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PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEE
Join the Plano Chamber of Commerce on the first Wednesday of the month from 7:30-9am for our monthly Public Policy Committee meeting. This committee discusses legislation and issues that affect the business community. Committee meetings are open to all members in good standing.
for more details.
COLLIN COUNTY DAYS
Collin County Days will be held March 26-27, 2019 at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, TX.
for more information and to reserve your hotel room.
The Plano Chamber works tirelessly to identify the issues of highest priority to our business community and to act on their behalf.
View the Legislative Priorities
for the 86th Texas Legislative Session for more details.
Commissioner of Education
- On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott reappointed Mike Morath as the State's Commissioner of Education for a term set to expire on January 16, 2023.
of Austin has served as the Commissioner of Education since January 2016. During that time, he has worked to refocus the Texas Education Agency around four key strategic priorities in support of Texas students: Recruiting, Supporting, and Retaining Teachers and Principals; Building a Foundation of Math and Reading; Connecting High School to Career and College; and Improving Low-Performing Schools. Prior to his appointment, he served on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees for more than four years, and previously was chairman of Morath Investments and president and chief operating officer of Minute Menu Systems, a company that provided information systems to help manage a federal child nutrition program. Morath received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance from George Washington University. He is married with four young children, the oldest of which is a kindergartener in Austin ISD.
The Senate was in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week conducting routine business. On Wednesday, they recessed until Friday for first reading and referral of bills to committees.
On Wednesday, the Senate adopted SR 300, which increased the Senate Higher Education Committee from seven to nine members. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick named Senators Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) and Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) to the two new slots on the committee.
The Senate will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, March 4, 2019.
The House was in session on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week conducting routine business.
The House will reconvene at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 4, 2019. Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced that this week, the House will be in session on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Wednesday, the House will take up the session's first Congratulatory and Memorial Resolutions Calendar. Friday, March 8, 2019 is the bill-filing deadline. The Chief Clerk's office will be open until 6:00 p.m. on that day to receive bill filings.
On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee took up:
by Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) would prohibit local governments from spending public money to influence or attempt to influence the outcome of legislation. Representatives of the Republican Party of Texas, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Young Conservatives of Texas, Kingwood Tea Party and Texans for Highways, and several individuals testified in support. Representatives Professional Advocacy Association of Texas, Texas Association of School Boards and the Oldham County Judge testified in opposition. It was left pending.
by Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) would require political subdivisions, regional mobility authorities, toll road authorities and transit authorities that use any public money to directly or
indirectly attempt to influence the outcome of legislation pending before the legislature to annually disclose
on a comprehensive annual financial report the total amount spent during the fiscal year and each person required to register as a lobbyist on behalf of the political subdivision or authority. Representatives of the Republican Party of Texas and Texas Public Policy Foundation testified in support. It was left pending.
Texas Two-Thirds Act
- On Monday, Senator Donna Campbell filed SB 1090 to make it harder for local governments to increase debt on the backs of Texas property owners. The Texas Two-Thirds Act would require a two-thirds vote by the electorate to pass any bond initiative funded by an increase in ad valorem property taxes. Senator Campbell said, "More local debt means higher property taxes. While local debt can be a useful tool for capital projects like infrastructure and roads, unfortunately, with increasing frequency, frivolous borrowing is taking place for water parks, extravagant downtown libraries, and for addressing long-neglected or deferred maintenance. Texans who pay property taxes bear the greatest burden of ad valorem increases that result from local governments taking on more debt. Because passage of local bonds disproportionately affects those who receive a property tax bill and can ultimately determine whether they can afford to stay in their homes, SB 1090 would require a supermajority for a political subdivision to take on additional local debt. The current threshold is a simple majority, or 50 percent. As cities borrow, they make it harder for Texans to afford their homes, and we must act to level the playing field in favor of property owners. With taxpayers on the hook, it should take more than a simple majority to approve these tax hikes."
The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Resiliency & Investment will meet on Monday, March 4, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 100 of the John H. Reagan State Office Building to discuss House budget recommendations related to information technology, cybersecurity, capital needs and CAPPS.
The House Appropriations Committee will meet on Monday, March 4, 2019 at 12:00 noon in E1.030 of the capitol extension to consider budget recommendations for Articles I (General Government), IV (Judiciary), V (Public Safety and Criminal Justice), VI (Natural Resources), VII (Business & Economic Developoment), and VIII (Regulatory).
The House Appropriations Committee will also meet on Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. in E1.030 of the capitol extension to consider budget recommendations for Articles II (Health & Human Services) and III (Education) and to take up:
by John Zerwas (R-Fulshear) is the supplemental appropriations bill. It would make reductions and offsetting increases in general revenue appropriations for the remainder of 2019; appropriates $2.4 bill for health and human services programs; and appropriates $1.9 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund for Hurricane Harvey relief.
On Monday, the House International Relations & Economic Development Committee heard invited testimony from the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office.
On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee took up:
by Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) would make public funds expended by a governmental body for a parade, concert, or other entertainment event open to the general public subject to disclosure under the open records laws. In support were representatives of Texas Public Policy Foundation and Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. It was left pending.
On Wednesday, the
House Public Health Committee took up:
HB 10 and HJR 5 by Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would establish the Texas Mental & Behavioral Health Research Institute to be funded with voter approved bonds. It would:
- increase the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists and specialized nurses across the state;
- create a telemedicine program to rapidly connect pediatricians and school health providers with trained mental health providers; and
- create a state funded Texas Mental and Behavioral Health Care Research Institute to develop cures and treatments.
In support were representatives of the University of Texas Health Science Center, National Institute of Trauma Loss in Children, Austin and Spring ISD's, Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Right to Know, Citizens Commission on Human Rights and several individuals. They were left pending.
On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee took up:
by Lina Ortega (D-El Paso) would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct a study to identify statewide and regional shortages in health professions, with an emphasis on shortages in doctoral-level training in those health professions. It was left pending.
by Matt Krause (D-Fort Worth) would eliminate default on a student loan as grounds for denial or non-renewal of an occupational license. It was left pending.
Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) would eliminate default on a student loan as grounds for denial or non-renewal of an occupational license. It was left pending.
by Tom Oliverson (R-Houston) would require electronic common admission applications to include a link to comparative gainful employment data complied by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission. In support was a representative of Texas Public Policy Foundation and two individuals. It was left pending.
by Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) would eliminate default on a student loan as grounds for denial or non-renewal of an occupational license. It was left pending.
by Ben Leman (R-Brenham) would require automatic admission to institutions of higher education for students that graduate as the valedictorian of the student's high school graduating class. The superintendent of Fayetteville ISD spoke in support. It was left pending.
Texans for Economic Growth
- On Wednesday, Texans for Economic Growth, a coalition of 50 Texas business leaders and associations dedicated to recognizing and supporting the positive impact immigrants have on the Texas economy as business owners, taxpayers, and consumers, was launched. The Coalition partnered with the Texas Business Immigration Coalition (TBIC) to release the Texas Compact on Immigration, a set of principles signed by more than 65 Texas business leaders and groups to call for smart immigration policies at the federal level as well as statewide policies that recognize the contributions immigrants make to the state. This session, Texans for Economic Growth will focus its efforts on "protecting the Texas economy from the harmful effects of anti-immigrant legislation." In particular, the Coalition will oppose efforts to increase public college and university tuition for long-term Texas resident students. Any efforts to create a new category of Texas residents who are charged out-of-state tuition will not only increase hardship on the affected students but will also harm the Texas economy. They quoted research from NAE indicating that if residency requirements were changed, it could lead to nearly $400 million in lost economic activity for Texas each year. Specifically, the research found that:
- Since HB 1403 went into effect in 2001, affidavit students have directly added tens of billions of dollars to the Texas economy. After graduating, students who benefitted from HB 1403 earned $19.7 billion more than they would have without a college degree.
- During the same time period, that increase in earnings resulted in more than $17.0 billion in additional economic activity in Texas.
- Without these new graduates, Texas could lose up to $213.6 million in wage earnings in just one year. The loss in additional wages could cost the Texas economy $184.2 million in additional spending power annually.
Texas Association of Business
CEO Jeff Moseley said, "As the State Chamber of Commerce, The Texas Association of Business represents members who employ hundreds of thousands of Texans and produce $8 billion annually in business. We support Texans for Economic Growth on their mission to support meaningful immigration reform through an economics lens that will positively affect the Texas business community and is a necessity for growing Texas' economy."
Texas Business Leadership Council
President Justin Yancy added, "As a network of Texas CEOs and senior business leaders, we support thoughtful and comprehensive solutions to tough issues like immigration reform. We were compelled to join Texans for Economic Growth and sign the Texas Compact on Immigration because we know the repeal of in-state tuition for law-abiding students would be detrimental to Texas' long-term global competitiveness. The TBLC believes it's important to provide Texas' elected leaders with this unique view of the potential economic outcomes of legislation."
The House International Relations & Economic Development Committee will meet on Monday, March 4, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. in E2.014 of the capitol extension to take up:
by James White (R-Hillister) would require high school students and their parents to receive information regarding the availability of college credit awarded by institutions of higher education to veterans and military service members for military experience, education, and training obtained during military service (the College Credit for Heroes Program).
The Senate Higher Education Committee will meet on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in E1.028 of the capitol extension for an organizational meeting.
HUMAN RESOURCES/ EMPLOYMENT
On Thursday, the Senate State Affairs Committee took up:
by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would prohibit local governmental entities from requiring any terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law relating to any form of employment leave, hiring practices, employment benefits, scheduling practices, or other terms of employment. It was voted out favorably as substituted.
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee took up:
by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would provide a salary increase for teachers. Specifically, it would:
- Establish a new Classroom Teacher Salary Allotment;
- Directs that each classroom teacher is entitled to a $5000 salary increase above their 2018-19 school year salary;
- Specify that the raise is paid for by the state;
- Clarify that it does not preclude districts from offering merit raises; and
- Ensure that districts may not use these dollars to supplant current salaries.
- Also, SB 1, the Senate's base budget, includes $3.7B for SB 3. SB 3.
It was reported out favorably as substituted. It is on the Senate Intent Calendar for Monday, March 4, 2019
Senator Jane Nelson
said, "The most important investment we can make in education is in our teachers. They are the key factor in preparing our students for success. It has been ten years since our teachers have received a pay raise from the state. Meanwhile their health care costs are going up. They are dipping into personal funds to pay for classroom items. And their overall cost of living is more expensive. We need to provide this salary increase in order to both attract and retain the very best educators for our Texas students."
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick
said, "I congratulate Senator Nelson and the Senate Finance Committee for passing out SB 3 with a 15 to 0 unanimous vote. Teachers currently receive only a third of the funding we send to our schools. That's why I first proposed an across-the-board pay raise for teachers in 2017 and why the $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers in SB 3 is my number one education priority this session. It will provide an immediate financial boost for teachers, assist in retaining good teachers, and recruit the best and the brightest to this critical profession. I will be moving this bill to the floor and out of the Senate at the earliest possible date."
Texas American Federation of Teachers
President Louis Malfaro commented, "Today we heard from numerous teachers expressing the dire need for higher pay as they face rising health-care costs and struggle to make ends meet with a salary that is $7,000 less than the national average. Our legislators also got to see other faces from the entire team that works to educate our schoolchildren - librarians, counselors, diagnosticians, and others - who supported a pay raise for teachers, but asked that their essential role be considered as well. The enormous support for the bill from senators is a welcome start in addressing the need for an overall investment of new funding for our schools. Do our teachers want a pay raise? Of course they do. But they are not going to turn their backs on the team members that are crucial to making their work successful, and they're going to be pushing for a pay raise for all school employees."
On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee took up:
by Dan Huberty (R-Katy) would require high school student athletes to receive a physical exam that includes an electrocardiogram before being allowed to participate in a sports activity. It was left pending.
by Eddie Rodriguez (D- Austin) would allow a campus turnaround plan to operate as a community school that provides strategies and programs to coordinate academic, social, and health services that reduce barriers to learning including:
- early childhood education;
- after-school and summer school academic and enrichment programs;
- college and career preparation;
- service learning opportunities including internships and community service programs;
- leadership and mentoring programs;
- activities to encourage community and parent engagement in students' education;
- health and social services for students and their families; and
- parenting classes.
It would prohibit the commissioner from ordering the closure of a campus without giving the campus the opportunity to operate as a community school. It was left pending.
by Diego Bernal (D-Sab Antonio) would require campuses in which 90 percent of the students are educationally disadvantaged, homeless, or in foster care to have at least one licensed counselor, audiologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, physician, nurse, social worker or speech language pathologist assigned to the campus; and would provide state aid to assist the district in employing the required licensed professionals. It was left pending.
by Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) would add mental health services to the list of services that a school district provides through a cooperative health care program and school-based health centers. It was left pending.
by Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would expand the permissible uses of the instructional materials and technology fund to include the salary and other expenses of an employee who is directly involved in student learning or addressing the social and emotional health of students. It was left pending.
by Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) would add mental health and the relationship between physical and mental health in the health curriculum in public schools. It was left pending.
by Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) would authorize a social worker to provide social work services to students and families in a school district. It was left pending.
by Donna Howard (D-Austin) 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 pay the costs associated with services provided through a life shills program; and would require the Commissioner of Education to adopt rules including pregnancy as a reason a student withdraws from or otherwise no longer attends public school in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). It was left pending.
by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would exclude students who have suffered a condition, injury or illness that requires substantial medical care and leaves the student unable to attend school from the dropout and completion rate calculations. It was left pending.
by Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) would require school districts to provide instructional materials to a student in printed book format if the student does not have reliable access to technology at the student's home. It would also require school districts to report to the Texas Education Agency the number of requests by parents to allow a student to take home instructional materials that were denied by the school district; and require TEA to aggregate that information annually to report to the legislature. It was left pending.
by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would prohibit money in the instructional materials and technology fund to be used to pay the expenses associated with intrastate freight and shipping; and would allow funding to be used to pay for inventory of software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials. It was left pending.
by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow money in the instructional materials and technology fund to be used to for inventory of software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials. It was left pending.
by Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would require training for school superintendents and trustees regarding sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other maltreatment of children. It was left pending.
by Alma Allen (D-Houston) would require school boards to annually certify to the Texas Education Agency that the board has established the required district- and campus-level planning and decision-making committees. It was left pending.
by Alma Allen (D-Houston) would require Texas Education Agency to develop model policies on the recess period during the school day that encourages constructive, age-appropriate outdoor playtime that maximizes the effectiveness of outdoor physical activity; and would require school districts to adopt a recess policy based on the model policies. It was left pending.
by Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) would establish procedures for a high school diploma to be issued posthumously to a student that dies while enrolled in the school district. It was left pending.
by Ken King (R-Canadian) would require the State Board of Education (SBOE) to review and revise the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to narrow the number and scope of student expectations for each subject and grade level and require less time for a demonstration of mastery. The SBOE would be required to ensure that a revision of the TEKS does not result in a need for the adoption of new instructional materials. It was left pending.
by Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) would require school districts to report to the Commissioner of Education information on the district's reliance on education service centers in complying with federal and state education laws and rules and indicate the specific federal or state education laws or rules for which compliance is the most burdensome and expensive. It was left pending.
by Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would add a course in American Sign Language completed at an elementary school to count for one credit toward an elective course for graduation. It was left pending.
Mental Health and Public Schools
- On Wednesday, State Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo) filed HB 18 and HB 19, which seek to provide impactful resources, support and other solutions to positively address the heightened mental health concerns in Texas public schools. Representative Price said, "This legislation is designed to raise the awareness of mental health in public school settings, address the needs of students with mental health challenges and provide resources and training for educators. The Texas Legislature, during the 2017 legislative session, made tremendous strides on raising the awareness and decreasing the stigma of mental health conditions. We also provided significant funding to address these concerns, which impact every Texas community and almost every Texas family. Despite significant progress, one area where we need to do more concerns children's mental health. Given that approximately ninety percent of Texas children attend public schools that is where a real and impactful nexus can be had with emphasis on early intervention."
Student Testing and Assessment Reform Act
- Also on Wednesday, Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) filed the Student Testing And Assessment Reform Act, HB 2113, which would bring reforms to the STAAR and end-of-course (EOC) assessments currently being administered by public schools in Texas. Specifically, the bill would:
- Eliminate all STAAR exams that are not federally required - including 4th and 7th grade Writing, as well as 8th grade Social Studies; and
- Remove all end-of-course exams for high school students and comply with federal reporting standards by administering post-secondary education entrance exams - including SAT, ACT, and TSI.
Representative Krause said, "It is imperative that our teachers focus on educating our students and not teaching to a test. As legislators, we need to craft a solution to eliminate the high stakes testing scheme our schools currently operate under, and I believe the Student Testing and Assessment Reform Act leads our education system down the right path."
The House Public Education Committee will meet on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment in E2.036 of the capitol extension to take up:
by Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) would eliminate the requirement for fourth and seventh grade writing assessments and eighth grade social studies assessments and the end of course exams for English II and United States history.
by Ken King (R-Canadian) would eliminate end-of-course exams and other assessments not required by federal law.
by Drew Springer (R-Muenster) would allow postsecondary readiness assessment instruments to be used by Texas Education Agency for accountability purposes and would add students who successfully complete an internship, students who are awarded an associate degree and students who satisfy performance standards on Algebra II or English III to be considered for accountability purposes.
by Dan Huberty (R-Humble) would eliminate the sunset date (September 1, 2019) on statutes authorizing the use of individual graduation committees and alternative methods to satisfy high school graduation requirements.
by Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would require school districts to administer a civics test to a student in the foundation high school program and make it a requirement for high school graduation. The civics test would consist of all of the questions on the civics test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the naturalization process.
by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would require school districts to establish an accelerated learning committee for each student who does not perform satisfactorily on the third grade mathematics or reading assessment.
On Tuesday, the Senate Property Tax Committee took up:
by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would make several changes regarding property tax appeals. It would:
- Require the comptroller to establish a Property Tax Administration Advisory Board to advise the comptroller regarding the agency's property tax responsibilities and make recommendations regarding improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the property tax system, best practices, and complaint resolution procedures.
- Require a minimum of 8 hours of training for appraisal review board (ARB) members.
- Require the comptroller to produce material for training arbitrators, make them available on-line, and establish and supervise the training program.
- Require the comptroller to prepare an ARB survey form for property owners to report on fairness and efficiency of the process and produce an annual report summarizing the surveys.
- Prohibit a person related to another ARB member from serving on an ARB.
- Move the responsibility for selecting ARB officers from the ARB to the local administrative district judge.
- Prohibit requiring more than a majority of an ARB to make a determination.
- Prohibit appraisal districts from charging for copies of information.
- Prohibit an ARB from determining a value that is higher than the value determined by the chief appraiser.
- Allow a designated agent of a property owner the same hearing postponement and scheduling authority as the owner.
- Allow an ARB to schedule hearings on all protests filed by a property owner consecutively.
- Prohibit the use of information in a hearing if the information was previously requested by the protesting party but was not provided at least 14 says before the first hearing.
- Prohibit an ARB from scheduling the first hearing on a protest on a weekday evening or a Sunday.
In support were representatives of Conference of Urban Counties, Ryan LLC, Citizens for Appraisal Reform, County Judges and Commissioners Association, Texas Association of Counties, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, Texas Association of Realtors, Dallas and Tarrant Counties, Texas Oil and Gas Association, and Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals. Texas Association of Appraisal Districts provided written testimony in opposition. It was left pending.
by Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) would restrict the eligibility of property used by an institution of higher education for ecological research to be appraised as open space that to land that has been used primarily for that purpose by the institution for five of the preceding seven years. In support were representatives of the Gillespie, Henderson, Travis and Comal County Appraisal Districts, the Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Municipal League. 13 individuals testified in opposition. Registering opposition were representatives of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, Texas Real Estate Advocacy & Defense Coalition, and an additional 13 individuals. It was left pending.
by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would repeal subsection (i) of 42.23 of the Tax Code, "Judicial Review: Scope of Review" which provides that in a court case for a valuation dispute, the court "may give preference to an employee" authorized to perform an appraisal of real estate under the Occupations Code. In support were representatives of Ryan, LLC, Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals, Texas Association of Realtors, and Citizens for Appraisal Reform. In opposition was the Travis County Commissioners Court. It was left pending.
by Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would require ballot propositions of political subdivisions that authorize bonds to clearly state the purpose of the bonds, the principal amount to be authorized the taxes sufficient to pay the principal and interest on the bonds, the aggregate amount of the outstanding principal of the previously issued bonds, and the ad valorem debt service tax rate expressed in an amount per $100 valuation of taxable property. Senator Campbell said, "Ultimately this bill is about just giving voters a clear picture of local debt and its effect on their property taxes when they are asked to vote on a bond. Placing this information on the ballot where voters are asked to approve of the bond is the most transparent place to ensure that voters can make an informed decision about the debt. According to the state's Bond Review Board fiscal year 2018 report, local governments today carry $230 billion in debt, an 18 percent increase over the last five years. About two-thirds of that is in the form of general obligation bonds, which are repaid by property taxes, and can therefore drive up property tax bills." In support were representatives of Cahnman's Musings, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Association of Realtors, and National Federation of Independent Business. In opposition were representatives of Harris and Travis Counties, Conference of Urban Counties, County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, Magnolia ISD, Texas Association of School Business Officials, Texas Association of School Boards, Texas School Alliance, Texas Association of Community Schools, Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Association of School Administrators, Fast Growth School Coalition, and It was left pending.
On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee took up:
by Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) is the House version of the property tax reform bill. It was left pending.
by Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) would authorize a county to adopt or abolish a sales tax by voter approval of up to one percent to offset a reduction in property taxes. It was left pending.
Also on Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee took up:
by Dennis Paul (R-Webster) would require state agencies and political subdivisions that have taxing authority to create a publicly accessible Internet website providing the entity's contact information, including phone, address, and email; each elected officer, each candidate for elective office, the date and location of the next election, and notice of each open meeting of the governing board. A representative of the Republican Party of Texas testified in support. It was left pending.
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee heard invited testimony from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Also on Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee took up:
by Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth) would require the Texas Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of using municipal impact fees to pay for roadway facilities that are necessary due to municipal development. It was left pending.
by Armando "Mando" Martinez (D-Weslaco) would authorize the establishment of a regional transit authority in a county that is contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico and borders Mexico. It was left pending.
- On Monday, Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) filed legislation to increase statewide funding for transportation - with some funds going to education - as well as local options for residents of large, urban counties to consider investing further in road and transit expansion. Senator Watson said "Texans need and deserve affordable, reliable transportation options for drivers, transit riders, bicyclists and pedestrians. Adding managed lanes to I-35, investing in safety and mobility improvements across the state and permitting major urban counties to increase investments in dedicated transit pathways are tools the state can and should provide our fast growth, high-congestion economic centers." The transportation bills include:
- SB 1073 would reopen two statewide debt instruments (the Texas Mobility Fund and State Highway Fund bonding authority) explicitly for the sale of a combined $4.5 billion in debt. The remaining funds would come from authorized Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) allocations and both authorized and unallocated Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) funds. The managed lanes under this scenario would be non-tolled.
- SB 1074 would authorize TxDOT or the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to contract for a comprehensive development agreement in which the private sector would fund, build, operate and maintain the project under government supervision. The managed lanes under this scenario would be tolled to provide a payback mechanism for the private sector loan.
- SB 1075 would authorize TxDOT to enter one comprehensive development agreement annually, reestablishing this tool in the Texas congestion mitigation toolbox. The managed lanes under this scenario would be tolled to provide a payback mechanism for the private sector loan.
- SB 1076 would acknowledge the unequal taxation of road users under the motor fuels tax by applying an additional registration fee to alternately fueled vehicles that avoid this tax. The rate would be set by formula based on the average tax paid by users of similar vehicle types and discounted 15 to 25 percent as a continued incentive for the purchase of low-emission vehicles.
- SB 1077 would double the state motor fuels tax. This flat, 20-cent tax has been the same rate since it was established in 1991. Revenue from one-quarter, (5 cents) of the tax would go to the permanent school fund. In Fiscal Year 2018, the state motor fuels tax raised a total of $3.67 billion - $2.76 billion for roads and $918.7 million for schools.
- SB 1078 would add counties located in the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and other multi-county regional mobility authorities, to the list of counties authorized to increase the vehicle registration fee $10 to fund transportation improvement projects through the Mobility Authority.
- SB 1080/SJR 45 would authorize an optional referendum in major urban counties to create a local option motor fuels tax for transportation improvement projects. Statewide passage of the accompanying constitutional amendment would be required to spend authorized funds on non-road, transit projects.
- Optional Local Sales Tax - The final bill in Senator Watson's transportation funding tool box would enable major urban counties, including Travis, to utilize existing authority to enact up to a 1 percent sales tax despite the 2 percent cumulative, total local-tax cap. A list of the projects to be funded must accompany the required referendum and the authorization would last only 30 years. Three-quarters of the funding would have to be used for transit and the remaining funds could be used for road improvements. The bill will be filed in the coming days.
Senator Watson concluded, "Each of these financing methods have their detractors, but there is no highway fairy, money doesn't grow on trees and we can't get something for nothing. Talk is cheap - roads are not."
Ban on Red-Light Cameras
- On Tuesday, Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) announced that he has secured 102 joint and coauthors for HB 1631, which would ban red-light cameras across Texas. Representative Stickland said, "Obtaining these coauthors is an important first step at finally banning these intrusive and unconstitutional cameras across the state and fulfilling a demand of the people. Needing only 76 votes to pass a bill out of the chamber, 102 joint and coauthors virtually guarantees HB 1631's passage through the House."
The Senate Transportation Committee will meet on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. in E1.016 of the capitol extension to take up:
by Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) would authorize a district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation to temporarily lower speed limits due to a hazardous condition.
by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would require Texas Department of Transportation to create a license plate depicting the F-35 fighter jet along with its motto "The Sound of Freedom".
by Dawn Buckingham (R-Lake Travis) would require the Texas Department of Transportation to track liquidated damages, including road user costs retained by the department associated with delayed transportation project contracts and annually allocate to each department district the district's share to be used for transportation projects in that district.
by Robert Nichols (R-Nacogdoches) would prohibit highway signs from being higher than 42 ½ feet (instead of 85 feet).
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