Around the Texas Capitol:
With just days to go, major bills still in the works
By Lauren Fairbanks, Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney
TAD Governmental Affairs
Just less than two weeks remain in the 87th legislative session, set to adjourn on Memorial Day. The clock is ticking, and the bulk of the work is still ahead. So far, 150 bills have been fully passed and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration, but none of those are the big-ticket items, including the must-pass biennial state budget or any of the Governor’s emergency items.
This is the part of session where every hour matters, and it is truly a race against the clock. We saw that play out last week, as the House worked through the night several days in a row ahead of the Thursday, May 13 deadline for the House to consider House bills for preliminary passage, with final passage required by last Friday. A similar deadline – this time for the House to pass Senate bills – is just around the corner on May 26. You can find all the legislative deadlines here.
When the House adjourned at just before midnight last Thursday, it had gotten to page 13 of a 25-page House Daily Calendar. Any bills on that list not passed by midnight were effectively dead. Add to that bills that were never voted out of committee or even heard in a public hearing. The pool of bills to consider was drastically reduced, allowing members to really focus in on getting this session’s priorities across the finish line.
Of course, that’s not to say some of those bills couldn’t be resurrected as amendments on bills that are moving – it’s also the time of session to be vigilant.
Senate Bill 1, the state’s budget, hasn’t yet passed but is on track to do so. The state budget is the one bill the Legislature is required to pass each session. The bill is currently in a conference committee where members of the Senate and House are working to hash out differences in the state’s 2022-2023 spending plan passed by each chamber. After the conference committee has agreed on a version of the bill, it will go back to both chambers for a final up-or-down vote (no amendments allowed), before finally being sent to the governor. The budgets under consideration are in the $250 billion range, including $117.9 billion in general revenue.
Coming into the session, Comptroller Glenn Hegar projected a nearly $1 billion deficit for the current state budget and an estimated $112.5 billion available to allocate for general-purpose spending in the next two-year state budget, a number that was down slightly from the current budget. However, a revised revenue estimate from Hegar earlier this month erased the deficit, estimating a $725 million surplus for the current budget cycle and projected funds available for the 2022-2023 budget would increase by $3 billion to a total of $116 billion. A welcome revision for the state’s budget writers!
Priority bills reforming the state’s energy market in response to February’s Winter Storm Uri are still under consideration. This issue has set the tone for the session, and early on the House and Senate each had very different approaches for how to address the vulnerabilities in the state’s electric grid. These measures are likely headed for conference committee in the coming days, where we’ll ultimately see if a compromise can be reached.
The Texas Association of Dairymen’s efforts to find regulatory relief for dairy farmers in emergency situations, like Winter Storm Uri or a pandemic, is on track to be passed as well. HB 3387 by Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) would provide for the safe disposal of excess milk in an emergency, through lagoon systems or land application. The bill has passed the House and and on May 18 passed the Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, where it was sponsored by committee vice chairman Sen. Drew Springer (R-Muenster). It now must go before the full Senate for consideration. Watch TAD’s Facebook page or Twitter feed (@TXDairymen) for updates.
Sine Die, the last day of the legislative session, is within sight. Soon another session will conclude, and we are hopeful that when the sun sets on the 87th Legislature, the Texas dairy industry’s interests will be protected, ensuring dairy farmers’ continued success into the future.