In a short week because of the Easter holiday, a lot of action was packed into the first few days of the week. As the Session rolls on to May, some partisan battles are cropping up, which may affect legislative cooperation during the last days of the Session.
HB 2 / SB 2
Despite reports that there were not 16 votes for SB 2, the property tax and revenue cap bill, on Monday afternoon Sen. Seliger voted with the rest of the Senate GOP to suspend and move SB 2 to the floor for a vote. The vote to suspend was along party lines, 19-12. Sen. Seliger said it would be unconscionable to invoke the nuclear option and “discredit the body.” Even though he was against the bill, he voted with other Republicans to suspend the traditional three-fifths rule, and then voted “no” on the bill. Sen. Bettencourt, SB 2 author, added a floor amendment to the bill, which puts the automatic rollback rate at 3.5%, up from 2.5% in the filed bill. It also again exempts local governments whose budgets are under $15 million (called “small taxing units”). Senate Democrats attempted a dozen amendments, and these proposed amendments mostly failed by 18-13 votes. The bill was passed by the Senate, 18-12, then sent to the House, which referred the bill to the House Ways & Means Committee. Meanwhile, the House version, HB 2, is set on the House Calendar for this Wednesday.
In related legislation aimed at reducing property taxes, a House committee heard a compromise HJR 3 and House Bill 4621 propose to add a penny to the sales tax, with 80 percent going to tax compression and 20 percent to education funding. It is estimated that a penny sales tax could generate about $5 billion a year, with gradual increases to $6 billion over five years.
On the state budget front, HB 1 by Zerwas, is advancing into Conference Committee. The House named its conferees the previous week, and the Senate Conferees were named on Wednesday: Nelson, Huffman, Kolkhorst, Taylor and Nichols. Of note-for the first time in 30 years, all the budget conferees on the Senate side were from the same party-no Senate Democrats will participate, and the first time Sen. Hinojosa, Finance Committee vice-chair, has not been on the panel for many sessions. The conferees will meet for the first time this Tuesday.
The House conferees are:
John Zerwas, R-Katy; Greg Bonnen, R-League City; Sarah Davis, R-Bellaire; Oscar Longoria, D-Penitas; Armando Walle, D-Houston
And the Senate conferees are:
Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville
HB 2794 By Morrison. Relating to the administration of emergency management in this state. – The House passed on 4-17-19 (Vote Y: 132/N: 0)
CSHB 2794 would transfer the administration of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to the Texas A&M University System and maintain all previously established rules, policies, procedures, and decisions. All employees of TDEM as operated by DPS would become employees of TDEM under the A&M System.
HB 3676 By Capriglione, Giovanni. Relating to the eligibility of an injured employee for lifetime income benefits under the workers’ compensation system. – Voted favorably from committee on House Business and Industry, on the same day it was heard.
Both the Chapter 312 and 313 extension bills landed in the Senate, and were referred to the Senate Committee on Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development on Monday. The hearings on one or both of these bills is expected soon, but the committee has not yet posted its agenda for this week.
Local Pre-emption bills
SB 15, filed earlier in the Session, have been repackaged as SB 2485, 2486, 2487 and 2488. This legislation as a whole would prohibit local entities from passing or enforcing any policy that offers protections for employees. The Texas Senate voted 19-12 to approve a all of these bills that would limit decisions city and county leaders can make about policies intended to protect workers and families in their communities. The Senate passed on third reading the last two bills in a package of legislation designed to limit the authority of cities to regulate private companies’ employment practices. The bills would preempt local rules on “ban the box” ordinances, family leave policies, scheduling and overtime compensation. They are all referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.
SB 29 by Hall – Prohibits the governing body of a political subdivision from spending public money or providing compensation in any manner to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature. 4-17-19 Passed (Vote Y: 18/N: 13)
A similar bill in the House, HB 281 by Middleton, has passed out of committee and is in Calendars.
Legislation that would ban red light cameras all over the state passed out of the House Transportation Committee. HB 1631, by Rep. Stickland, would prohibit the use of “photographic traffic signal enforcement systems.” The bill had been left pending in committee on March 26, but passed by a 9-3 vote on Wednesday.
Cable/Telecom franchise fee bill, HB 3535 By Phelan, relating to the payment of certain fees to municipalities by entities that provide telecommunications and cable or video services, was reported favorably from committee on House State Affairs. The Senate companion has already passed the Senate and has been received in the House.
Tuesday action of note in both houses:
* The House passed on second reading a bill that would require physicians to treat babies born alive after an unsuccessful abortion attempt. The measure passed 93-1. Fifty members, mostly Democrats were present but did not vote.
* The Senate finally passed legislation aimed at preventing Texans from getting surprise medical bills when health care providers and insurance companies can’t agree on the cost of medical procedures.
Wednesday action of note in both houses:
Finally, a bill that would remove Confederate Heroes Day as a state holiday was heard in the House State Affairs committee on Wednesday.