86th Legislative Session Update #4

SENATE:
The Senate was in session on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week conducting routine business.
Senate Committees – Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced Senate committee assignments last Friday. Senate Committees and Chairs:
Agriculture – Bob Hall (R-Edgewood)
Administration – Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)
Business & Commerce – Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)
Criminal Justice – John Whitmire (D-Houston)
Education – Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
Finance – Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
Health & Human Services – Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
Higher Education – Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
Intergovernmental Relations – Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville)
Natural Resources & Economic Development – Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)
Nominations – Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway)
Property Tax – Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)
State Affairs – Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
Transportation – Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
Veteran Affairs & Border Security – Donna Campbell (R-San Antonio)
Water & Rural Affairs – Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
Facts About Senate Committees:
Number of Committees – The number of Senate committees increased from 14 to 16.
Republican Committee Chairs – In 2017, Republicans chaired 12 of the Senate’s 14 committees. In 2019, Republicans chair 14 of the Senate’s 16 committees. Note: 61 percent of the Senators are Republican; Republicans chair 87 percent of Senate committees.
Democratic Committee Chairs – In 2017, Democrats chaired two of the Senate’s 14 committees – Eddie Lucio, Jr. (Intergovernmental Relations) and John Whitmire (Criminal Justice). Those chairs remain the same although the number of Senate committees increased to 16. Note: 39 percent of the Senators are Democrats; Democrats chair 13 percent of Senate committees.
Senate Agriculture Committee – On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick removed Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Patrick said, “Senator Seliger has been removed as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and will not be serving on that committee. I met with Senator Seliger earlier today and gave him an opportunity to apologize for a lewd comment he made on radio about a female staffer that has shocked everyone. He had 48 hours to apologize, but failed to do so. He has refused to take responsibility and outrageously, blamed the staffer and said she should be fired. To not be willing to apologize and suggest, somehow, that she had it coming is unimaginable. I will appoint a new Agriculture Committee chairman shortly.”
Senator Kel Seliger released a statement shortly thereafter saying, “Today, I was disappointed to learn that I am no longer the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. When, in her comment to the press, Sherry Sylvester threatened to remove me as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, she was acting as a spokesperson for the Lt. Governor. In hindsight, I should have directed my response to the Lt. Governor and not to his messenger. And for that I apologize.
But let’s be clear. The conflict between the Lt. Governor and me has nothing to do with recent statements I made on a radio talk show. It has to do with the fact that I have consistently stood up for rural Texas, local control, and public education rather than trumpeting the Lt. Governor’s pet projects of bathroom regulation and private school vouchers. I look forward to spending the rest of this session doing what I have always done – representing the people of West Texas and the Panhandle.”
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his appointment of Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee. The lieutenant governor said, “No one works harder for the people of his district than Senator Hall and I am confident he will bring the same work ethic and commitment to conservative principles to the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee.”
Chairman Bob Hall responded saying, “It’s a privilege to receive the Lt. Governor’s appointment as Senate Agriculture Committee chairman. My district is a testament to the fact that the future of Texas agriculture is filled with promise. I know my rural communities are excited to have our voice at the center of the discussion. I look forward to ensuring that farming and ranching continues to be a vibrant part of the Texas economy with the free market as the engine.”
Senate Administration Committee – On Wednesday, the Senate Administration Committee met upon adjournment to take up the so called “blocker bills” – SB 409 and SJR 30 by Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), chair of the Senate Administration Committee. The bill and proposed constitutional amendment will remain at the top of the Senate calendar so that all other bills and constitutional amendments will be subject to the Senate’s “Three-fifths Rule” requiring three-fifths of the Senators voting to suspend the regular order of business to bring a bill up for debate.
Next Week: The Senate will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2019.
HOUSE:
The House was in session Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. House committee assignments were released on Wednesday.
  • Appointed at least 9 House members to serve on each substantive committee, allowing more members to be involved in various policymaking areas and creating a broader overlap of members serving on various committees;
  • Increased efficiency by reducing the number of standing House Committees from 38 to 34;
  • Elected not to form Select Committees, thereby giving deference to the committee structure approved by the House membership in the House Rules; and
  • Chose not to appoint chairs of other committees to simultaneously serve on the House Calendars Committee.
House Committees and Chairs:
Dean of the Texas House – Tom Craddick (R-Midland)
Speaker Pro Tempore – Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
Agriculture & Livestock – Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
Appropriations – John Zerwas (R-Fulshear)
Business & Industry – Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
Calendars – Four Price (R-Amarillo)
Corrections – James White (R-Hillister)
County Affairs – Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
Criminal Jurisprudence – Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth)
Culture, Recreation & Tourism – John Cyrier (R-Lockhart)
Defense & Veterans’ Affairs – Dan Flynn (R-Van)
Elections – Stephanie Click (R-Fort Worth)
Energy Resources – Chris Paddie (R-Marshall)
Environmental Regulation – J. M. Lozano (R-Kingsville)
General Investigating – Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas)
Higher Education – Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie)
Homeland Security & Public Safety – Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass)
House Administration – Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
Human Services – James Frank (R-Wichita Falls)
Insurance – Eddie Lucio, III (D-San Benito)
International Relations & Economic Development – Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas)
Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence – Jeff Leach (R-Plano)
Juvenile Justice & Family Issues – Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston)
Land & Resource Management – Tom Craddick (R-Midland)
Licensing & Administrative Procedures – Tracy King (D-Batesville)
Local & Consent Calendars – Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria)
Natural Resources – Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio)
Pensions, Investments & Financial Services – Jim Murphy (R-Houston)
Public Education -Dan Huberty (R-Humble)
Public Health – Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)
Redistricting – Phil King (R-Weatherford)
Resolutions Calendars – Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City)
State Affairs – Dade Phelan (R-Nederland)
Transportation – Terry Canales (D-Edinburg)
Urban Affairs – Angie Chen Button (R-Garland)
Ways & Means – Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock)
Facts About House Committees:
Number of Committees – The House has 34 standing and procedural committees. In 2017, there were 38.
Republican Committee Chairs – Republicans are chairing 22 of the House’s standing and procedural committees. In 2017, Republicans chaired 25 of the House’s standing and procedural committees. Note: Republicans make up 56 percent of the House; Republicans chair 65 percent of House committees.
Democratic Committee Chairs – Democrats are chairing 12 of the House’s standing and procedural committees. In 2017 Democrats chaired 13 of the House’s standing and procedural committees.
Note: Democrats make up 44 percent of the House; Democrats chair 35 percent of House Committees.
Additional Statistics Provided by the Speaker – Speaker Bonnen released the following statistics about the House committee assignments:
  • The current makeup of the Texas House is 82 Republicans and 64 Democrats (with 3 vacant seats).
  • Including the Speaker Pro Tempore (a leadership position equivalent to a chair), 22 Republicans and 13 Democrats received chair positions.
Of the 34 standing committees:
  • 19 chairs and 22 vice chairs are women, African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American;
  • 15 chairs represent rural areas of the state, while 20 chairs represent urban areas; and
  • 15 chairs will be serving in that committee leadership role for the first time.
Next Week: The House will reconvene at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2019.
The House Administration Committee will meet on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in E1.010 of the capitol extension for an organizational meeting and to adopt House committee budgets.
BUDGET:
Senate Finance Committee – The Senate Finance Committee held an organizational meeting on Tuesday. Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) Chair of the committee said, “I am ready to get to work on crafting a responsible budget that adds resources to education, gives teachers a raise, funds enrollment growth, enhances school safety and reduces our reliance on recapture under the so-called Robin Hood system.
We will prioritize mental health, transportation, public safety and other important issues. I am personally committed to making sure this budget helps victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.” Senator Nelson outlined the provisions of SB 1 and SB 500, the supplemental appropriations bill. Comptroller Glenn Hegar gave an overview of the state’s fiscal outlook. The committee also received an overview of SB 1 from John McGready and Leora Rodell of the Legislative Budget Board.
Highlights of their presentation include:
 
Public Education:
  • $3.7 billion for a teacher salary increase, contingent on legislation
  • $2.3 billion for providing property tax relief and reducing reliance on recapture, also contingent Foundation School Program (FSP): Fully funded at current law; reflects a reduced GR need of $1.6 billion
  • TRS-Care: $231 million in additional funding to maintain 2019 premiums/benefits
Medicaid:
  • $2.0 billion All Funds increase, supporting caseload growth and maintains 2019 average costs. More favorable FMAP (federal funds) results in net $1.4 billion GR decrease.
Transportation:
  • TxDOT funding includes $31.3 billion in All Funds, including $5.0 billion in sales tax deposits (Prop 7) and $4.3 billion in oil/gas revenue transfers (Prop 1)
Higher Education:
  • 2018-19 biennial formula rates are largely maintained;
  • funding for Texas State Technical Colleges are increased by $30 million to fund Returned Value formula at 36 percent
  • Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding is increased by $60 million to meet the 1.1-to-1.0 ratio
  • $100 million contingency to Coordinating Board for the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium
Human Trafficking:
  • $89 million ($64 million increase) for prevention, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking-related activities
Sporting Goods Sales Tax:
  • Parks and Wildlife Department and Historical Commission are funded at the maximum allocation of SGST, an increase of $90 million
On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee received an overview of SB 500, the supplemental appropriations bill as introduced, from John McGready of the Legislative Budget Board. Highlights of the presentation include:
General Revenue – $1.7 billion
  • FY2019 Medicaid shortfall: $2.1 billion GR, $4.4 billion All Funds
  • Foster care shortfall: $84 million
  • Correctional Managed Health Care shortfall: $160 million
  • Foundation School Program savings: projected $643 million in reduced state cost
Economic Stabilization Fund – $2.5 billion
  • Hurricane Harvey funds: At least $1.2 billion in funds addressing Harvey impact, including approx. $900 million for public schools
  • School safety and hardening: $100 million
  • Governor’s disaster grants: $100 million
  • Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan: $211 million
  • State hospital construction: $300 million
  • State pension liabilities: $300 million each for ERS and TRS
The committee also took testimony on Article I General Government Agenciesincluding:
            Comptroller of Public Accounts
            Employees Retirement System
            Texas Emergency Services Retirement System
            Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas
            Commission on State Emergency Communications
            Pension Review Board
            Commission on the Arts
            Library and Archives Commission
            Veterans Commission
            State Preservation Board
On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee took testimony on Article I General Government Agencies including:
            Office of the Governor
            Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor
            Office of the Attorney General
            Secretary of State
            Historical Commission
            Facilities Commission
            Public Finance Authority
            Bond Review Board
            Department of Information Resources
            State Office of Risk Management
            Ethics Commission
Next Week:
Senate Finance Committee:
On Monday, January 28, 2019, the Senate Finance Committee will meet at 10:00 a.m. in E1.036 of the capitol extension to take up Article V Public Safety and Criminal Justice agencies including:
            Department of Public Safety
            Juvenile Justice Department
            Department of Criminal Justice
            Commission on Jail Standards
            Board of Pardons and Paroles
            Military Department
            Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
            Commission on Fire Protection
            Commission on Law Enforcement
            Special Provisions Relating to Public Safety and Criminal Justice
On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, the Senate Finance Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. in E1.036 of the capitol extension to take up Article IV Judiciary agencies including:
            Supreme Court of Texas
            Court of Criminal Appeals
            Court of Appeals Districts
            Comptroller’s Judiciary Section
            Office of Court Administration
            Texas Indigent Defense Commission
            Office of State Prosecuting Attorney
            State Law Library
            Office of Capital and Forensic Writs
            Commission on Judicial Conduct
            Special Provisions Relating to the Judiciary
Environmental Impact of a Border Wall – On Wednesday, Representative Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) filed HB 990, which would require the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to submit a report to the governor and the legislature, regarding the environmental effects of the construction of a border wall.
Representative Gutierrez said, “The Rio Grande Floodplain is home to several towns that have seen devastating damage from record breaking floods recently, something that a border wall would only make worse. The findings from the report must be submitted no later than March 1, 2020, and determine if the State of Texas will file suit against the federal government. As documented in the Texas Monthly article, Back to the Wall, published by Melissa Del Bosque in the December issue, a border wall will mean disaster for Texas towns where a fence becomes packed with debris, creating a dam effect, thus flooding surrounding areas.
These effects put Texan’s lives at risk every time storms hit Texas. Moreover, this also becomes a property rights issue. People do not want their property divided or taken from them. It is their heritage and their livelihood. The bottom line is a wall on Texas’ southern border puts our citizen’s lives at risk and our heritage at stake. Taking thousands of acres from Texas farmers and ranchers while cutting off communities from their own water supply just does not make sense. We have a chance to be the first state Legislature to stand up to the federal government’s unprecedented land grab and we should take it.”
PROPERTY:
Eminent Domain – On Wednesday, Representative DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) and Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) announced the filing of HB 991 and SB 421. Representative Burns said, “These bills, once codified into law will create a substantially more fair, equitable and transparent eminent domain process for thousands of Texans who are faced each year with the prospect of losing their private property through forced condemnation.
In Texas, many private for-profit entities, such as pipeline and transmission line corporations, can subsidize their projects by using the same governmental power while being subject to minimal public oversight. Texas’ rapidly growing population and thriving energy industry are at crossroads that will determine the future of our state, HB 991 will ensure Texas property owners are respected partners in building our critical infrastructure while preserving our strong tradition of property rights.”
Senator Kolkhorst added, “Since the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texans have valued our freedom to own private property. To continue that proud tradition, I filed SB 421 to see that the eminent domain process used by private entities is fair, transparent and that those entities are held accountable when they take private land.” The bills would:
  • Mandate a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the process and can have their question answered.
  • Stipulate minimum protections that must be present in the contract.
  • Hold condemners accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed.