Committee hearings are operating in earnest now, with long agendas as committee Chairs try to hear as many bills as possible. Floor debate will begin to get longer with each day until the end of the Session.
On the House Floor Monday
HB 2129 By Murphy, Jim. Relating to the extension of the expiration of certain parts of the Texas Economic Development Act (Chapter 313). – Set on the House Calendar for 04/08/19
HB 360 By Murphy, Jim. Relating to the extension of the expiration date of the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act(Chapter 312). – Set on the House Calendar for 04/08/19
Economic development bill
A Chapter 312 bill on transparency, HB 3143 by Murphy, was voted favorably from the House Ways and Means committee as a substitute. It will now go to the House Calendars Committee.
Property tax reform
The House version of property tax reform, HB 2 by Burrows, passed out of committee last week, and was formally reported from the House Ways and Means committee as substituted. It is now in the House Calendars committee, and is expected to be set on a calendar for sometime this week.
SB 2 By Bettencourt, the Senate property tax bill, has been on the Senate Intent Calendar for several days, but has not been called up for debate yet. Speculation ranges from–they are waiting on the House bill to come over, to–there are not enough votes to suspend the 3/5’s rule.
Cable/telecom right of way franchise bills
HB 3535 By Phelan, Dade. Relating to the payment of certain fees to municipalities by entities that provide telecommunications and cable or video services. – was heard in House State Affairs on Monday
SB 1152 By Hancock, Kelly. Relating to the payment of certain fees to municipalities by entities that provide telecommunications and cable or video services. – Passed the Senate (Vote: Y: 26/N: 5), and now will be referred to House State Affairs
Lobbying by political subdivisions
SB 702 By Bettencourt, Paul. Relating to the authorization and reporting of expenditures for lobbying activities by certain political subdivisions and other public entities. – passed the Senate and referred to House Committee on House State Affairs.
HB 281 By Middleton, Mayes. Relating to the use by a political subdivision of public money for lobbying activities. – Reported from committee as substituted House State Affairs.
The Senate had a contentious day Tuesday. Republicans in the Senate passed a resolution pronouncing a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and asking Congress to fully fund “all means necessary” to secure it. Democrats say they never saw the measure until it came to the floor.
Also Tuesday the upper chamber gave a preliminary OK to a sweeping religious refusals bill, a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s that LGTBQ advocates have called a “license to discriminate.” Police officers, first responders, and doctors providing life-saving services would be exempt from the bill. That measure passed 19-12 after a heated debate, with one Democrat voting for it and one Republican voting against it.
Last Wednesday was school finance debate day in the House, over 90 amendments were pre-filed on House Bill 3, a $9 billion school finance and property tax proposal. The teacher pay issue was debated, with an amendment to give a $5,000, across-the-board pay raise to full-time teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. The amendment looks similar to what the Senate passed in March, when the issue surfaced as a sticking point between the two chambers. But that amendment was pulled down, and instead the House passed landmark school funding legislation that would give 650,000 teachers and staff members a minimum pay raise of roughly $1,850, increase funding for every school district in the state and give property owners some modest tax relief. The bill passed 148-1, with only Rep. Stickland voting no.
Wednesday was budget day for the Senate Finance Committee. The committee substituted its 2020-21 spending plan into HB 1, the House version of the budget. The Senate will debate its plan on the floor this Tuesday. After passage, both versions will be sent to a conference committee on the budget.
Partisan issues debated
Lawmakers at the beginning of the year undertook a session focused on the fundamental issues of school finance and property tax reform. But partisan issues are also making their way to the floor. These issues have begun to crack the façade of comradery that early on trademarked the Session.
- A bill on local sick-leave laws has incited concerns from LGBTQ supporters.
- Corporate opponents of last session’s “bathroom bill” are calling “religious preference” legislation the “bathroom bill 2.0.”
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is examining the City of San Antonio for a Chick-Fil-A ban.
- Anti-abortion bills are moving through committees, despite pushback from Democrats.
A package of bipartisan bills to fix the state’s broken Medicaid system got its first hearing. Doctor and patient groups want change from health care insurance companies that perform services for the managed care that Texas pays to care for millions of sick, disabled and poor patients. The House effort, led by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, seeks major repairs to the system.
And a gun rights activist, purportedly angry over the lack of movement on a “constitutional carry” bill in the House, visited the homes of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and other influential House members last week. Bonnen called the man’s move “gutless,” according to media reports, and declared the bill dead for the Session.