This past week was another short one for the Legislature, with the Senate in session for one day and the House in session for two. Much of the Legislature's work during these first few weeks has focused on procedural matters.
Senate organization – Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced Senate committee assignments for the session. The Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, which is chaired by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), and considers a significant proportion of county-related legislation, has a total of four members. The membership includes Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), who serves as vice-chair, along with Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). Lt. Gov. Dewhurst also announced the creation of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Finance, which will revenue state and local revenue matters. The subcommittee will be chaired by Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy). Additional information about the assignments is available here.
Who will have to run again in two years? – Since all the Senate districts were redrawn after redistricting, senators randomly drew lots to determine whether they will serve two or four-year terms. A list of the terms the senators drew is available here.
Fiscal matters – With Senate committees announced, the Senate Finance Committee has already begun meeting to consider the state’s budget. Hearings are organized around articles in the budget, with Article III (Education) up first. The House Committee on Appropriations should start meeting to consider the budget once committee members are named. A current schedule of upcoming Senate Finance Committee hearings is available here.
“You can’t trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it.” (W.C. Fields)—Following on the heels of Rep. Allen Ritter’s filing of HB 4 (creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas) and HB 11 (transferring $2 billion from the rainy day fund for the purpose of initial funding of the state water plan), his Senate counterpart, Natural Resources Chairman Troy Fraser, has filed SB 4 (creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and making changes to the Water Development Board’s structure and administration), SB 22 (changing the Water Development Board’s structure and administration and also transferring $2 billion from the rainy day fund to fund the state water plan), and SB 235 (allowing for the creation of regional, multi-jurisdictional entities to develop and finance water projects).
Senator Kel Seliger filed SB 224, transferring $1.6 billion from the rainy day fund to the Water Development Board to fund the state water plan. Senator Seliger said, “Through a revolving loan, $1.6 billion meets the state’s obligation of $26.9 billion in 30 years. The revolving loan method of finance allows the Texas Water Development Board to remove the agency's debt from the constitutional debt limit in addition to eliminating the need for any General Revenue. In 50 years, the Texas Water Development Board will be able to provide more than $40 billion in assistance to local water providers.”
Bills Filed – More than 900 bills have been filed thus far. Here’s a list of some of the more significant county-related legislation recently filed:
HB 396 by Thompson, Senfronia – requiring a county clerk or elections administrator to forward a copy of a federal postcard application (FPCA) to the appropriate early voting clerks for elections in which the county is not conducting early voting.
HB 479 by Harper-Brown – requiring the comptroller to deposit a certain amount of the funds generated from the motor vehicle sales tax in the general revenue fund, with the remaining amount credited to the state highway fund.
HB 520 by Kuempel – requiring a city in a county with no medical examiner's office or that is not part of a medical examiner's district to pay for a consultation, autopsy and transportation of a body found within its boundaries.
HB 584 by Rodriguez, Eddie – requiring a county that maintains a website to post a notice of foreclosure sale on a website page that is publically available for viewing without charge or registration.
HB 585 by Villarreal – changing the processes of the appraisal review board and requiring the employment of a taxpayer liaison officer tasked with certain additional duties in appraisal districts in counties with populations of more than 125,000.
SB 4 by Fraser – creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and making structural and administrative changes to the Texas Water Development Board.
SB 22 by Fraser – changing the Water Development Board’s structure and administration and also transferring $2 billion from the rainy day fund to fund the state water plan.
SB 167 by Deuell/ HB 493 by Hernandez Luna – requiring a governmental entity, including a county, that enters into a construction contract to require that the contractor ensure that all employees working on the construction site have completed certain safety training and requiring such a contract to have certain notice and penalty provisions.
SB 224 by Seliger – making $1.6 billion from the rainy day fund available for use by the Water Development Board for funding the state water plan.
SB 235 by Fraser – allowing for the creation of regional, multi-jurisdictional entities to develop and finance water projects.