Around the Capitol: Summertime slowdown at the statehouse
By Shayne Woodard, J Pete Laney and Lauren Spreen
TAD Governmental Affairs
A summertime after a legislative session is traditionally slow at the Texas Capitol. Right now we’re seeing the usual post-session “clean up” following the signing or vetoing of bills by Gov. Greg Abbott (deadline June 16). Next step: On Monday, Aug. 26 – the 91st day following final adjournment of regular session of the 86th Legislature – those signed bills will officially become “law of the land” in Texas unless they took immediate effect or had a specific effective date.
We also usually start to see legislators start to announce that they do not plan to run again for election in November 2020. Those announcements have been slower than normal this time around. Only two members of the Texas House have said they will not return – Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) and Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie). Filing deadline is months away, although a few people have indicated they are interested in running for those seats. It will be interesting to see if a Democrat can win Stickland’s House District 92 seat, which he retained by just 1.4 percentage points in the last election. Wray’s House District 10 is expected to remain solidly Republican.
In other Capitol news:
Texas Comptroller certifies the state budget (House Bill 1)
Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 5 announced his certification of House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act (biennial state budget) approved by the 86th Texas Legislature. HB 1 then went to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott where it was signed into law on June 15 without any line-item vetoes.
By certifying the budget, Hegar confirmed that State of Texas has the funds to support the $250.7 billion in total spending included in the budget for the 2020-21 biennium.
Hegar said, “I want to congratulate the Legislature on a very productive session. The state made important progress on some key issues affecting our state. I’m proud to certify this budget and send it on to Governor Abbott for final approval. HB 1 is certified based on the most recent total revenue projection released in May, which includes an upward revision of $518 million and accounts for the passage of online marketplace legislation, which added approximately $550 million in additional sales tax revenue.”
Hegar pledged to continue to monitor the Texas economy, noting that it has expanded at a rapid pace over the last 18 months. He added, “We’ve seen tremendous growth in Texas over the last year and a half, which allowed lawmakers to make historic investments in education and provide much-needed property tax relief. Uncertainty in the global economy, however, as well as increasing unpredictability surrounding international trade policy at the federal level, may have dampening effects on the Texas economy in the coming years. But, as I prepare our cash flow analysis ahead of my annual visit to New York to meet with representatives from the credit rating agencies, some key obligations will continue to require legislative attention in future sessions. We anticipate the Employees Retirement System pensions, ongoing costs associated with Medicaid and the future healthcare needs of teachers to remain in focus when lawmakers return in two years.”
Texas Forever Forward launched
Former House Speaker Joe Straus in late June announced the formation of the Texas Forward PAC, started with $2.5 million from his campaign account.
He said, “This committee will enable me to continue advocating a thoughtful, responsible approach to governing, as well as priorities that will create a better future for our state.”
Texas Forever Forward will be guided by the following principles:
- Public education is our greatest economic development tool, and it’s critical to make meaningful, sustainable investments in Texas students.
- A diverse, outstanding system of higher education offers every Texan a path to a brighter future and fuels economic growth across the state.
- In order to remain a pro-business state that attracts economic activity and talented workers, Texas should embrace diversity and promote inclusive, non-discriminatory policies and laws.
- Strategic investments in our infrastructure – in a modern transportation system and a reliable water supply – provide the foundation that a fast-growing state requires.
- Effective treatment of behavioral health challenges will vastly improve millions of Texans’ quality of life.
- Government should be transparent and accountable in its stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
- Greater participation in our democracy will strengthen our discourse and lead to better policy outcomes.
New leadership at Texas 2036
Also in late June, Texas 2036, a non-profit organization working on long-term policy solutions to ensure Texas continues to be the best place to live and do business, announced that former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will lead the organization.
Texas 2036 was founded by Tom Luce in 2016. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to bring together citizens, experts, businesses, foundations, non-profit organizations and community leaders to measure the state’s performance against key metrics, evaluate projections about the future and develop informed state policies that will promote economic growth while enhancing the quality of life of all Texans.
Texas 2036 has collected more than 300 data sets to understand how Texas is performing and where it is headed if current trends continue. In 2020, Texas 2036 will roll out a long-term state strategic plan to address six key policy areas – government performance, education, health and human services, natural resources, infrastructure, and criminal justice and safety.
Senate Redistricting Committee announced
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on June 27 announced his appointments to the 2021 Redistricting Committee.
Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years following a U.S. census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. Therefore, the Texas Legislature will take up redistricting during the 2021 legislative session. How a district is drawn can determine which political party might have an edge in future elections. As a result, redistricting can be controversial.
Patrick named Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) as the chair of the committee, and these senators as members:
- Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), vice chair
- Carol Alvarado (D-Houston),
- Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston),
- Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway),
- Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels),
- Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton),
- Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills),
- Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola),
- Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville),
- Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio),
- Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville),
- Angela Paxton (R-McKinney),
- Charles Perry (R-Lubbock),
- Kirk Watson (D-Austin),
- Royce West (D-Dallas) and
- John Whitmire (D-Houston)
In January, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen named 15 members to the House Redistricting Committee, with jurisdiction that includes preparations for the redistricting process. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) serves as chair and Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) as vice chair. Other members are:
- Sheryl Cole (D-Austin)
- Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth)
- Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio)
- Jeff Leach (R-Plano)
- Ben Leman (R-Brenham)
- Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio)
- Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
- Chris Paddie (R-Marshall)
- “Four” Price (R-Amarillo)
- Toni Rose (D-Dallas)
- Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)
- Armando Walle (D-Houston)
- James White, (R-Hillister)
Patrick and Bonnen have not set a date or dates for the committees to meet jointly or separately.