There are just 10 days left to Sine Die, and news from the capitol is coming out faster than we can print it. From bills signed by Governor Abbott to the budget of the biennium, here are the highlights of this week, with a little something extra for you at the end.
The Texas Economy
Governor Abbott announced the final date for Texans to receive their weekly $300 unemployment benefit through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. Effective June 26, the conclusion of the program in Texas comes at a time when “The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” says Governor Abbott. 20 other states have revealed similar plans to cut benefits, including Montana, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Georgia. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 76% of posted jobs pay more than $11.50 an hour, and with fraudulent claims on the rise the action purports to encourage Texans to return to work while minimizing costly falsities. “At this stage of opening the state 100 percent,” says the governor’s announcement, “the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.”
This week SB 3, relating to the weatherization of certain power facilities, was reported favorably from the House State Affairs Committee. HB 11, which also relates to the preparedness of such facilities for extreme weather conditions was reported favorably from the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. HB 10 and SB 2, both relating to restructuring the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) are almost through both chambers, along with SB 2154, relating to restructuring the Public Utility Commission. One bill, HB 2586 (with a companion in the Senate) addresses an annual audit of ERCOT and has been sent to the governor for his final signature. It may be easy to forget the cold February during the sunny, Texan summer, but Texas lawmakers have worked with great effort to ensure that Texas remains secure and powered up for years to come.
On Monday, the Senate refused to concur in House amendments to SB 7, the Election Integrity bill. Because of this, the bill must now go to the conference committee. The conferees appointed from the Senate are Senators Hughes, Buckingham, Bettencourt, Kolkhorst, and Powell. The conferees appointed from the House are Representatives Cain, Canales, Clardy, Collier, and Jetton. Once the committee has agreed upon a final version of the bill, it will return to the chambers for their last approval before going to the governor. With the clock ticking down the days, we’re sure to see results from the conference committee in the next week.
Although the biennium’s budget, SB 1, remains in conference committee, Chair Nelson did announce that consensus has been reached and we look forward to seeing the finalized version. HB 2, the supplemental appropriations bill, passed the House and was heard in the Senate Finance committee yesterday.
Priority Bills Update
Many priority bills have already been discussed this week, but there are a few more on the list demanding our attention. HB 5, which would expand rural broadband access, has passed the House and Senate and is in conference committee. A bill to provide liability protection from Covid-19 related lawsuits (SB 6), is being heard today in the House. The bill protects small businesses across Texas and ensures that the state’s businesses do not face additional hardship as we come out of the pandemic. Also, HB 1195, relating to the franchise tax treatment of certain loans and grants made under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, has been signed by the governor and will soon go into effect. SB 8, the Heartbeat Bill, was signed by Governor Abbott on Wednesday and will go into effect September 1, 2021, at the earliest. Finally, HB 4, to increase access to telehealth and telemedicine, has been voted favorably from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee as substituted.
Actions by the Governor
Governor Abbott issued an executive order this week prohibiting government entities from mandating facial coverings. Some entities are exempt, and the order came soon after Texas reported its first day of zero Covid-19 deaths in over a year. The governor also announced that 20 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to eligible Texans. Governor Abbott has signed over 100 bills and resolutions into law this session. The legislation includes measures relating to the regulation of utility services, vaccine administration, alcohol to-go sales, PPP loan tax treatment, broadband infrastructure, and much more. Note that once the governor has received a bill, he has 10 days in which to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. If the governor vetoes the bill and the legislature is still in session, the bill is returned to the house in which it originated with an explanation of the governor’s objections. A two-thirds majority in each chamber is required to override the veto. If a bill is sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment, the governor has until 20 days after final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.
Helpful Resources and Countdown
There are 10 days left in the session. May 22 is the last day for any House committee to report Senate bills and Senate Joint Resolutions. Sunday, May 23, is the deadline for the last House daily calendar with Senate bills and Senate Joint Resolutions to be distributed. Before midnight on May 27, Senate amendments must be distributed in the House. Before midnight on May 28, House copies of the conference committee report on the general appropriations bill must be distributed. It is also the last day for the House to act on Senate amendments, and Senate copies of conference committee reports on tax, general appropriations, and reapportionment bills must be distributed before midnight. Just three days after that is Sine Die!
To view Governor Abbott’s executive orders and bills signed, refer to the website here.
For House and Senate calendars (these can change daily), refer to the link here.
For a complete schedule on upcoming House committee hearings, click here.
For a complete schedule on upcoming Senate committee hearings, click here.
For more information on bills filed and legislative details visit TLO.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there! Take a minute to enjoy East Bound and Down, from Smokey and the Bandit.
Until next week,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC.