December 5, 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.
On November 20, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the State Disaster Declaration for Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. All Texas counties declared disaster areas will continue to be eligible for assistance as they recover and rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. There are currently 60 counties included in the state disaster declaration. Gov. Abbott said, "The most important message I want to send to the victims of this storm is that they are not alone as they continue to recover from this storm. While we still have a long way to go to return to a new normal, I have no doubt that Texas will eventually emerge from this disaster stronger than ever before."
State Disaster Declarations must be renewed every 30 days for assistance to remain available. Governor Abbott has indicated that he will continue to renew them as they are needed throughout the recovery process. CLICK HERE for the list of counties currently declared disaster areas.  
On November 29, Comptroller Glen Hegar announced the transfer of $1.47 billion into the State Highway Fund and the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund). Each fund received more than $734 million or 50% of the total transfer. Comptroller Hegar said, "The Rainy Day Fund is an important tool for our state because it allows us to maintain solid fiscal footing even during unforeseen circumstances, such as those our state encountered during Harvey. The governor and legislature will determine how best to use this important asset, but I think all Texans are glad this tool is in place. Similarly, the transfer into the State Highway Fund will continue to allow the state to address growing transportation needs to keep our economic engine running smoothly."  
The transfer amounts are based on oil production and natural gas production tax revenue in excess of 1987 collections. If either tax is greater than the 1987 threshold, an amount equal to 75% of the excess is transferred. In November 2014, a constitutional amendment was passed allocating at least half of these severance taxes to the Economic Stabilization Fund and the remainder to the State Highway Fund for use on non-toll highway construction, maintenance and right-of-way acquisition. The new balance after this transfer in the Economic Stabilization Fund is $10.98 billion. 
On November 14, Governor Abbott appointed Arthur D'Andrea to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for a term set to expire September 1, 2023. The PUC regulates the state's electric, telecommunication, and water and sewer utilities, implements respective legislation, and offers customer assistance in resolving consumer complaints.
On November 1, Governor Abbott announced that Ernst & Young LLP has chosen San Antonio as the location of a new client service delivery center for its Financial Services Organization. EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services with firms in approximately 150 countries around the world and more than 40,000 employees across the United States. The new client service delivery center will include a capital investment of up to $10.5 million and the creation of 600 new jobs in San Antonio, Texas. A Texas Enterprise Fund grant offer of $2,625,000 has been extended to Ernst & Young.  
Gov. Abbott said, "The business climate we've created in Texas encourages successful companies like Ernst & Young to choose the Lone Star State for growth and expansion opportunities. This pro-business approach isn't just good for job-creators, but provides Texas job seekers an abundance of opportunity in diverse fields. That is exactly what this announcement from Ernst & Young will provide, and I thank them for their investment in Texas and look forward to their continued success."
On November 30, Governor Abbott announced Cognizant will open a new regional technology and service delivery center in Irving, Texas, in early 2018. Cognizant is a leading Fortune 500 multinational corporation providing innovative information technology, consulting, and business process services. Cognizant has over 3,600 employees currently located in Texas, and plans to create 1,090 new jobs based out of the new facility with a capital investment of more than $8 million. A Texas Enterprise Fund grant offer of $2,105,880 has been extended to Cognizant.  
Gov. Abbott said, "Growing technology companies like Cognizant continue to seek talented and qualified individuals to become the next generation of leaders, and that is exactly what Texas provides. Texas is the best state for business because we are uniquely capable of meeting the needs of globally successful industry leaders like Cognizant. I am encouraged by Cognizant's expansion in the state, and I look forward to the continued growth of our partnership."  
The House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness met on November 15 to take invited testimony on its charge to develop and present concrete principles on long-term competitiveness and economic development issues. To begin the hearing, Chairman Byron Cook told the committee, "Although Texas has succeeded and flourished with a thriving economy for many years, this state is slipping in a direction that should be cause for concern. In July of this year, the America's Top States for Business study found that Texas had dropped to number four in the nation, the first time in 11 years that the Lone Star State finished outside of the top two spots in the country for business ranking. That should be alarming to all Texans." The committee heard invited testimony from several business leaders. CLICK HERE to read a summary of their remarks.
On November 21, Governor Abbott sent a letter to Chairman Byron Cook and the members of the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness. It started, "One of the paramount goals for all elected officials in Texas should be to ensure that our state improves its status as the best place in America to grow a business and raise a family." CLICK HERE to read the full letter.  
Gov. Abbott provided 8 suggestions for the committee to consider:  
  1. Reform Property Taxation - Texas must address the heavy burden our current property tax places on job creators and the households that purchase goods and services. Property tax changes that empower home ownership and capital investment should take precedence over budgets of taxing entities.
  2. Eliminate the Franchise Tax - The committee should recommend eliminating this maligned tax once and for all, and make clear to the business community that it will not be replaced by any other tax.
  3. Recruit, Support, and Retain Teachers and Principals - Investing in the highest quality teachers and principals, and creating a career path that rewards excellence, will benefit generations of students as they explore college and career options.
  4. Promote K-12 Innovation - Build upon the districts of innovation structure, exemplary public charter school proliferation and campus level ratings, while putting an intense focus on mastery of math and reading by 5th grade, to ensure that Texas students are actually career and college ready by the time they receive a high school diploma.
  5. Align Higher Education with 60x30 Goals - The state's long-term strategic plan for higher education - 60x30TX - has set a goal that 60% of Texas' 25- to 34-year old workforce achieves a post-secondary education credential by the year 2030. Promoting quality, completion, affordability, and cost efficiency in higher education will promote achievement, career success, and lifelong earnings.
  6. Transition Our Military - Continued implementation of Operation Welcome Home, a program launched by the Governor's Tri-Agency Workforce Commission, will ensure integration of those veterans leaving active duty into the Texas workforce in jobs that match their skills with demands of Texas employers.
  7. Pursue Broad Regulatory Reform - The state should comprehensively review outdated and unnecessary regulations from years past at the state and local level. There are simply too many obstacles to obtaining legal authorization to operate a business and engage in an occupation, and it takes too long to be granted authorization.
  8. Eliminate Barriers to Work - Burdensome occupational licensing regimes often serve to distort the free market flow of labor and artificially decrease competition. In most cases, Texans should be free to pursue the occupation of their choice without needing permission from the government. Put simply: Licenses are state-imposed barriers to work. 
On November 10, Governor Abbott appointed Charles "Chuck" Cook, Angela Farley, Jose "Joe" Gomez, and Mike Reeser to the P-TECH Advisory Council for terms at the pleasure of the Governor. The council will make recommendations to the TEA Commissioner regarding the establishment and administration of the P-TECH Program and criteria for a campus' designation as a P-TECH school.  
On November 14, Governor Abbott appointed Scott Brister, Melissa Martin, Elvira Reyna, and Todd Williams to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance for terms at the pleasure of the Governor. Additionally, the governor named Brister chair of the commission. The commission is charged with developing recommendations for the legislature on public school funding and prepare a report to deliver by the end of 2018 to the governor and legislature of recommendations to improve the public school finance system.  
On October 6, Lt. Gov. Patrick announced appointments to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance including Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor; and Senators Paul Bettencourt, Royce West, and Dr. Doug Killian, Superintendent of Pflugerville ISD. Dr. Killian will serve as a public member of the commission.  
House Speaker Joe Straus has not yet made his appointments to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. 
On November 15, Governor Abbott appointed Jarvis V. Hollingsworth, James "Dick" Nance, and Nanette Sissney to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees for terms set to expire August 31, 2023. Additionally, the Governor named Hollingsworth chair of the board. The board manages retirement and other benefits for teachers and employees of the state's public schools and institutions of higher education
Additional information can be obtained via the Senate, House, and Capitol websites:  
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