February 10, 2017

This week's Capitol Roundup :
  • Gov. Greg Abbott announces 2017 emergency items
  • Senate passes measures on state ethics reform and sanctuary cities
  • Speaker Straus announces committee assignments

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Click here to access past editions of Capitol Roundup.
AGC Texas Chapters
Quote of the Week

"We ask Texans to put a lot of trust in us and believe that we as legislators are acting in their best interest. But lately, we've done a sorry job of ensuring people can both trust - and verify."

-Texas Sen. Kirk Watson

 The Democratic senator from Austin made the remark in an op-ed published last week, calling for a renewed effort in the Texas Legislature to reform ethics laws for public officials. Watson is co-author of Senate Bill 14, part of which places increased reporting requirements on lobbyist expenses.
Abbott announces emergency items, Senate passes bills on ethics and sanctuary cities

Within weeks of Gov. Greg Abbott announcing his top four legislative priorities, the Texas Senate has moved legislation on two of the top issues - state ethics reform and sanctuary cities. 

In its first major move of the 2017 session, the Senate passed an ethics reform bill that would take state pensions away from public officials convicted of felonies, require stricter reporting from lobbyists, and make retiring lawmakers wait one full legislative session before becoming lobbyists in the state.
Sen. Van Taylor

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) - Senate Bill 14 - passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the House for debate in
committee. Last session, a similar bill sponsored by Taylor in the Senate lost momentum in the last few days of session and failed. 

The bill passed the Senate in spite of heated debate over a failed amendment that would have required lobbyists to disclose spending on large events to which legislators are invited.

"I'll just tell you, I think the lobby plays a very important role in this process," Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) said in opposition to the amendment. "We cannot possibly be experts in everything. There are good lobbyists and there are bad lobbyists."
Gov. Greg Abbott
The move in the upper chamber comes just two weeks after Gov. Greg Abb ott announced his four "emergency items" in the State of the State address. Each session, the governor declares top legislative priorities for the Legislature to work on. Lawmakers are limited to passing bills only relating to those issues in the first 60 days. This year's 60th day falls on March 10.  

This session, Abbott's four emergency items are reforming Child Protective Services, banning sanctuary cities, implementing ethics reforms and passing a resolution calling for a Convention of States.  Abbott also called for action on ethics reform in 2015, along with his other emergency items last session: border security, early education, higher education research and transportation funding.

The other emergency item the Senate passed to the House was Senate Bill 4
, sponsored by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), which would would remove funding from local and state entities that refuse to enforce immigration laws or cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Sen. Charles Perry

The measure passed on a 20-10 vote along party lines, with Democrats lining up in opposition following 16 hours of committee debate. Perry pushed back against Democrats who called the proposal essentially a deportation bill. "This bill ensures that there is predictability that our laws are applied without prejudice," Perry said.

Former Gov. Rick Perry declared the issue an emergency in 2011, and lawmakers have tried ever since to approve a sanctuary city ban. More than a dozen bills have been filed this year to punish local governments that do not turn undocumented immigrants over to federal immigration officials.

Straus appoints committee chairs

Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday announced assignments to the 38 Texas House committees for the 2017 session. Committees will begin meeting and hearing testimony on legislation next week.

Straus also formed two select committees: State and Federal Power and Responsibility, and Texas Ports, Innovation & Infrastructure.

Rep. John Zerwas
Straus appointed 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats to committee chairs this session, keeping in line with years' past that have reflected overall House membership. Last session, St raus appointed 27 Republicans and 14 Democrats. 

Straus' selections include one new chair and one returning member for the House's two high-profile finance committees. 
Rep. Dennis Bonnen

  Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) returns as chair of the House Ways and Mea
ns Committee, which handles tax bills. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) will take the lead in the House Appropriations Committee, which writes the budget.

Rep. Paul Workman

AGC member and former AGC Texas Building Branch President Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin) was awarded seats on two House committees: Business & Industry and Natural Resources. 
Rep. John Cyrier

Rep. John Cyrier, an AGC member and former president of the AGC Austin Chapter, landed spots on three House committees : Agriculture & Livestock, Environmental Regulation, and House Administration.
( Click here for a full list of House committee assignments)

2017 House committee chairs:
Agriculture & Livestock King, Tracy
Appropriations : Zerwas, John
Business & Industry : Oliveira, René
Calendars : Hunter, Todd
Corrections : White, James
County Affairs : Coleman, Garnet
Criminal Jurisprudence : Moody, Joseph
Culture, Recreation & Tourism : Frullo, John
Defense & Veterans' Affairs : Gutierrez, Roland
Economic & Small Business Development : Button, Angie Chen
Elections : Laubenberg, Jodie
Energy Resources : Darby, Drew
Environmental Regulation : Pickett, Joe
General Investigating & Ethics : Davis, Sarah
Government Transparency & Operation : Elkins, Gary
Higher Education : Lozano, J. M.
Homeland Security & Public Safety : King, Phil
House Administration : Geren, Charlie
Human Services : Raymond, Richard Peña
Insurance : Phillips, Larry
International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs : Anchia, Rafael
Investments & Financial Services : Parker, Tan
Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence : Smithee, John
Juvenile Justice & Family Issues : Dutton, Jr., Harold
Land & Resource Management : Herrero, Abel
Licensing & Administrative Procedures : Kuempel, John
Local & Consent Calendars : Thompson, Senfronia
Natural Resources : Larson, Lyle
Pensions : Flynn, Dan
Public Education : Huberty, Dan
Public Health : Price, Four
Redistricting : Burkett, Cindy
Rules & Resolutions : Lucio III, Eddie
Special Purpose Districts : Murphy, Jim
State Affairs : Cook, Byron
Transportation : Morrison, Geanie
Urban Affairs : Alvarado, Carol
Ways & Means : Bonnen, Dennis

Reminder: 2017 AGC TBB Legislative Day

AGC Texas Building Branch will host its biennial Legislative Day at the Capitol on March 22. AGC TBB members will
AGC TBB members meeting with legislative staff in 2015
have an invaluable opportunity to meet and interact with legislators in their offices and network with other AGC members from across the state. An evening reception will be held March 21 for early arrivals. More details to follow. 

2016-17 AGC Texas Building Branch Calendar


10 - Last Day to File Bills (60th legislative day)
22 -  AGC TBB Legislative Day at the Capitol

21 -  AGC TBB Board Meeting - Austin

29 - Last Day of 85th Legislature

18-21 -  AGC TBB Annual Convention - Coueur d'Alene Resort, Idaho