It’s halfway through the 86th regular legislative session – and the state’s leadership are still putting on a unified front. But there are policy divergences on property taxes and school finance that must be resolved before the end of the 140-day session.
So as the regular legislative session passes the midway point, lawmakers are going to spend a good part of the next two months working to reconcile differences over their proposed 2020-21 budgets. The next phase is expected to come this Wednesday, when the House will vote on its versions of the supplemental budget – which mostly covers leftover bills coming due – and the 2020-21 budget. Budget amendments were due to be turned in on Sunday in preparation for the debate. The Senate, meanwhile, is set to take up its proposed 2020-21 budget plan in committee Thursday. The Governor must sign a supplemental budget that’s been passed and agreed to by both houses before the end of May – or the state will run out of cash to pay health care providers and Harvey cleanup.
In economic development news, House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing on Wednesday. It was an all-day affair in which the committee heard most of the Chapter 312 and 313 legislation that has been filed this session, along with other economic development measures.
Chapter 312 extension bills heard were HB 360, HB 3143 by Murphy; and HB 2438 by Phelan. Other bills with Chapter 312 amendments heard were HB 1977 by Cole-fiscal impact statement; and HB 2799 by Sanford – various transparency measures and Chapter 313 repeal of the job waiver. The Texas Public Policy Foundation brought witnesses who opposed extension of 312.
And the Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a $1.8 billion-dollar package designed to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery and defending against future storms.
And Texas House members closed the “Enrique Iglesias loophole.” The lower chamber on Wednesday sped through its second real calendar, giving final approval to several. One was a bill that intends to force local governments to disclose payments for entertainment, to rectify a 2015 controversy when the city of McAllen refused to disclose how much it paid Iglesias, a pop singer, for a concert appearance at a Christmas parade.
Support seemed to wane a bit in the Senate for banning red light cameras as Sen. Hall substituted compromise language in a committee hearing. According to the fiscal note, if the bill was effective immediately, the state’s trauma center fund, which the cameras benefit, would lose $28 million. If implemented in September, the fund would lose $21 million. Senator Bob Hall’s substitute language would allow cities to honor current contracts. The House bill set for hearing next week.
SB 1152 By Hancock, a bill relating to the payment of fees to municipalities by telecommunications and cable or video companies, passed easily out of committee, and will probably be on the Senate floor soon.
Just to keep things from getting too serious this week, the Senate passed a bill that would prevent cities from passing ordinances banning dogs from restaurant patios as long as the pet is leashed and not allowed to sit at a table. Not to be outdone, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill declared the beginning of Lemonade Freedom Day-legislation that keeps state and local health laws from regulating children’s lemonade stands.