Week 10 Update – 86th Session
Over 4,630 bills filed in House, 2,440 filed in Senate as of last Friday. Not counting resolutions, over 7,000 bills filed. With the bill filing deadline passed, the legislature is in full swing with committees posting full agendas and bills beginning to be debated on the floor. So far only a handful of bills have passed the Senate and been sent to the House. The House has posted its first two calendars of the year – one for March 19 and another for March 20.
On Wednesday the Senate unanimously passed its $6 billion supplemental budget-approximately $4 billion of that will take money from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the Rainy Day Fund. Included in the bill are a number of expenses coming due, including Medicaid shortfall reimbursement and around $3 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery. The House is considering its own supplemental spending package. The Harvey funding is part of a $6 billion amount meant to cover unexpected state expenses from when the Legislature last met. The budget will also address school safety and pension liabilities for the Teacher Retirement System. Some senators received criticism on social media for what some conservative groups said was too much spending.
Property tax reform in the Senate has not moved in a few weeks-it is still waiting to be brought to the Senate floor. It has been reported that some in the leadership privately say that the plan is to see what the House comes up with first before acting on the legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. Bettencourt has openly said the proposal to require mandatory rollback elections at 2.5 percent is just a number, and some other number may be satisfactory. Speaking to the NE Tarrant Tea Party this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick predicted the final number will be between 2.5 percent and 4 percent.
House Bill 3 was heard in committee this week. The House has dedicated $9 billion to public education. That number includes new education spending and an attempt to compress property tax rates. The option for raises and programs is left to the school districts’ discretion. Teacher incentive funding is awarded, if a teacher is willing to go into high-poverty schools. Most who testified in committee were supportive of House Bill 3.
Something else to watch for: The Chairman of House Public Education Committee is floating the idea of raising the state sales tax by a penny, to 7.25 percent, and sending the money to public education. The thought is that it could increase state spending enough to meaningfully lower local property taxes. (click on this link for more in-depth on this proposal: https://www.texastribune.org/2019/03/15/asking-texas-voters-swap-higher-sales-taxes-property-tax-cuts/?utm_source=Editorial%3A+Texas+Tribune+Master&utm_campaign=d4bd7b8717-trib-newsletters-the-brief&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9a68d8efc-d4bd7b8717-101185189&mc_cid=d4bd7b8717&mc_eid=9004ae583b
Paid Sick Leave
Senate Bill 15, filed to preempt some Texas cities’ paid sick leave policies, is being criticized for possibly weakening local laws that protect gay and transgender workers. The bill author insists the bill doesn’t target the LGBT community, an assurance repeated by some business leaders who support the effort. But gay rights groups and city leaders say it could have unintentional implications for nondiscrimination ordinances in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Austin. Some see another bathroom bill fight in the making.
Last week the Senate State Affairs Committee Chair told stakeholders to work out their differences over eminent domain reform. But the Texas Oil and Gas Association this week said no real negotiations had happened in the week designated, and criticized Monday’s committee affirmative vote on Sen. Kolkhorst’s bill. The Farm Bureau praised the bill, but the legislation disappointed oil and gas interests, including TxOGA and pipeline interests. Look for a prolonged fight in the Senate and the House on this issue. Also, transportation projects like the bullet train from Houston to DFW could be threatened.