agency. Since 2011, the Railroad Commission (RRC) has operated as mostly a fee-based agency. The oil and gas industry pays more in total fees and taxes than is appropriated to the agency to fund commission operations. But, in 2015, the market price of oil was lower than what the state has anticipated for the 2016-17 biennium appropriation. This resulted in the commission not generating anticipated revenue to fully fund its budget through the biennium. Starting in Sept. 2016, the commissioners directed staff to cut our budget by approximately $1.3 million per month on average. Despite those cuts, our revenue deficit at the end of 2016 is $16 million (a deficit of 21%). If you factor in 2017 to date, we are operating at a deficit of 23%. The Commission has had to defer implementing several critical functions, including filling staff vacancies as needed; timely replacing equipment including trucks and computers; and consolidating services and servers into the State Data Center. We do not anticipate our target revenue will be reached in the near future based on the price of oil as estimated by the comptroller's revenue projections. Without supplemental appropriation and a long-term solution to revenue uncertainty, the agency will face staff reductions, a reduction in well plugging, and an inability to maximize and implement the commission's inspection/ enforcement program. My fellow commissioners and I urge that the agency must be funded at the level necessary to carry out its mission."

ENVIRONMENT

On March 2, the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee took up SB 26 by Craig Estes, which would renew and expand the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). In support were reps of 13 businesses. Registering opposition were reps of Koch Companies and Texas Public Policy Foundation. CLICK HERE for the full list. It was voted out favorably.  


GENERAL BUSINESS

HOUSE BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COMMITTEE

On Feb. 27, the House Business & Industry Committee held an organizational meeting and to hear invited testimony. Invited witnesses included Comptroller Hegar, Chief Revenue Estimator Tom Currah, Legislative Budget Board (LBB) Director Ursula Parks, Tony Bennett of Texas Assoc. of Manufacturers, and Dale Craymer of TTARA.   

 

Craymer said, "Texas cannot take growth for granted. With the recent drop in oil and natural gas prices, Texas' economic growth has lagged the nation as a whole. Most recently, with oil and gas prices stabilizing, Texas is again growing faster than most other states, but only barely." CLICK HERE to read Craymer's full remarks and view the presentation. 

 

PAY EQUITY

On March 2, Senator Sylvia Garcia announced the filing of SB 1160 prohibiting an employer from asking about an applicant's wage history, whether through a question on an employment form or by requesting that information from a previous employer.  

 

Senator Garcia said, "Basing a compensation offer off of an applicant's previous salary has the unintended effect of recycling wage disparities, historically experienced by women and people of color, throughout a person's entire career. Academic research demonstrates that pay inequity not only negatively affects the individual, but the economy as a whole. An analysis by the Institute for Women's Policy Research showed that closing the gender wage gap would lower the poverty rates in every state. As such, SB 1160 will help every single job applicant in Texas, not just women." CLICK HERE for Garcia's full statement.  

 

PUBLIC HEALTH
On Feb. 28, the House Public Health Committee took up:
  • HB 10 by Four Price would require treatments for mental health conditions and substance use disorders to be covered by health insurance plans under the same terms and conditions as treatments for physical health conditions. In support were reps of medical organizations across the state. In opposition were Lee Spiller of Citizens Commission on Human Rights and 13 individuals. CLICK HERE for the full list. It was left pending.
  • HB 279 by Donna Howard would continue operations of the women's health advisory committee until 2019. In support were reps of medical organizations across Texas. CLICK HERE for the full list. It was left pending.
MEDICAL RESIDENCY PROGRAMS 
On Feb. 23, Senator Schwertner filed SB 1066 requiring Texas medical schools to match graduates with in-state, post-graduate medical residency programs. Schwertner said, "Everyone likes the idea of building new medical schools, but unless we have enough in-state residency programs for the medical students we graduate, all we're doing is paying to educate new doctors and then sending them off to treat patients in Louisiana, California, and New York." CLICK HERE to read full remarks.

A study by the Assoc. of American Medical Colleges found that 82% of doctors who complete their medical school and graduate medical education in Texas opt to practice in the state permanently. A similar study by the Texas Medical Association (TMA), found that these physicians are three times more likely than others to stay in-state and treat Texas patients.

TELEMEDICINE
On Feb. 27, Senator Schwertner announced the filing of SB 1107, which would provide a clear and accountable regulatory structure for the operation of telemedical services in Texas. The term "telemedicine" generally refers to healthcare service providers that utilize novel telecommunications or internet-based technology to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Schwertner said, " SB 1107 will give Texans the opportunity to access new, state-of-the-art options for their medical care, while also protecting patient safety and ensuring the accepted standard of care is maintained." CLICK HERE to read Senator Schwertner's full remarks.

SB 1107 has the support of Teledoc, TMA, Texas Assoc. of Family Physicians, and e-Health Alliance. SB 1107 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. The bill 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, laboratory results, and prescriptive history.


TRANSPORTATION
KEEP FREE LANES FREE ACT 
On Feb. 28, Senator Van Taylor and Rep. Scott Sanford announced the filing of SB 891 and HB 1311, which would prohibit the conversion of any free lanes into tolled or managed lanes. Taylor said, "Tolls are just a tax by another name. The people's tax dollars funded 'free' lanes to begin with and converting those lanes into tolls is simply government trying to orchestrate double tax." Sanford added, "Tolls are extracting an additional tax on our families and businesses. Collin County is surrounded by tolls, making us a gated community with one large transportation bill." 
 
FIXING AMERICA'S SURFACE TRANSPORTATION (FAST) ACT
On March 2, Rep. Cesar Blanco filed HB 2374 to ensure the Texas-Mexico border region receives its maximum allowed set-aside of federal transportation funds designated by federal law. The federal FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over fiscal years 2016-20 for highway & transportation programs. A provision in the legislation allows states to transfer a portion of their Surface Transportation Block Pro gram (STBG) funds to projects outlined under the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program (CBI) each year over the life of the bill. The FAST Act allows - but does not require - the governor of a border state to designate up to 5% of the State's STBG funds for border infrastructure projects eligible under the CBI Program.

HB 2374 would require Gov. Abbott to designate every fiscal year no less than 5% of Texas' State Block Grant for CBI Projects. Rep. Blanco said, "Our border region is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Ensuring our Texas border region gets its fair share of resources is critical for its economic development. Investing in our border infrastructure will not only improve local economies but will also help facilitate and expedite trade at our ports of entry for the betterment of our state economy."  
 
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
On March 2, the House Transportation Committee held an organizational meeting and received invited testimony from the Texas DMV, Texas DPS, TxDOT, and Texas Transportation Institute. 
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